The Taiwan Bicycle
Manufacturing Industry Review

Principles of Good Bicycle Design: 2012 TAIPEI CYCLE d&i Awards Jury Discussion

Glenn Reeves

Merida Big.Nine
Merida Big.Nine MTB twentyniner hardtail. Design: Merida Industry Co., Ltd.

This is a video of a discussion held by the five jury members who selected the winning entries to this year’s inaugural competition. It’s 23min long, so a summary of key points is provided below. The judges’ details are listed at the end of this post.

From 207 entries, 74 winners were chosen in the course of a single day’s discussion and deliberation. 10 unspecified criteria decided which made the cut. I was expecting a lot more detail on this, but it was not too be. It would make these types of events a whole lot more interesting if they did make such items available, although potentially more controversial.

There was no quota of winning entries decided upon before the judging. If a design came up favorably against the criteria and it could be sustained on a short list, then it was awarded a gong.

What is made clear is that no entry could perform brilliantly on any single criterion to qualify for an award. Instead, an entry needed to do well on at least 4 or 5 criteria to make through to the final “short” list. Then each juror had his own checklist of values that he brought to his decision. A key criterion here was to what degree a design offers an answer to a consumer’s problem: how well does it fulfill the needs of the group to which it is targeted?

TDR FloxX Theo de Rooij Bikes B.V.
TDR FloxX Design: Theo de Rooij Bikes B.V.

For example Ader Chen looked at how each entry rated in relation to: 1. Appearance 2. Aesthetics 3. Lifestyle 4. Utility 5. Economics. On this last one, affordability to a wide range of consumers is important. But overall the value of a design comes from the unity of its parts. To what degree do all components fit together into a whole.

On this, Martin Kessler (the power behind BMC’s rebranding) remarked that many entries were “selling an idea but without any design”. This comes about, he continues, because you have industry professionals or engineers who come up with a technical advance or improvement, but lack a greater design vision.

Much was made of the future.  Ader Chen identified 3 trends:
1.integrated design: creating a holistic product means a more aesthetically pleasing and more functional product.
2. intelligent: ie. smart technology, bicycle design needs to take account of this.
3. interactive. user interface around the handlebars. There is little good design in this area as yet since where smart tech is incorporated it is not integrated into the whole design.

X-country / all mountain Unitrade Cycle Inc.
X-country / all mountain Design: Unitrade Cycle Inc.

He notes that a bicycle designer should also be a bicycle rider, a compelling point that most cyclists would agree with, although there is still some way to go on the industry side. Martin Kessler remarked that nowhere else in the world will you find such a concentration of design capacity than in Taiwan. That maybe so, but moving forward design frontiers is happening in spite of cycling lifestyles not because of them, although things are changing.

Martin Kessler sees the E-bike trend as heralding the biggest shake-up in bicycle design in the last century. He maintains that we will behold designs that would have been unthinkable, literally,  a few years ago. Adding to this and Ader Chen’s identification of smart technology as a way forward, Johann Geiger sees cloud computing as presenting enormous opportunities in the near future. He goes so far to suggest that Taiwan is uniquely situated to take advantage of this given the importance of the computing sector: cross-fertilization may be the springboard for great advances in that area.

Hiroaki Tanaka was a critical of Taiwan on the issue of E-design saying that more could be done to address it. For example, Shimano was ahead of the trend with their Di2. The promise of electrical components is enormous; more needs to be done to realize the potential.

Unisex slim E-bike Protanium
Unisex slim E-bike Design: Protanium

The IBDC can be put forward as a counter to that, since many of the successful designers are Taiwanese. Smart components were very much in evidence this year. However the IBDC is all about concept designs and not functioning products, most of which are already in the marketplace. It is from these that the d&i awards are chosen, those that are put forward as entries anyway.

The d&i awards are hosted by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) and the Taiwan Bicycle Exporters’ Association (TBEA) and organized by iF International Forum Design GmbH, under the ‘organized by iF’ label.

The five judges were:
Francois Liang: General Manager of Cycling and Health Tech. Industry R&D Center (CHC), Master of Industrial  Engineering, a licensed welder, and specializes in dynamic system design, performance evaluation and CAD/CAE/CAT/ID integrated processes.

Ader Chen: The director of Xcellent design. Following a stint with the Palo Alto Design Group he founded Excellent Design.He moved to the bicycle design field in Taiwan after 20 years in industrial design

Martin Kessler: The founder of Process Design and was the project leader for establishing BMC’s new brand identity, and keen participant in Gigathlon and cycling competitions over the years. His product design and corporate design branding agency is located in Switzerland, Taipei, and Shanghai.

Hiroaki Tanaka: An Industrial Designer with over 20 years of experience having planned many concept designs for Panasonic, Epson, Pioneer, and Fujifilm to name a few. He has collaborated with Bridgestone in the design of applications for bicycles.

Johann Geiger: Chairman & Professor, Dept of Industrial Design, Da-Yeh University, Changhua, Taiwan.


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