Photo by Oregon Manifest on Instagram
The winners and runners-up—six teams in all—of the 2011 Oregon Manifest were announced on Saturday evening, following the field test, but it's worth taking a closer look at the three top spots, two runners-up and winning student entry. (The creative collaborations are being judged by the general public via online voting here.)
Shannon Holt & Jocelyn SyCip of Oregon Manifest working the crowd...
...as they eagerly anticipate the big announcement.
First of all, congratulations to all of the winners!
Frankencycle: All six winners in one...
Now let's take a look at your creations (drum roll please)...
UPDATE: Oregon Manifest wants to know what you think! Which entry was your favorite creative collaboration—Fuseproject × SyCip's twist on a cargo bike, IDEO × Rock Lobster's elegant electric-assist bicycle, or Ziba × Signal's everyday utility bike? Vote here!
Photo courtesy of Chris King Cycles; photographer Dylan Van Weelden has a full set of photos here.
Now that we've had seen a fair share of the Oregon Manifest creative collaborations in action and in situ, I should mention that the Oregon Manifest team has posted studio photos of each bicycle.
Courtesy of Oregon Manifest; full set of photos here.
Courtesy of Oregon Manifest; full set of photos here.
Courtesy of Oregon Manifest; full set of photos here.
Instead of merely reposting all of the photos here, we've attempted to chronicle the progress of each teams' design/build process as it has unfolded over the past seven months. Read on for the highlights of each collaboration:
Matt Cardinal of Signal (left) on "Fremont"
Where the Fuseproject × SyCip team went for a novel three-wheeled design and IDEO × Rock Lobster sought to perfect the electric-assist bicycle, Portland's local collaborators Ziba × Signal Cycles decided to improve upon existing mechanisms, so much so that they saw fit to file patents on the sidecar, bags and lock.
"Fremont" at Checkpoint 2
At first glance, the "Fremont" looks like a traditional mixte-style cruiser with a sidecar, though its conventional appearance belies several key innovations from the Ziba design team, led by none other than Paul Backett. Which is not to say that it's not an absolutely beautiful machine; credit to Matt and Nate of Signal Cycles for building an exceptionally-crafted bicycle (and kudos to SyCip and Rock Lobster as well, while we're at it).
Courtesy of Oregon Manifest
The most obvious feature is the sidecar, which consists of a collapsible bag atop a platform, set on a hinge at roughly 10 o'clock on the drive side of the rear wheel. (The bicycle also features a belt drive instead of the traditional chain, which makes for an interesting contrast to the otherwise classic bicycle design.) When the bag is flattened and set into the base (or simply removed), the entire sidecar can be flipped over the rear wheel to function as a rear rack for cargo-less rides.
IDEO's Adam Vollmer with "Faraday" at Checkpoint 2 of the Oregon Manifest
I suppose I was trying to be a bit coy with that last teaser shot from Oregon Manifest, which included the silhouette of the IDEO × Rock Lobster entry in the foreground, but savvy Googlers have most certainly turned up the full image sets from my fellow journalists Jay Greene of CNET and Jonathan Maus of BikePortland.
IDEO collaborated with Santa Cruz, CA-based Rock Lobster on an e-bike that can only be described as elegant: the frame itself is distinguished mostly by its double top tube and the beautifully welded front rack, but there's more to "Faraday" than meets the eye. Insofar as IDEO is involved, many of the key design features remain invisible: a custom algorithm controls speed based on rider feedback and internally-routed cabling runs connects the motor and lights to a discreet "brain" at the seatstay cluster.
Photo by IDEO
Photo by IDEO
Moreover, the signature aesthetic touches of the frame belie functional utility as well: the top-tube holds the Lithium ion batteries—reportedly the same as those in the Chevy Volt—while the front rack can be swapped out for other cargo units such as a trunk or child seat. (It's worth mentioning that the same is true of Fuseproject × SyCip's "LOCAL" design; in fact, Fuseproject is supposedly developing additional ideas for bringing their vehicle to market.)
