There are a lot of dudes behind the scenes for companies that people generally never hear about. To be totally honest, I had only heard bits and pieces about how Ben is the dude designing the odyssey parts and I was interested to get this interview since he doesn’t have the typical job in BMX like most dudes. Heres what he had to say.
Ben Ward friends call me bdubbs.
Buffalo, NY Usually: Anaheim, CA via.
Product Designer/ R&D Odyssey
How long have you been working for Odyssey?
I will be with Odyssey for 2 years this month (November) on the 15th.
Being a designer for parts at Odyssey must be about the best job in the world, am I right or wrong?
You are totally wrong, it is the best job in the Universe. But seriously, my job is the only thing that could take me away from home, family, and the best friends anyone could pay for. I am living a dream.
Are you fully in charge of the design, or do you take the team, and other guys working for Odysseys ideas then work with it?
The way Odyssey works from the creative side of things, everyone is equal. But I am stoked to call Chris Cotsonas my boss. He is they guy that turned Odyssey around and is the first reason Odyssey is the success it is today. That being said, we all work together to develop a product and I think that dynamic is what continually helps us to be successful from the owner (Richard Tang) to the guys in the warehouse. I couldn’t pick 10 better people to directly work with.
What is the average time you spend designing each part?
That is really a hard question to answer. Some projects can go real quick, 1-day discussion, to design then to drawings. Samples, hopefully no revisions, sign off for production, production sample check, shipment and then QC. Even the fast projects can add up over time. Other projects can take years for development. Some of the first projects I worked on haven’t been released to the public. When we do something completely new, we want to make sure we’re happy with it as designers, but more importantly as riders. When I think about it, we are never done with a project. We may move on to something else, but we are always looking for ways to improve everything.
Did you go to school for engineering and such?
I have and Associates of Applied Science for CAD Drafting. School gave me a good foundation to start with and opened doors for me. The rest of my knowledge of materials and product design comes from first hand experience designing tooling for the computer industry for 8 years. I did some cool projects over those years, but nothing as rewarding as what I get to do here.
What is a typical day like for you?
A friend recently asked me this, and I really had to think about it. There is no “typical” day for me. For example, when I started these Interview questions I was in NY and Canada visiting and meeting with our Distributors. I then spent a few days in Buffalo at Sunday! and took a early flight home to QC a shipment of new products that came in. Currently I am back in the office where I finally have some time to breathe and I now get to put in some more time on these questions. The days vary. Emails and website checking all day, out back riding the ledge to see how something holds up, or weeks straight with headphones on and grinding on a post-it note mountain of tasks to complete. I think that is one of the things I really enjoy about this job. It’s always changing, so it never gets boring.
Do you have any new products in works that you can give us any sort of information about?
The one that instantly comes to mind is the Pleg. It seems the Internet is going crazy for these things. Testing is going great. In fact I had a bunch of people ride my bike last night at the Etnies Park and they couldn’t believe how good the Pleg’s were. They are so fun. They make street riding new again. No more waxing ledges. No more chipping ledges. No more Gnargoyle Skaters giving you shit. Everything on my bike that touches the ground is rubber and plastic, their boards will do more damage to a park or spot and I love that.
Being one of the designers, does the job give you the opportunity to test out the prototypes?
That is one of the “perks” I have had to get used to. When I started at Odyssey I had a beat up bike. I rode a frame and parts until they didn’t work anymore. The only time I would get a lot of new parts is if I was putting a new setup together. I always kept my bike as dialed as possible, but now it is just out of control. I try to ride stuff as long as possible, but sometimes parts need testing so it isn’t rare for me to change up my setup quite a few times in a month. I do miss having that nice familiar broken in bike, but I don’t miss riding messed up, rigged parts.
Check out Ben’s bike here on the Odyssey site, towards the bottom
Out of my own curiosity; are the Twisted PC’s made out of the same sort of material as Plegs?
Nope, they are a totally different material.
What is your favorite product that you have designed and why?
I would have to say the MDS (Million Dollar Sprocket). It was my first totally independent product design. I always rode a guard sprocket and I know I couldn’t just do a sprocket for the sake of making one; it needed to serve a purpose and bring something new to the table. I thought double guard and the rest is history.
The day the samples showed up, is was a trip. You know that numb dizzy feeling you get when you know you’re in trouble, it was a lot like that. I was pretty excited. I was even more stoked when I knew they were selling. We sold out of the first run really fast.
Do you find yourself with much time to ride after work?
I used to when I had a crew from back home living down here. The time is still here, the crew just isn’t. That’s a huge reason why I even ride a bike, to hang with my friends. I try and get together and ride with the Give D guys when ever possible. They are such a great group of guys, and a session with them is always fun. D!!
Outside of work and riding, what sort of things are you into?
Writing, Learning tons of useless information about nothing important, Websites, Not updating websites like www.pdxbmx.com, Art, Graphic Design, Cars, Skateboarding, BMX, Big Bikes, Internets, Beards, Numbers, Shoes, Movies, Music, TV, Video Games, Gadgets, Chillen’, Friends, and Family. I think if I listed everything we would need another website to fit them. I try to take from life and apply it everything I do. Taj Mihelich said this in his 96’ interview and it has always stuck with me, “It felt like I put all my creativity into riding and just pushed drawing away. I don’t know why that is, but I’ve had a big mental block, and I don’t feel I’ll be able to draw anymore until I stop riding.” Well, I have stopped riding and for me the drawings are back. You can still find me on the bike, but it all means something different now. It’s funny, the question was about other interests and for me it always ends up back to a bike and work.
5 favorite bands/songs right now?
-Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, without this I would never get any work done.
-Block Party, put it on shuffle and hit play. Can’t go wrong with that.
-A Tribe Called Quest, been in my headphones for almost 20 years now.
-Dashboard Confessional, a guilty pleasure from a happy part of life.
-Descendents, always a good time to, No, All!
Who are some of the people you look up to the most?
-My family and Friends, they totally supported me when I left Oregon to follow my dream.
-Rich Hirsch, one of the best friends I could ever ask for. Dude had a plan when we lived together on Hancock St. and I think he has done quite well for himself.
-The Odyssey Family, Chris Cotsonas, great mentor, boss, friend. Nuno and Jim, dudes are official. They have never let me feel like an outsider.
-Taj Mihelich, one of the most Genuine People I have ever met. Dude changed my life before I met him and he changes it every time I hang with him.
If you could spend the day with anyone in the world (alive or dead) who would it be and why?
I have spent way too much time thinking about this. I will just go from a design type angle. I would have to pick Howard Hughes; he was a Millionaire, Engineer, Director, Crazy, and he took on the Government. I think I took learn a lot in a day from a man like him. Maybe even get in on some of that money.
Where are some of the places in the world you would like to visit?
I was finally able to take the East Coast, NY off my list. But I still didn’t get to go to NYC so that is still on there. Japan, Taiwan, Europe. I love history so much. So if you have a destination and it has some history or something for me to learn, then I am there.
(I know this is the 3rd shot of the trick, but it’s rad, and Ben said people like taking pictures of it, I can tell why!)
Any shout outs or thanks?
Family, Friends, Chris, Jim and Nuno for a rad job and good times, Everyone I hounded for recommendation when I politicked to get this job. Jesus, don’t know if you a the son of God or were a Miracle worker, but you seem to have done some pretty rad stuff I can be into and support that. Thanks to Portland for beating me into who I am. Thanks to anyone in Southern California that is chill and doesn’t give a damn what I do for a living.
Any last words or things you would like to add?
“I’ve got a wonderful future behind me.”