‘Design’ - Category Archive


Motorcycle Logos from Smaller Manufacturers

November 28th, 2009

The Top Manufacturers Logos can be found here.

It’s not everyday that you see an old Norton riding up Mt. Evans or catch a glance at the industrial design of an Aprilia bike, or even have the fortune to see a Vincent up close and in real life. However, their bikes and their logos continue to evoke nostalgia, evolve into another version or be purchased by their next owners attempting to revive their brands. Here is a list of some of those wonderful motorcycle logos and a few thoughts on their designs.

aprilia-logoAprilia (Italian)

I like the red. I like the white. I like the cleanliness of the sans serif font selection and the attention to leading. The lowercase “p” does a nice job to balance the height in the two “i”s and the “l”. To me, this logo defines what the essence of motorcycles are about, everything that is necessary without anything that is extraneous and worthless.

benelli-logoBenelli (Italian)

The emblem style design of the Benelli immediately ushers us back a few decades and urges us to remember craftsmanship, passion and even a bit of country. The stars offer different angles depending on perhaps where you call home, but the lion brings us all back to the roar of the motorcycle kingdom. The green color is not seen in many motorcycle logos and while refreshing, is also a much gentler tone than the more typical red and black and blue.

bimota-logoBimota (Italian)

I find this logo striking. The red encircling the black lines above the bimota font is clean, clear and connects the “b” to a wheel and fork design. The font is bold and sure. The leading might be just a bit tight for most, but I love the connection of the “b” to the “a”. Finally, as any rider will tell you, it’s the thrill of leaning the bike over that draws us back time and time again, and this logo grants us that request with its two large circular sweeeps that remind me of a highway entrance ramp or an expertly designed racetrack.

bsa-logoBSA (British)

BSA, or Birmingham Small Arms Company, was a British motorcycle company that also produced guns. Who can argue with that combination? The BSA logo was tasked with more than just motorcyles, so its evident that the treatment is a bit more usable than most. It also appears much more dated with the italic uppercase typeface and straight lined wing attached to the “B”. This logo isn’t gonna win any design awards, but it accomplished the goal, taking a long company name and making it more distinguishable.

buell-logoBuell (American)

The American company recently shut it’s doors this year. Know for building powerful machines and pushing the limits, their new logo, perhaps partly due to a push from marketing to increase sales, aligns itself with its parent company, Harley Davidson in the badge approach. The horse and wings conjure images of strength, freedom, power and speed, all things Buell embodied. The chiseled steel color and the forward leaning type help push some momentum into the logo. A great redesign that sadly we won’t see much of out on the road.

cagiva-logoCagiva (Australian)

The Australian company choose a unique image and it’s connotations for their logo. The elephant means a great many things to different nations and to different people. Still, there is the strength, wisdom and sheer power that connect it with motorcycles. The elephant is point backwards in  traditional Western Gutenberg design, but perhaps works better down under where things are always a bit opposite (or upside down).

husqvarna-logoHusqvarna (Italian)

This Italian company specializes in off-road and enduro style bikes. The inflated “H” looks like a head with a crown or a pumped up tire with spiky knubs sticking out on top. I can’t say I’m fond of this logo or company name even. The name, when pronouced phonetically in English (Husck-var-naah) sounds like its missing something, much like the logo.

indian-logoIndian Motorcycles (American)

The Indian Motorcycle Company stays loyal to their name with their logo. Chiefly, they are inspired by a rich American history of freedom, resourcefulness and the unique spirit embodied in the Native American’s culturally and individually. The circle treatment behind the chief’s head cements the logo a bit more, and the lovely type for “Indian” makes for a distinguished and refined feeling.

motoguzzi-logoMoto Guzzi (Italian)

Moto Guzzi is a collector’s dream company. Fans from around the world have visited the factory and touted the company’s success in the face of constant adversities. The logo has a history all the same. The golden eagle is a tribute to Giovanni Ravelli who died in a plane crash shortly after the war ended. The sans serif font is crisp and compliments the detailed work of the eagle. The wings of the eagle are outstretched offering both protection and the feeling of soaring. The 3-d emblem has certainly become more popular in the past decade and gives the logo a wholesome feel as well as offering the patriarchal Italian red to the design.

mv-agusta-logoMV Agusta (Italian)

Why I like the logo, I’m not completely sure. It’s a bit complicated and jagged for my usual taste. But it does something for me. The cog design is the most mechanical of all the motorcycle logos I’ve seen. I don’t really like the “MV” type face, but I do think it is nice how the lower portion of the “M” and the final piece of the “V” offset offering some balance. I don’t know what the blue heart beat blip that lays behind the “MV” is doing. The “Agusta” text is nicely curved, fitting tight to the cog but not overpowering the central piece. Again, not sure why I like this, maybe because it breaks too many rules.