The design blogosphere has been abuzz with Fuseproject's announcement of their creative collaboration with Santa Rosa's SyCip Designs, which they've dubbed "LOCAL." The design is credited to Fuseproject founder Yves Behar, though it's rumored that Jeremy SyCip had been considering a three-wheeled design for some time now, his first in over two decades in the framebuilding game.
The bike at Checkpoint 2
Suddenly, we have about two weeks to finish our bike and make all of the last pieces fit. We've settled on a name: The Fremont. Also known as The Great Pathfinder, John Frémont was an early settler of California and led the expedition to build a railroad from St. Louis to San Francisco. We think he personifies the bike. The name Frémont holds local significance too, one of Portland's bridges is named for him. As we type this, our frame is off being painted, and one of our designers is hand stitching our foldable canvas bags. With the end in sight, we spent some time reflecting on our time working with Signal to create the ultimate utility bike—and asked them to do the same.
Ziba: When we started 9 months ago, we really did not know what to expect. At Ziba, we're used to our projects being meticulously planned down to the last hour and deliverable. This project gave us unprecedented freedom and autonomy, which had its up and downs. On one hand, we were able to take the project to creative heights that we are incredibly excited about. The story of the bike—The New West, the Urban Explorer, and Fremont—manifested itself in a final bike that each of us wish we could own.
On the other hand, a creative blank canvas meant a lot of work. A lot more work than we imagined it to be. When you look at the final product, we hope you see the beautiful craftsmanship, the attention to detail, and just a generally cool bike. But inextricably, we look at it and see late nights spent refining the sidecar, or Saturdays spent fabricating an LED light housing.
Don't mistake this for regret. Honestly, this bike became something more than work for us. We put in the time because this project was something we genuinely believed in from the start, and that we grew to love as it came to life.
By the time this post is up our bike should be 99% complete. Like most design projects, the energy and intensity of the work has ramped up exponentially over the last few weeks. Everything had to work like clockwork to get us to this point: Paul built up the frame over 3 days, and it came out beautifully. The last day was spent with the whole team working in Santa Cruz until midnight to get all the details and additional custom parts to fit perfectly. Fifteen hours of filing our fillet brazed lugs later, the frame was ready for powder-coating. Since then, our nights have been spent CNC-machining custom parts, steam-bending wood fenders, running wires through the frame, and painstakingly tweaking the electronics and controls.
All of this couldn't have been done without the help of many friends and our network of skilled craftspeople in the Bay Area and beyond. We'd like to especially thank: Pete Weber of Quiet Horsepower for the excellent tube bending and fabrication; Neil Macc and Jeff Selzer of Palo Alto Bicycles; Alan from Precision Powdercoating; Gary from SSSink.com; Light and Motion for providing us with the parts that evolved into our custom headlights, and all of the great guys in our Palo Alto shop for going the extra mile—Jim Feuhrer, Derek Goodwin, Andy Deakin, Peter Bronk, and Kayvon Shakeri. Last but not least, special thanks to Robin Bigio for returning fresh from Italy and helping pull the final design details together, including the beautiful logo and chainguard.
Rock Lobster headquarters in Santa Cruz: Paul has finished the basic parts of the frame and we begin the process of adding all the brackets, braze-on details and front rack components.
The freshly completed frame hangs in Paul's shop.
Paul and Adam tweak the geometry and balance of the frame to better handle heavy loads.
We're almost there—putting the finishing touches on a bike that's not just fun to ride, its fun to live with.
LOCAL is a neighborhood bike, all you need to get around, transport stuff, and enjoy a local self-powered life
We at fuseproject + Sycip wanted to find the perfect mode of transportation that would allow us to do everything in our local neighborhood. After lots of thinking, designing and refining we are happy to announce our bicycle: LOCAL. At its core, LOCAL is just that: the perfect neighborhood bike. With LOCAL, we visit friends down the street; we ride to shops in the vicinity such as our favorite hardware store, we drop-off the kids at the school nearby, we grab a picnic and take the whole family (including surfboards) to the beach.
