Adrian Van Anz is not even forty yet, and has been a successful industrial designer for the past twenty years. He has made products for celebrities, has created two vehicle lines, has his own company, AVA Velocity Works, and has the mind of a true inventor/industrial designer. He is always thinking of ways to make things better, more functional, more beautiful. We talked with him recently about how he sees things differently, the back stories if his inventions, and one that will be patented and on the market soon.
Pursuitist: In one of your interviews you said you were a Santa Monica native, son of an eccentric architect father and a teacher/photographer mother. I am curious as what qualities you took from both, if anything.
Adrian: My father was an inveterate inventor – He was always thinking about how to make things faster and better. I think he wanted me to see how things worked, and how things could work. He was an architect by trade, but an inventor by nature. I also saw some failures, but some successes also. One of my earlier memories was watching my father build recumbent bicycles in the family garage, I may have learned early to approach design from unique start points – comfort, freedom, practicality.
From my mother, I guess I have a good photographic eye. I have always taken pictures, and had an eye for detail, and image design, and color, certainly.
Pursuitist: Where were you born and raised?
Adrian: In California. I started building computers in my late teens, and started my computer company AVA computers soon thereafter. I understood computers on an almost visceral basis and building them felt to me like building fancy erector sets. When I started AVA Computers, I built PCs with raw aluminum, leather and chrome. One of my designs was a vodka cooled computer, vodka doesn’t freeze so there were bottles on the sides, with a UV light so you could see the vodka running through it. — We also made a 24K gold computer for a rich Saudi and an HP branded diamond encrusted Sean John IPod, a Gwen Stefani camera. I created a specific color for Jay-Z branded paint– a dark blue with actual platinum dust combined. I have done a lot of diverse and sometimes really glitzy things.
Pursuitist: Since you are an inventor as well as an industrial designer, have you usually invented an idea, and then designed around it? What is your creative process?
Adrian: I do think of ideas, and then I build around them. Or I see something that I could make better then I design around that. I see a LOT of things that could be designed better and more beautifully.
Pursuitist: What are you most famous for right now?
Adrian: The Derringer. It is a cross between a 1920’s Board Track racing motorcycle and a bicycle. It can be peddled like a bike or ridden like a motorcycle. But one that gets 150mpg. As I have often said, the Derringer is the missing link between my Schwinn and my Ducati.
Pursuitist: What is it and how did this idea come about?
Adrian: Well, I used to say that when I went into town, I wanted to ride a Mo-Ped but I didn’t want to be seen riding one. So, I thought about this a lot, and one day it just occurred to me: what if…so, I ordered a 2hp motor from a Chinese manufacturer and put it on a custom bike frame. The result was something new: a bike that offered the speed of a Mo-Ped, but with the lightness of a bicycle; and it looked good and rode well. With that hybrid, I felt freedom of movement, had options to ride or glide, all the time with comfort.
My design, as I said before, came from the look of a 1920’s Board Track Racer, but you know, in working on this prototype, I created an art project, really. I built it for myself. And then I took it out for a ride on a Sunday.
I stopped at a place to eat, and a guy came along and admired the bike. Then, to make a long story short, he offered me $5000.00 cash for it, right on the spot. I did not take it, because I was worried about safety issues – It was such a new thing and I wanted to be the Beta Test guy. And further, I didn’t want to sell it right then – it was mine, a first edition, and I was protective. Well, long story short, it became popular, and now many people have this model, because it runs well, gets 150MPG, and it is fun. And edgy also – it’s fully customizable and has a hybrid drive system that allows its riders to travel by pedal, engine or both.
Pursuitist: And now, in addition to The Derringer, you are launching another type of cycle with AVA Velocity Works?
Adrian: Yes –We are launching a new company, and a small cafe racer motorcycle called the Swift 250, a bike conceived for making a design rather than a muscle speed statement. It has vintage looks and contemporary engineering. And, to me, there’s grace in this kind of design, in contrast to massive power. it is A small, lightweight motorcycle that performs like a larger one. It also weighs a lot less, under 200 pounds, so I can pick it up and move it around in my garage or elsewhere.
We expect the first delivery of Swift 250’s in April-May. I have owned a ton of bikes in all shapes and sizes, and the ones that I look for an excuse to ride around town are always the stripped-down, lightweight runabouts. Big powerful heavy bikes are a blast under the right circumstances, but in my opinion the motorcycles that are the most fun to ride are nearly always feather light and with just enough power to get you into, and out of trouble. There is an old saying that it’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow and I think that’s true. We don’t have the exact MPG numbers at this point but we should come in around 80-90MPG. The bike will retail for $3900.
Pursuitist: But there have been other inventions – and in particular one that you and are working on now; and will be patented soon. The Chameleon?
Adrian: Yes, and it is not a vehicle! It is a new type of dual screen phone that works in concert with a mobile application. The combination of the additional screen and the application lets you customize the physical appearance of your phone on the fly. What it is, is basically an application that allows you to pick up the color, pattern, or logo of whatever it is you are wearing and re-skin the phone so that what colors or plaid or whatever else you are wearing can be reflected in the phone’s surfaces, so that whatever you wear, your phone will be color matched.
It is an idea that combines both fashion design and technology and everyone can have them. I think it is a cool idea, it is in process of being patented, and we will go from there.
Pursuitist: What do you think is most important attribute an inventor can have in the 21st century?
Adrian: Many attributes – here are just a few: to be determined that your way of seeing things and doing things is just as OK as anyone else’s. Whether it is in the genes or not, I see things a little differently: computers, medical devices, phones, motorcycles, bicycles, clothing, shoes. I think most things can be made better, elegant, and be put to more uses than they are now. I don’t give up, I work around sometimes, but I don’t give up.
I invent from passion, not from commerce. I learned early on that if I invented something to sell only, it would not work… and didn’t sell! But if I invented something I was personally passionate about, somehow it would sell.
I also want to create things for everyone’s use, for everyone’s enjoyment. I want what I design to make happier yet more connected lives, whether it is by phone or by vehicle. I don’t think I have changed that much over the years. I look at something and often think, I can make this better.