Johan Johnston is a Cape-based industry designer who conceptualizes and creates unique finishes for local and international brands. We sat down with “Hasie” to ask how it all started, where his inspiration comes from and what are the secrets to his success. Here’s Hasie.
Who is Johan Johnston?
I am the creative director of Hasie & The Robots, I have a strong background in graffiti and design and have been doing so for 20 years. My friends call me Hasie.
Where are you from and where do you live?
I am a city Haas! Born in Cape Town, South Africa and I still live here.
Cortado or tea?
Truth Coffee, single malt whisky and Windhoek Lager – my staples.
Who or what inspires you?
I tend to take inspiration from the automotive and space industries. Or anything that has to do with Anime, Gundam, Star Wars or Lego.
What bike are you currently riding?
The Ratel! A Pyga Evolve setup as a mullet and dressed with cSixx components.
What do you do for a living?
A variety of things. I guess it’s a mashup of being a creative director and a space pilot! Then mix in a bit of mural, product design, custom shoes and custom apparel.
How did it all start?
I was asked by one of my mates if I had ever thought about painting shoes, my answer was yes, but had no idea and just ran with it, it evolved into a design exploration and development of my brand. Basically, I messed around and found out how to do it.
Who do you work for?
I do contract and project work for many clients. The list is deep, anyone from Assos, DemerBox, All Mountain Style, Canyon SA, Vye Cycling Apparel, Sox, South Industries, Pyga, Titan Racing, DarkFest, cSixx and many others.
Talk us through the typical process of one of your projects.
Firstly there is a lot of prep that goes into the design and paint. It’s best to start with a raw canvas or frame, then work a collaboration with like-minded people to get the right finish and quality control. Spending time with the client to extract the right vision is also a big part of this process. Then, using the right paints and materials is also a key factor in achieving the right quality product. And then the vision part of this process, thinking in 3D and then designing something that has longevity in both composition and color requires experience and time. Each job is unique but the basic process is similar.
In your personal opinion, which is the sexiest bike brand at the moment?
Festka has some really unique designs, brilliant frames and a high-quality finish. Then, Rodeo has some fresh colorways and is a really cool bike brand. From styling and attention to detail point of view, Unno Bikes is killing it.
Where are some brands getting things really wrong and why do you think this is?
Firstly, I think some products are being pushed out too quickly without the right amount of testing and quality in mind. Then there’s also a fine line between focusing on your own (the brand’s) unique attributes versus just falling in line with what’s trending — getting that balance right is key. It’s obviously also imperative to think of the end-user and the longevity of the product. Being environmentally aware is becoming increasingly important and some brands are lagging in this area.
What industries do you look to for inspiration and ideas on what will be the next big thing in the bike world?
I am a big fan of the motoring industry, specifically the market in Europe for sport and hypercars. The level of detail, the colors and the ergonomics resonate with me. I think the divide between mechanical and high-tech will become more defined soon. I also think the consumer will have better access to high-tech bike stuff at a more accessible price point, in the future.
Of all the work you’ve done, which project has been the most challenging and why?
Honestly, all of my projects have a challenging aspect to them but I think that’s on me. I like to push my comfort zone and build better skill sets from each project. So each one is tricky.
Which project are you most proud of and why?
I have really enjoyed doing the trophies for DarkFest. Another big one for me was designing a bike for Tyler McCaul for Rampage 2022.
Your favorite riding loop is?
Right now riding a lot of the City Bowl (Cape Town) trails but I’m keen on Jonkershoek too.
Your dream destination for a bike ride is?
Madeira in Portugal. More specifically the Trans Madeira Enduro. I would love to give it a go and see if I have what it takes. I also have BC and Whistler on the list.
Lastly, what does the future hold for Hasie?
More rad builds, more interesting products and collaborations. Plus a new YouTube channel to show off some custom bike builds.