Over the years, as our lives have become more complicated and full of stuff to take to work or play, our traditional bicycles have become less practical. So we designed LOCAL to address our daily needs, and to bring back the fun of riding around the neighborhood.
LOCAL is the bike version of the practical pick-up truck—it's utility and function isn't limited to carrying a laptop or a sixpack. The sturdy, flexible front platform carries the groceries, surfboards, lumber and kids creating an ideal vehicle for a self-powered life. This is not a specialized commuter getting you from point A to B, it's a real workhorse that you can use for nearly anything.
TALES OF THE DETAILS
At this point in our project, we have our bike frame and our big idea. A good story and a strong product can emerge from just those two things, but what really brings design to life and elevates it from good to great is the details. We want our themes to manifest at every touchpoint, to create an entire ecosystem beyond the bike. We want our rider to live and breath utility and freedom whenever they are on this bike. We decided that, to create the ultimate utility bike, it was time to really sweat the details.
MATERIALS AND COLORS
Our bike is designed to live outside. It's made to get dinged up and beaten on, so how can the materials and colors celebrate this? Utilize materials that will show their age, but not break down.
A fresh paint job looks amazing until the first time your bike tips over. Then all you can see every time you look at it is that chip above the rear wheel. Ok, if you're going to fixate on that, how do you make the chip a badge of pride instead of a blemish? One of our designers kept bringing up the idea of reveals. Make the paint reveal new aspects the longer you have it.
Wear was once a badge of honor in our society. The way your boots or your jeans were worn in (or out) revealed something about how you lived your life. To bring this idea to our paint we're experimenting with layers. Our plan is, as the top layer starts to wear off, another color is revealed, and then maybe even another. We're trying different colors and coats, but we have this vision of being able to glance at someone's bike and immediately know that they've put some miles on that thing. The bike will tell its own stories about the rider.
There's one month to go, and (like most design projects) as the overall direction is growing more defined, the production and detail work has increased exponentially. Paul whipped out a prototype test frame one afternoon so we could start integrating all the custom bits and pieces on something close to the final product. Thanks to Neil at Palo Alto Bikes, our wheels are built and rolling. Many nights have been spent tweaking the electronics algorithms, refining the mechanical interfaces, and unifying the various design details. Check out a few of the process shots below:
1.) Sketching, modeling, and hacking components at the same time.
2.) Our first test frame now hangs with a jumble of wires connecting to it as we start to build the final boards. You know cyclists love Italian parts—right down to the circuit board.
It's always a bittersweet time in design when you have to stop dreaming of all the possible concepts and solutions and just get down to the one that works best. But when the time came for us, it was fairly straightforward. We had to rip the band-aid off and go for it. From our last two choices, we are down to the final design.
Having explored several designs through sketching and prototyping. We settled on the direction that the team collectively felt would be best for the competition and in our own lives. It wasn't just about feasibility and features, it had just as much to do with simple enjoyment and a level of everyday utility that would last.
The design brief and beyond.
At the Oregon Manifest kick-off party we received a design brief that specifies the functional requirements of the utility bike. The brief lists the elements that are essential to the design of this type of bike: locking, loading, carrying, lighting, etc. As designers and bike builders we know that the basic brief is only a portion of the overall story; it contains the minimum requirements to make a design a viable solution.
We have to think beyond the minimum requirements and design a bike that brings all the required elements together, tells a cohesive story and delivers a beautiful experience. In our initial phase we decided to add richness and depth to the brief by designing for a specific person: the urban explorer.
Who is the urban explorer?
The idea of the urban explorer came to us as we considered what kind of utility bike we would like to own and use. We realized that each member of our Ziba x Signal team is a transplant to Portland and relishes in the opportunity to delve into the idiosyncrasies of our fair city (the dream of the nineties is indeed alive in Portland).
We also know, as all cyclists do, that the best way to get to know a city is on a bike. Even a city where you have lived for years becomes new and intimate when you swap a car for a bike. The urban explorer thrives on curiosity and spontaneity: when he's out running errands he is constantly drawn to the nooks and crannies of the city. She loves to browse bookstores, find undiscovered hole-in-the-wall restaurants, explore specialty shops, chill at great bars and peruse Bob Loblaw's law blog. The urban explorer frequently takes the long way home—quick trips to the grocery store are often an opportunity to run additional errands or simply enjoy a bike ride through the park on a gorgeous (or gloomy) day.