mz-logoMZ (German)

MZ is a German acronym for “motorcycle factory” and a much shorter way to say “MZ Motorrad- und Zweiradwerk GmbH“. The MZ is a bit bland. The steel conical spike is a bit flat. And the green gradient badge is a bit awkwardly shaped. This logo is doing too little with way too much. Next.

norton-logoNorton (British)

Excellent logo. Everyone knows a Norton when they see one. They are “man magnets” as my friend calls them, pulling every rider off his bike to go talk up the Norton owner. The logo is clearly a Norton and no other. It has no competition in the scripted, free-spirited design. The final swoosh is clever and the perfect touch, pulling the font choice together. I also love the natural placement of the wheel-like “o”s that give this logo a bike feel. Can’t beat this one.

victory-logoVictory (American)

V is for victory and that’s good enough for me. But this bike isn’t about winning the MotoGP. The black emblem is nice, as is the shaped and perfectly sized “victory” and “motorcycles” type. The V and the wings and the awkward Robinson projection map in the background confuse this logo. And the Polaris “All Rights Reserved” stamp at the bottom make this logo a design collapse. Too many mechanics in the workshop. Ugh.

vincent-logoVincent (British)

Perhaps it is because I just want to own a Vincent, the Black Lighting to be exact, but I like this logo. The waving banner works much like the badge and emblem style logos, giving the type a nice background. The “HRD” stands for British pilot that first built these machines, one Howard Raymond Davies. I always like the appeal to the founders of the company and think this is a nice touch, but could be a bit smaller as I think it  overshadows the company’s name. For the next version, I also think you drop the “the” to clean up the logo and add more weight again to the Vincent name.

Transparency in Design

November 18th, 2009

While driving Speer Boulevard in downtown Denver this past week, I noticed a trending architectural design feature that has been growing steadily in the past decades, and not just in Denver but around the world. Glass.

Glass Half-Building?

More and more buildings are being constructed with glass as a primary exterior. In Denver, the Glass House, the Spire, the Colorado Convention Center to even the new Science Building on the Auraria Campus all rely heavily on glass. The dramatic increase in the number of high rises and large-scale city projects that are using glass a in their design begs the question, what does this transformation means to the world of design and to us as people living in this designed world?

Auraria Science Building from Speer Blvd. in Denver

Auraria Science Building from Speer Blvd. in Denver

Here is a list of potential benefits for choosing and exterior composed of glass:

  1. Lets in natural light, which may decrease energy use for lighting.
  2. Allows the space to feel larger, more open.
  3. May be cheaper to produce, but it may be more expensive to insulate.
  4. Allows the buildings exterior and interior to be constantly changing from the lighting.
  5. Connects those inside with what is happening outside.
  6. Permits the outsider a more intimate view of what is happening inside.
  7. Satisfies our innate voyeurism of curiosity.
  8. Pushes for transparency in infrastructure and activity

The Web is No Different

Apple aqua button

Apple aqua button

In 2001, Apple publicly introduced their latest operation system, OS X and with it their unveiled one of the most captivating and copied interface elements, the glass button, known more properly as the Aqua effect. (See 10m results in Google Image Search and countless web tutorials on the effect.)

This might have been the first mass “visual” indication of the web’s movement towards transparency, but it has been a long time in coming.

Dating back perhaps to the early days of the internet, when the original design wasn’t ecommerce and pay-per-click campaigns but the sharing of knowledge and information. Why duplicate some intense and tireless research when a study just like yours was being completed on a fellow university’s campus? The transparency of information mushroom-clouded into one of the largest easter egg hunts in human history. To this day, we are still attempting to digitize, encode, log, process and analyze every piece of available data, past, present and future.

The internet offered us the opportunity to publicly display and connect what was happening internally to an external audience, necessary (email, medical records)  or not (personal credit identity, most of twitter). This transparency has changed how we see and thus interact with the world.

Transparent Future

The future may never be transparent from the present view, but this current trend is only going to grow. There is a rise in OnDemand services. There is a push for try-before-you-buy (see GM’s lastest 60 day return policy). There is a demand for faster data access and improved data architecture. There is a desire for one’s online life to stream easily and securely between devices, applications and databases.

Business and life going forward will more effectively consider and offer thoughtful relationships that transcend data and functionality but extend greater personal connectivity that enhances our internet world experience.

So, in tribute to legendary anchorman, Ron Burgandy, “You Stay Glassy, Denver.”

