Category Archives: design

Where Are All The Electric Bikes?

Harley-Davidson-Livewire-Age-Of-UltronSunday afternoon I braved the cold and headed down to the annual winter Toronto Motorcycle Show with one of my riding buddies. If you live north of the 44th (north) parallel and you love riding you know exactly what we’re going through this time of the year waiting patiently for temperatures to rise.

It was great to see the new 2015 bike models up close and under one roof. Though I couldn’t help but wonder, where are all the electric bike offerings from the major manufacturers?

Just like all the celebrities and reporters who were dumbfounded by Lady Gaga’s performance at the Oscars last Sunday night I found it strange to note the lack of electric motorcycle technologies on display.

Some of the most anticipated motorcycles coming to market this year have stuck with surprisingly old engine tech, yet have been jammed full of electronic gizmos. In the sport bike category KTM was showing-off their much anticipated RC390 (powered by a 1-cylinder 4-stroke engine), Kawasaki their pricey Ninja H2 (powered by an in-line 4-cylinder engine), and Yamaha their YZF R-1 (powered by an in-line 4-cylinder engine) billed as the closest thing to a MotoGP bike Yamaha has ever produced, though I’m not too sure about the front LED headlight placement and design —otherwise a visceral statement of Yamaha’s racing prowess.
2015 Yamaha YZF-R1

Yes, these new motorcycles are all really exciting for sport performance junkies like myself, but it’s long overdue consumers be given viable alternatives to the old gasoline powered bikes that still saturate the market. Sadly the motorcycle industry, like the automotive industry, seems painfully slow to embrace change.

The one notable exception at this year’s show was Harley Davidson. Shocking, yes I know! Their new project Livewire electric concept was on display and caught my eye. Hmm… this is the same bike shown for a split-second in the latest Avengers: Age Of Ultron trailer.
It might be just a prototype, and HD have yet to say if they’re serious about putting the Livewire or any other electrics into production, but hats off to you anyway for at least taking the first step.

Jay Leno did a piece on the HD Livewire and a brief history of electric motorcycles on his YouTube channel noting the first electric bike was patented back in 1897. So EVs aren’t exactly new, rather abandonned technology (for 100 years no less!), as gasoline powered cars and motorcycles took over the market.
Interestingly Jay also pointed out some of the earliest electric bike designs (circa 1911) were claiming a range of 75 to 100 miles (120 to 160 kms) on a single battery charge, citing an old Popular Mechanics advertisment. Well, perhaps a trifle exaggeration of the day when you learn the HD Livewire prototype gets just 53 miles (85kms) on a single charge. Nevertheless, Triumph, Ducati, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda, Suzuki, KTM, and all the other major motorcycle manufacturers, isn’t it about time you stepped up to the plate?

Design For Digitally Distracted Audiences

It’s easy to get distracted on the Web. It happens to all of us.

If you are a business owner looking to get the most out of your digital presence read on.

Your Web site is currently under siege. Web audiences are reading less and less these days, jumping from site to site rarely engaging beyond a couple mouse clicks. In this fragmented digital media landscape grabbing your audience’s attention has never been more challenging.

The Web, once the domain of simple utilitarian sites comprised predominantly of text and few images, has evolved into a rich, distraction-inducing feast for the senses. Motion-graphics, banner advertisements and streaming videos have become staples of the modern Web experience. Click Here! Like this! Pin It! Retweet This Article! The Web is full of interactive forks in the road all vying for a piece of the screen and, significantly, a shrinking slice of the audience’s attention.

Through proper planning, design, and sound technical execution, your digital presence can shine and differentiate what’s unique about your business’s products and services to hyperactive Web audiences.

I will touch upon 2 core design elements that, if properly addressed, will enhance your Web site’s overall user experience, and set the stage for longer visits and stronger audience interactions.

Design Principle #1: Scale and Proportion

As desktop screens get larger and larger in terms of resolution –that’s the number of viewable pixels in the horizontal and vertical plane–modern Web user interfaces should take full advantage of this additional screen real estate.

An aging Web site built a mere 5 years ago will usually stick out like a sore thumb occupying just a small portion of the available browser area. In these cases the site in question may have been optimized for 1024-by-768 pixel displays, the dominant screen resolution 5+ years ago. Text will likely appear miniscule and will be difficult to read and images and important elements governing the site’s function (e.g. menu items, text input fields on contact forms) will lose their effectiveness visually and in terms of usability.

In the same way a Web site that hasn’t been optimized for mobile forces users to jump through hoops to get things done, so too an antiquated site designed for 1024-by-768 pixel displays can undermine audience engagement.