Over the past month we have been working closely with Jeremy to further the design and building process. Our collaboration has resulted in a good amount of tenacious idea volleying, which has helped us overcome mechanical challenges. These challenges needed to be addressed and overcome if we are to make our bike concept a reality.
Through this collaborative process, Jeremy has come up with innovative options to address some of our design's most fundamental challenges, which was exciting news for all of us. This willingness to innovate on Jeremy's part has meant that we as designers are freer to pursue ideas that, with another partner, might be too far afield to achieve from a technical perspective. However, it means more than just creative freedom; it means that we can develop a final entry that does more to address the needs and desires of our target audience.
San Francisco is seven miles by seven miles wide—a postage stamp-sized patch of land that, despite its modest dimensions, can feel impossibly vast on a bicycle thanks to its innumerable hills, circuitous routes and congested tangle of cars, tourists and MUNI tracks. Nevertheless, there are countless reasons why SF is a great city for cycling, and we're proud of the thousands of cyclists, from the recreational to the die-hard, who make San Francisco's bike culture one of the best in the United States.
San Francisco Hill
In designing our incarnation of the ultimate modern utility bike, we were inspired by the "go anywhere, do anything" attitude of the Bay Area's cyclists who tackle staggering hills, haul massive vegetable loads from our prized farmers markets, sell us tasty food and drinks from their bikes-turned-food-carts, brighten our commutes with music blasted from massive speakers towed by their bikes and generally refuse any limitation to what can be accomplished while perched on the back of a bicycle. Faced with the impossibility of parking a car in San Francisco, our city's diminutive physical size, and the relatively fantastic weather we enjoy year round, we came around to a vision of a bike that could be a modern urban workhorse, rendering the car unnecessary, even "ridiculous" (to borrow a term from Malma, Sweden), for most any task within our city's limits.
Inspiration came from two unlikely sources: from a trip through Europe, Adam Reineck brought back images of vintage Swedish "trade" bikes that, despite their weight and antiquity, excited us with their uncompromising practicality. Here was a bike that could haul 150 pounds... while also being fun to ride. How often do you need to transport 150 pounds of stuff? It's a good question (that we hotly debated ourselves), but if a bike is meant to be a meaningful replacement for your car, then carrying more than just your briefcase is sure to be a necessity.
Meanwhile, from the far corners of the Interbike trade show, from the cheesy tourist tours over the Golden Gate Bridge and from the spirited debates on tech forums in esoteric corners of the internet, electric bicycles consistently and emphatically captured our attention.
Low-cost, high-efficiency hub motors and advanced new battery technologies borrowed from the electric vehicle industry offer exciting new possibilities to electrify bicycles with a minimum of compromise on weight and handling. Yet, with a few notable exceptions, the majority of e-bikes—certainly almost all of those commercially available—are painfully heavy, over-instrumented, poorly spec'ed designs that fall short of the performance of a motorcycle, while wringing the fun out of riding a bike.
We believe that in the marriage of the vintage trade bike and the "modern" electric bike lays a harmony that captures the best possibilities of each architecture in a design ideally suited to the diverse needs of the San Francisco—or Portland—rider. From those two inspirational starting points, our team has decided on a vision for our bike that we're extremely excited about... and we'll share it here:
"That's cool, what is it?"
People often ask us about the research phase of our project. It's an interesting question because, unlike many of our traditional projects, we don't have the luxury of traveling the world to gain insight about people and their bikes. Our research has had more of a guerrilla methodology as we seek out any and every opportunity to be inspired from analogous experiences, to gain insights from cyclists in our own community. We often stop cyclists on the road to ask them about their particular setup and learn about how and why they have modified their bikes in a certain way. Public bike racks are our petri dishes; we find ourselves looking over the bikes, observing, taking notes, doodling, asking questions. We've stood suspiciously in front of bike racks for long periods of time and have interrupted people's errands by peppering them with rapid-fire questions. Recently, the tables have turned as our friends on the streets of Portland have noticed our prototypes, stared quizzically, asked questions and complimented our design (at least we think they were compliments). The most memorable feedback came a couple of weeks ago as we made the maiden voyage of our bike + sidecar prototype.
