Sunday, April 3, 2016

Riding a Motorcycle - Is it necessary for a Motorcycle Designer?

In this post I am going to try to answer the question I am being asked quite often.

"Is it necessary for a motorcycle designer to be a motorcycle rider as well?"

I won't be directly giving you my view on this subject, rather, let's understand few things associated with riding a motorcycle and it's relation with designing a motorcycle.

A motorcycle is a combination of a number of parts/components which work in cohesion to provide an experience called "Motorcycling". Now, this experience is based on two aspects -
1. How all the components behave to provide a riding experience?
2. How the motorcycle in totality tingles your senses emotionally?

To be a (good) motorcycle designer, one has to understand/learn the essence of "Motorcycling" in totality.

When you ride yourself, you get a first hand experience of how the hand grip seems just right while the foot-pegs rubber pattern are making it slippery. How the tank could be flatter at a particular area to provide more grip and the windscreen could be few millimetres taller. How the seat profile you might have drawn could have affected in your movement on the bike... And a whole lot of other stuffs.

So, when you ride yourself, there is something you learn which is at the back of your mind while doing that tank sketch and helping you making it behave in a way it is supposed to behave as a functional component along with "looking nice/cool".

When you ride yourself, you work in cohesion with the engineering and testing teams - not against them.

You can imagine yourself as the customer for whom you are designing that bike. You can imagine, in a better way, how he is going to use it and design accordingly.

When you ride, you can get the fact that the way the bike looks is so important to make that emotional connect, but, so is how it sounds, how it comforts you, how it takes you from here to somewhere, and how it becomes a part of you..

The best part is - riding a motorcycle is a skill, similar to creating this sketch or that CAD model. It can be learned!
And, till now, I am not able to find any disadvantage of it.

So, coming to the answer of the question - Yes, you should ride a motorcycle to be a good motorcycle designer - Because, to be a good motorcycle designer you have to understand "motorcycling"- And, there is no better way to learn motorcycling than to ride a motorcycle - Period.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

What is Motorcycle Design?

What is Motorcycle Design

I will try to keep this as simple and crisp as possible.

Motorcycle design mainly consists of three important parts: -

1. Engineering
2. Business
3. Art

Well, it also consists of Passion, Love, Enthusiasm and quite a few other aspects. But, it will be difficult for me to explain those. If you are reading this and even have a slight bit of interest in motorcycles and riding, I guess, you will already have an understanding of these.

So, let's focus on the three mentioned aspects one by one.

1. Engineering -

Every motorcycle is made of components and most of them are visible. The major difference between cars and motorcycles is that, in cars things are hidden under the surfaces. It does not matter whether the engine is an in-line four or a V-6. But, in motorcycles the engine's size itself defines a lot of things. And so does the packaging, suspension, tank capacity, and nearly everything else.

That is why a motorcycle designer should possess some short of knowledge (not necessarily an expert level) on how a motorcycle is made and the function of each component.

The other part where engineering knowledge is required, and this is applicable to all areas of Industrial Design, is production feasibility. When you design a component you should have some basic knowledge of the material and the production process by which the component will be manufactured. Off-course, in most of the cases you will be supported by an engineering team, but again, some basic knowledge would greatly help in reducing the iterations and cutting down the time required.

2. Business: -

For a motorcycle designer, the term Business- Understanding can be broken down into few parts -
a. Customer Understanding
b. Market Understanding
c. Environment Understanding

In motorcycles there is a lot of rider involvement, in terms of operation and also emotional. So, it's very very important to understand the target customer and his needs. A good understanding of how the customer is going to use the bike and his requirements from it is the most important and sure shot way of creating a successful design.

The market understanding mainly consists of studying the market in terms of competitors, price-positioning and product- positioning. For example, if there are similar products available in the market, what would make the product you are designing really stand out. This study also helps in sorting out the features required in the product.

The environment defines where the product is going to be used. Factors like road-conditions, traffic- conditions, weather, etc. are factored in and studied to provide the best design solution. For example, a motorcycle designed to be used in Bangkok city must have a good turning radius and very nice manoeuvrability. It will also require a not-so-high seat height. These will be derived after looking at the traffic and the way motorcycles are used there. Similarly, there can be a number of derivations which can be made.

3. Art: -

So you developed a very good understanding of the market and are aware of the technical requirements and production processes. What next?

You have to convert everything into a motorcycle idea and then put that idea on paper (screen now a days). For doing this you have to learn Art.

Now art in Industrial Design is slightly different. While the master-pieces you have seen on the walls of museums are mostly to tickle the senses of the viewer and make him/her create his own idea. In our case, we have to make sure that there is no scope for imagination for the viewer and the idea is very clearly presented.

Also art in industrial design is a skill anyone can learn and master. Off-course, there is a possibility of creating your own unique style.

The skills can be sketching on paper (alcohol based markers are extensively used), 2D softwares like Adobe Photoshop or 3D softwares like Alias and Rhino.

It doesn't really matter as to which platform you choose to present your idea if you are presenting it clearly. However, different organizations have different ways of working, and sadly sometimes, the sketches and renderings are given more weightage than the genius of an idea. So, it's always good to practise and keep improving the skill of art as it's anyways going to help you, one way or the other.

That will be all for today's post on Motorcycle Design. I hope it turns out be useful in some way. Please feel free to put your thoughts, doubts and random comments.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Motorcycle Design & Designer

The Motorcycle Designer

I have been working in the field of motorcycle design for almost seven years now. This blog will be a representation of my learnings and understandings about motorcycles and motorcycle design. I will try my best to keep updating it as frequently as possible.

I hope this blog will be useful for anyone who is interested in motorcycles and motorcycle design.