14th IBDC 2010 – some observations

by Sabinna on March 29, 2010

I originally posted this on my Facebook page. Here it is again in almost the same form. Putting it here increases its accessibility. You’ll also find some coverage of aspects of the event here.

Taipei Cycle’s International Bicycle Design Competition is arguably the world’s most important and prestigious. For this year’s competition, there were close on 1000 applications of which 400 entries were accepted. 21 of these were shortlisted for the finals. The assessment criteria applied by the jurors were: Innovation, Manufacturability, Marketability, and Various with the first of these, Innovation, taking priority over the others.

Han Goes, an IBDC juror and keynote speaker on Thursday 18 2010 International Bicycle Trend Forum had some very interesting comments to make. He observed that this year’s entries displayed a tendency towards pandering to what the candidates perceived to be jurors’ preferences. He felt that this year that design schools and teachers had instructed designers to target jurors’ preferences speculating that designers had carefully taken note of winning designs in past competitions, noted the trends and abstracted them into what they considered to be a winning formula namely that a winning design should have

  • small wheels (a compact bike)
  • multi-purpose functionality
  • UD Design
  • folding mechanism
  • electric power support

He points out that uniformity and congruence are not a problem per se. However abandoning “authenticity and independence” to pursue a strategy of purely pleasing the jury is. He urges that in next year’s competition there needs to be a re-alignment of focus to make sure that a high level of “disruptive, independent and authentic” innovation is maintained.

In my view, this might be a bit harsh. Designers do not operate in a vacuum but in the context of an industry that, like any other, trends in various ways, these trends acting as the foundations for expanded possibilities ie. innovation. The elements of the “winning formula” that he points to reflect the context in which the industry is reproducing itself at this point in time (folding portability, LEV orientation to mention some key themes in recent bicycle design). One could thus argue that the entries display a reasonable balance between radical (im)possibility and current trends.

Taking a different focus, and a less critical stance towards this year’s candidates, Mark Sanders, another IBDC juror and the first keynote speaker for the day argues that the bicycle industry is long way from being satisfactorily consumer oriented; re-situating this orientation to what consumers in the mass-market would find really useful constitutes a blue ocean opportunity of enormous potential. We currently find that “many bike shops, and industry shows are like ‘formula 1 pits lanes’ fuelled with testosterone” [!]. This strategy, he argues, limits the industry to a mere 20% of the global consumer market. Breaking out of this will involve focusing on what consumers really need; promoting the benefits of integrating cycling into everyday life; radically differentiated design and innovation, not just cosmetic tweaking of colors, model names and geometry; infuse fresh creativity into the industry by bringing in people and ideas from other industries, ‘Blue Ocean’ people, non-enthusiasts (I’m not so sure about this one) and, of course, designers such as those candidates with entries in this year’s IBDC; finally innovation should focus on the low cost entry level of the market–here he cites as an example Apple’s entry-level iPods.

Both make good points and we probably particularly need to take heed of Mark Sanders’ observation of the Blue Ocean market space that possibly awaits us. Both speakers come together on one point: radical differentation as Mark put it and disruptive, independent innovation as Han Goes put it are a way forward towards this goal. I look forward to seeing how things unfold.

This link will take you to a preview of many of the designs. I have already posted on the Tribune one particularly interesting finalist in the competition, and will post on one or two more in due course.

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