June brought the arrival of sunshine, new ideas, and new people to the IDEO team. We stepped back from our feverish consideration of the bicycle and its rider to imagine the business and social context that the ultimate utility bike would live in. What innovative services, applications, incentives and businesses exist, or have yet to be developed, that make the ride easier and more enjoyable for those of us who ride on a regular basis, or lower the barriers to entry for potential new members of the cycling community? Chicago's McDonald's central bike hub comes to mind, as well as San Francisco's own Warm Planet Bicycles bike depot, used by at least half of our team members on a daily basis. In a brainstorm with IDEO's Bay Area business design community, we explored new markets, new sales models and new service concepts centered around the bike.
We also did some recruiting. As we pass the halfway point in the project and our concepts start to solidify, we're excitedly looking forward to a summer of tinkering, hacking, drawing, and prototyping (as well as riding). For a fresh burst of hands-on creative energy, we pulled one of IDEO's newest designers, Purin Phanichphant, into the team. Here's Purin's introduction to his crazy background, passion for design and love of all things bicycle:
Prototyping is an integral part of the design process. Designers use prototypes all the time, at various fidelity levels, to refine ideas, improve the final design and more importantly to expose flaws earlier on in the development process. Prototypes inherently help push a design by helping to unearth areas of concern quickly, but they also highlight important issues before they become too challenging to address, making the design process faster.
Designing a bike that is a departure from traditional bike forms absolutely requires a series of prototypes before starting a final build. We must establish that the approach will result in a bike that is both feasible and functional as a utility bike.
At our first meeting with Matt and Nate from Signal Cycles, we asked them how they prototype and test their design ideas. Their response has become a memorable anecdote in our collaboration: "We don't." Nate pointed to a small rack on his personal bike and said, "Oh, that was a prototype." The small rack, Nate explained, was intended to be part of one of their client's bikes. During the build process Nate had a small problem with the rack (and I mean small—these guys are perfectionists) and subsequently deemed the rack unworthy of the client's bike. He started over, fixed the problem, put the new rack on the client's bike, and relegated the "prototype" to his personal bike.
Matt explained later that they generally don't have the luxury of putting time and materials into prototyping. They are masters of their craft and, as such, they are able to plan and predict in such a way that there is no need for an in-process prototype. Measure twice, cut once captures the essence of their process.
National Bike Month is celebrated in May and this past May 12th was Bike to Work Day in San Francisco. The focus of this year's Oregon Manifest Challenge aligns perfectly with the goals of these events. Bike to Work Days are geared towards educating people about the benefits and ease of using a bike for commuting to and from work. The Oregon Manifest Challenge of 2011 is about building the ultimate utility bike for modern living that could better support bike commuting.
If we look at where the average American lives today, walking to work is not always an option, but at the same time driving to work isn't always necessary. This is especially true in urban areas. In cities, like the San Francisco bay area, a good number of people live within reasonable biking distance of their place of work. This fact has made us believe that there is a "distance sweet spot" for the bike we are designing. Therefore, if we optimize our bike design for trips within that "distance sweet spot" and for errands that urban dwellers want to run, then we have the freedom to develop iconic forms rather than developing a bike along purely traditional lines.