Fundamentally these issues can be resolved by using the entire Web browser. A modern Web site should strike a strong visual presence in the browser. That means large, bold headlines, expansive (but not distracting) imagery, big, easy to scan text; and clear, visually intuitive menus and calls-to-action that draw audiences inside to explore more of your site’s content.

Design Principle #2: Minimalism

Clutter is distracting. Busy looking Web pages encourage visitors to move quickly through pages rather than read through information. Limiting the number of competing graphical elements on any given page and visually prioritizing core messages can help your audience to focus on the content that is most important.

Many poorly designed Web sites barrage users with successive arrays of gratuitous and often irrelevant graphical callouts and Ads. Loading down your site’s pages with ineffective visuals may in fact have the opposite effect and drive people away.

Clean and simple always wins the day in the modern digital space. A great Web site experience starts with pairing down the competing messages and limiting unnecessary graphical embellishments, particularly around the outer perimeters of a Web layout –sidebar columns, header and footer area.

Similarly, reducing the amount of copy while increasing the size of body text greatly reduces the overall cognitive effort required to absorb information.

Thoughtful design and content are the basis of successful user experiences on the Web. Limiting user distractions through proper planning and technical execution helps your target audience focus on your content and perform important tasks like finding your address and contact information. Consequently one of the best ways to ensure your site breaks through the clutter on the Web.

Image credit: Coyoty

Ideation Fuels The Design Process

Sketching out ideas is the foundation of the design process and arguably the most fluid starting point for capturing the initial spark of inspiration present in the mind’s eye. Well before a concept can be realized, there exists a phase central to the design process known loosely as ideation.

Ideation could best be described as the process of entertaining and forming ideas and concepts for the purpose of resolving specific problem(s) related to larger objectives. Design ideation techniques can be initiated at any phase of the product development process and may include a variety of idea gathering techniques such as sketches, mood boards, storyboarded sequences, architecture wireframes, and brainstorms with colleagues. Typically visual conceptualizations (e.g. quick thumbnail sketches) are produced and are most effective when explored during the beginning stages of a project where potentially the most latitude exists for interpreting project deliverables against a client brief.

Sketching Solves Problems
Concept sketches are great for comparison and evaluation of multiple design solutions to a given problem. Perhaps the designer is interested in exploring navigation concepts for a screen-based UI or options for displaying content over time based upon specific user-interaction.  Perhaps the desire is create a fluid interface that adapts to multiple screen resolutions while addressing requirements for content-management and branding. In any case, quick sessions of sketching (i.e. pencil and paper) emphasizing iterative progression can yield a wide range of ideas more effectively than time spent generating concepts in software applications.
Quite simply, if the desire is to produce a large number of high quality ideas in a very short period of time then software should be avoided during this phase. Applications such as Photoshop and Illustrator are more effectively utilized further along in the creative process when the designer is ready to funnel a large collection of seemingly crude ideas into a smaller group for development and further refinement.

Interactive Design Development
In the time-constrained and deadline-driven world of product development, there can be definite obstacles to finding meaningful time for design ideation and research. Certainly digital applications are becoming more and more complex to orchestrate as budgets and market expectations continually raise the bar. Cultivating a compelling user experience requires a lot of thoughtful planning and research. The technique of storyboarding sequences for instance is very useful in describing screen to screen interactions and choreography of visual and information elements over time. Storyboards can help convey the look, feel, and dynamic behavior of an application more effectively than a single, static screen mockup. Web-based applications emphasizing non-linear forms of navigation, dynamic content management, and innovative user-interactivity benefit most from storyboarded sequences. They define a clearer picture of the intended end result and help set client expectations long before production development has commenced.

Summary

The Purpose of Design Ideation

  • an iterative process of visually brainstorming ideas
  • an effective approach to flushing out multiple ideas quickly
  • can involve both divergent thinking (exploring the unconventional, starting with the known and moving outwards) and convergent thinking (merging a series of existing ideas, starting with the known and moving inwards, or tending to 1 point of focus)
  • can be a solitary endeavor or a collaborative process involving several individuals

Why do it?

  • thinking beyond current conventions
  • challenge the client to think differently about their brand
  • cultivating innovation
  • breaking new ground

Tips

  • experiment, entertain wild and crazy ideas
  • suspend critical judgement and resist the tendency to focus on a single, obvious solution
  • explore adjacencies; go off on tangents
  • allow the process to occur spontaneously without being forced
  • creatively open your mind and allow a fluid avalanche of ideas to come forth
  • flush out as many divergent ideas as possible within a relatively short period of time -like with brainstorming, the more ideas, the better. (could be 15-20 minutes or 2 hours depending on how complex the design problem(s))