The IDEO x Rock Lobster team has gotten lots of inspiration this month, right from the seats of our bikes. Here's a by-the-numbers breakdown of what we've been up to:
- One weisswurst- and pretzel-powered ride across Munich
- One two-day mountain bike camp in San Francisco
- Two mountain bike rides for fun with coworkers
- 15 trips across the Golden Gate Bridge
- Four night mountain bike rides
- One custom pink track bike created for a 10-year-old, designed and built in two weeks
- Two San Francisco to Palo Alto bike commutes
- Five hours spent cruising around the streets of London
- Countless potholes dodged in Ghana
- 200 miles ridden round trip to the Caltrain and back
- 20,000 calories burned on lunch rides
- 30,000 feet climbed
- One near miss with a driver on a cell phone
- Two winks from cute passers-by
While we were busy counting miles and tallying bike firsts, Rock Lobster's Paul Sadoff took to the dirt for Tom's Ride, an annual ride in honor of Tom Cuthberson, author of many books and probably one of the first people to bring the notion of cyclocross to Santa Cruz. Read more about the history of the ride and this year's trek on the Rock Lobster blog, and check out some photos below.
Now that we have the kernel of an idea for the bike, we are thinking about ways to make it a reality. As we touched on previously, the form has to be practical for our lifestyles. It must be something that allows us to go about our lives on a daily basis, doing everything for which we would have used a car.
We have taken a closer look at bikes around San Francisco, and there are some many examples of bikes that are nimble and great for getting people from point A to point B. However, it's apparent that the bikes most people are riding now aren't necessarily great at getting people and their "stuff" around town. There are plenty bicycles that can accommodate panniers, which is perfectly suited for small loads, but a modern utility bike needs to accommodate both small and large hauls, from, say, a Home Depot run.
Ain't nothing like riding a fine horse in new country.
Ziba loves Signal Cycles
This has been an amazing month for the Ziba + Signal Cycles experiment as our work together has developed into a true collaboration. We've met multiple times (frequently on our bikes) to explore our conceptual direction and nail down the major technical building blocks of our Oregon Manifest bike. From the Ziba side we look forward to these meetings as an opportunity to test out the feasibility of our ideas. We are also interested in the reactions we will get when we propose some of our concepts that are more "out there." We learned this week that the guys from Signal also look forward to and enjoy our meetings. Check out this email exchange between Ziba and Signal this week:
Quick exercise: What do you NOT like about bikes? At first, it's hard to see the bike as anything but positive. But what about those rainy days, when your pant legs look like you've been wading in the ocean? Or the greasy chain that falls off every time you drop a curb? We all have our "bug list" about bikes, but the fun of cycling generally overrides (groan!) the list of things that keep us from getting out there on two wheels.
This month, we found inspiration in ways to transform the negative: the theft, the flat tires and the clothing malfunctions. Check out a mind map from IDEO's Peter Macdonald of what we'd love to change about our rides.
And then we brainstormed to talk about how we could address those categories. Over pizza, we asked a group of about 15 IDEOers to gather for a brainstorm to address some of those irks:
-How might we increase rider safety?
-How can we design a bike that can help carry loads of different sizes?
-How can we deter theft?
-How can we make bikes sexy?
Paul Sadoff from Rock Lobster joined us at the studio for some synthesis, and now we're close to determining some of the categories of elements we'd like to incorporate into the final design.
Next steps: reduce the wild ideas, abstractions, and concepts to concrete design directions and start prototyping. The team's anxious to take pen to paper, get in the shop, and get our hands dirty.
This has been an inspiring month for IDEO and Rock Lobster. To wrap our minds around the possibilities for the urban utility bike, we observed all types of riders in different settings, scoured our archives for our favorite bike books, pictures, magazines and other bits of inspiration, and filled the formerly bare walls of our brand new project space with a colorful collage of tubes, wheels, shiny silver bits and photos of riders of every imaginable type.
We didn't just reach for our own cameras, though; we reached out to IDEO's network of offices around the world—there are eight total, not counting the places where our designers are out in the field—and asked our bike-loving colleagues to inspire us.
From the barrage of images and anecdotes, we culled 10 provocations that embody the most interesting opportunities for the next steps of the design process. We've accompanied each provocation with an image that captures what we think is its essence.
Share your feedback—what excites you? Which provocation inspires you the most? What's played out ... and what did we miss?
What if a utility bike could grow more valuable over time and positively reflect the many trips it's taken you on?
These leather saddles in Holland have had a lot of use over the years.
What if your bike was always ready to help you out, whether it's carrying a bag of groceries or a hundred chairs?
This gravity defying video was taking near our Shanghai office.
Zibites love for bikes has become apparent as we've kicked off the Oregon Manifest design challenge. To harness the raw energy and excitement around this project we asked all Ziba employees to submit a couple of their ideal bicycle designs. The results were incredible. In the end we had a couple hundred submissions from a wide variety of perspectives. Some bikes were thoughtful and serious, some were playful and a handful came out of left field (see pizza party). Enjoy!
In our previous posts we mentioned the methodical and rational way that we—Ziba + Signal—typically approach creative problem solving and design: we understand the user, the context, and the problems associated with a specific design challenge. This information, and the insights we derive from it, becomes the foundation for designing a beautiful experience, building a beautiful bike and telling a beautiful story. Of course, the essential ingredient to the Ziba + Signal approach to the design process is inspiration. You know the kind we're talking about: the "Eureka!" moment when the design becomes clear, when the abstract becomes concrete. It is impossible to force these moments of inspiration, but there are things we can do to increase the likelihood that they will happen early and often in the process.
On this project, we are surrounding ourselves with a carefully curated assortment of objects and visuals. We believe there are two fundamental ways that visual stimulus aids inspiration. First, there are always opportunities to find inspiring metaphors in things that are vastly different than the object we are designing. Second, by surrounding ourselves with things that we find brilliant and beautiful, we are compelled and motivated to make things that are brilliant and beautiful. This is the almost-visceral response that lives inside designers: when we see creativity we want to create. To this end we have plastered the walls and filled the shelves of our project room (room 225) with all kinds of inspiration material.
Take a look at a few of the initial boards we are using as visual inspiration for our bike project. We like to think of these boards as "living," meaning that they will evolve and change as our bike progresses and as our need for inspiration becomes more specific. Why do we find these things interesting and beautiful and relevant and meaningful? We're not entirely sure yet, but that's precisely the point.
Western Addition Vacuum Haul
As we have been contemplating bike design, we haven't been able to stop thinking about how bikes fit within our culture. The question that kept coming to mind was: is it time to stop thinking of a bike as a bike and start thinking of it as a viable choice for transportation? Now it's more important than ever to apply design solutions to the fundamental concept of a bike to make it as relevant of a transportation choice in America as it is globally.
Too often, at least in the US, the bike is thought of only in terms of leisure pursuits. A suburban youth might ride their bike to school throughout their adolescence but we all know what happens when they get their driver's license. Urban commuters (hipsters... that word is so tired, how about we retire it?) might faithfully ride their bike now but what happens when they have children? Weekend warriors spend thousands on a racing or mountain bike but a car is still their primary mode of every day transportation. Why is that, when the prevalence of bikes as a transportation method is so integral to other cultures? How can we overcome the daunting American sprawl when denser urban areas of other cultures make biking so much easier?
As we develop concepts for the competition, we are focused on unique form and practicality based on our own lifestyles. We aren't aiming to reinvent a racing bike or to remake a folding bike, but we are thinking about designs that are flexible and therefore more likely to become a viable transportation choice. From our point of view, what feels appropriate is intrinsically linked to people's home cities and the concepts we are developing aim to be flexible enough to accommodate those different needs. Check the jump for some local inspiration!
At fuseproject we make products, brands and experiences on a global level. We pride ourselves on following our designs from the earliest concept all the way to the factory floor. When our designs finally meet the consumer, oftentimes bringing a product to the mass market requires an impersonal process of manufacturing. You can't be friends with an injection-molding machine. That's why we're so excited to be partnering with SyCip -- it's a rare opportunity to create something distinct and handcrafted in collaboration with the person who is building it.
We met with Jeremy in early January after interviewing three other builders. All of the builders we spoke with had excellent pedigrees, however we chose to partner with Jeremy of SyCip because we felt an immediate kinship. Jeremy went to the Art Center College of Design Pasadena and graduated with a degree in Product Design. His design background is apparent in SyCip's bikes and this perspective helps our communication and process. We share the same language of craftsmanship and design. Moreover, it was clear that Jeremy's vision of possibilities is limitless, and his bike designs embrace the type of inventiveness that we strive for in our work.
In the words of Tobias Funke: "Let the great experiment begin!"
What's the best way to kick off a bike design project? A bike ride. We decided to take advantage of a rare sunny day in mid-February and conduct our first Signal x Ziba brainstorm in the saddle. As we pedaled the streets of downtown Portland, we dove straight into a conversation about the finer points bicycle-building and design. It felt a bit like a first date in that, as we chatted, we nervously eyed each other's bikes and riding styles to get some insight into the perspective that each team member would bring to the table. For the Ziba team it was an opportunity to get some first-hand information about the materials and processes that go in to custom bike building; listening to expert craftsmen explain their technique is exhilirating for a group of designers. For the Signal team it was a chance to learn more about Ziba's approach to design and how that process would inform our creative collaboration.
An interesting anecdote from our first date:
At the end of our ride we decided to get take-out from one of our favorite Thai restaurants in the Pearl district. We emerged from the restaurant with a large bag of curry-filled take-out containers. Matt from Signal grabbed the bag, set it on his elegant custom rack, and adeptly secured them with standard elastic net. It was a simple act that almost went unnoticed but it demonstrated to all of us that the best designs are so natural and intuitive that they appear effortless. We decided that this kind of fluid and flexible interaction epitomizes what is missing from a lot of utility bike design; and we are determined to fill that gap.
Rock Lobster Shop Tour. The builder's dream: a full Campy toolkit. This was one of Paul's first purchases while working as a bike mechanic. He took out a small-business loan to pay the $700 it cost back then for the set. All Images Courtesy of IDEO
We kicked off the IDEO x Rock Lobster creative collaboration in the way we'd start any project -- by getting to know the people we'll be working with. In this case, that meant inviting Paul (Rock Lobster) up to the IDEO Palo Alto campus for pizza, wine and a tour of the IDEO shop, then making the trip down to Santa Cruz to explore Paul's neighborhood in the best way possible -- by bike.
Our journey started in Paul's garden and brought us through farmers markets, and then finally to the Rock Lobster shop where we drank in the inspiration that covers every inch of his space. Bike plans are stacked in buckets just below photos of racers from the early '90s. Frames hang on pegs in double layers around the perimeter. We learned about the functions and personalities of the tools, and talked about similar processes from our work in the IDEO studio.
We learned that between the six of us, we are bicycle commuters, racers, tourists, mechanics, builders, designers, customers, salespeople, spectators and enthusiasts. These roles and experiences give us a diverse appreciation of the sport and an ideal starting point to begin understanding the opportunities for the bike we'll be designing. Over the coming month, we'll find ways to tap a broader community of riders and non-riders to put the challenge of the Oregon Manifest in better context.
Check out our bios and photos from our first team ride to get to know us a bit better...
From left to right: Jeremy SyCip, Yves Behar, Nick Cronan, Noah Murphy-Reinhertz, Serge Bealieu, Andrea Small, Hardy Chambliss, Jade Dalton, Josh Morenstein
fuseproject x SyCip
fuseproject and SyCip Bikes are ready to "take it to the next level," from their San Francsico base with a plan to develop a new class of bicycle that is both utilitarian and beautiful. This team hopes that their bicycle will inspire a more inclusive urban bike culture with real world applications as a real sustainable transportation alternative. The builders at SyCip have been crafting custom bikes since 1992 from their "fabrication Shangri-La" in Sonoma County for everyone from Bay Area bike messengers to World Class racers and anyone in between. About 1/3 of fuseproject's studio commutes by bike regularly, traveling the distance with commutes up to 17 miles away! The sustainable and civic-minded focus of the Oregon Manifest design challenge speaks to the core of this self-described "scrappy" team - not to mention a penchant for competition. Speaking of competition, the folks at fuseproject are throwing down the gauntlet with a proposed mileage competition for bragging rights - studio vs. studio.