Html Overlay Flash – The Fastest Solution

November 10th, 2009

Here is a quick and easy way to fix Flash overriding the HTML z-index.

This comes in handy when using javascript in menus and modal windows.

1. Include the WMode parameter with value “Opaque” or “Transparent” to the flash object tag

  1. <param name=”quality” value=”high” />
  2. <param name=”WMode” value=”Opaque” />
  3. <param name=”src” value=”slideshow.swf” />

2. Add WMode=”Opaque” to the flash embed tag

  1. type=”application/x-shockwave-flash”
  2. width=”400″ height=”200″
  3. src=”slideshow.swf”
  4. quality=”high”
  5. wmode=”Opaque”
  6. name=”slideshow”

Additional Resources
Adobe – Flash content displays on top of all DHTML layers

What Great Design Feels Like

November 2nd, 2009

This past week I was lucky enough to spend several days at a five-star hotel in Aspen, Colorado courtesy of two new friends, Bruce and Lauri. The accommodations lacked nothing, from the jacuzzi tub to the viking appliances, the rain shower to the turn-down service with chocolates on your pillow each night, this hotel was one of the nicest I’ve stayed. Surrounded in these luxuries, I was able to experience great design in the everyday, from a smart refrigerator to quality shower faucets. This got me to thinking about what are some common themes of great design.

1. Great Design Feels Heavy

There is an aspect of quality associated with weight. The heavier an object feels, the more aesthetic perceived weight it obtains. The hotel’s sturdy coffee table, solid stainless steel shower knobs and the heavy frying pans all displayed this sense of worth just in the way each weighed.

2. Great Design Works the First Time

The normal shower typically has three knobs. One for hot, one for cold and one to turn the shower faucet on and off. However, at this hotel, there were only two. One to turn the shower on, the other to turn to set the temperature. This knob had small number markings to indicate how hot or cold the water would be, allowing a perfect temp shower every time. The beauty, you can’t make a mistake, the knobs work as the user would expect them to from the first time onward. No (naked) user error.

3. Great Design Works with Others

The Viking range that the h0tel room cooked up was an excellent example of designing of the users. While most ranges have knobs that indicate their level of heat from high to low with tick marks in between, this range’s selections matched with common recipe requirements like med-hi, medium, and simmer. Having the burning indicate exactly what the recipe requested made me a more confidant cook which translated into my appreciation for the range.

4. Great Design Pays Attention to the Common Tasks

I have always wondered why refrigerators had the freezer on top. Doesn’t the average user spend the majority of collective cooler time with the fridge portion, not the freezer? Insert your own picture of yourself bent over at the waist staring deep into the coffers of the bottom shelves in search of the pickle jar. A fridge with the freezer as a drawer on the bottom makes much more sense to 95% of the users. Heck, even my grandpa’s fridge, made back in the 60’s was designed this way. Why did we stray from the perfectly elegant solution? My only guess is some lobbying between the frozen foods companies.

The only thing better than a bottom-drawer freezer fridge, would be one that still offered an ice maker in the door.

Wine box table top

October 30th, 2009

Hanging at Victoria’s wine and coffee bar in downtown Aspen. I love
the table tops, it works like a hard(wood) working menu.

Posted via email from lukev’s posterous

Option Overkill?

October 30th, 2009

This is one feature-rich microwave.

Posted via email from lukev’s posterous

Design elements: Panels

October 19th, 2009

Over the past years I have noticed an advanced design element make its way from techie applications into common place apps and software. What was once only a geek squad user interface piece is now used on places like Google Maps and Adobe Acrobat. I’m talking about panels.

Mozilla bookmarks sidebar

Mozilla bookmarks sidebar

The main difference between panels and sidebars is the concept of closing. When you close a sidebar, like Mozilla’s bookmarks, you in effect, hide the entire sidebar. If you want it back, you have to hunt through the menu dropdowns to find it or you must know the shortcut keys to reopen it.

With panels, the place where you close the panel is the same place you open it. This is excellent design. It operates more like a light switch than a junk drawer; you always know were it is regardless of if its in use or not. Of course, there may be times when the design calls for using sidebars over panels, but more often I am seeing the advantages of panels.

As the default screen sizes have grown wider, following a the cinematic ratio, panels will only grow in popularity as the users have more available real estate to the sides of their screen. We are already seeing the widgets of Microsoft and Apple as well as narrow applications like Skype, chat software and even twitter apps.

Here is a collection of screenshots from Adobe Acrobat 9 that showcases the closed, hover and open states for the pages panel.

Acrobat page panel closed

Acrobat pages panel closed

Acrobat pages panel hover

Acrobat pages panel hover

Acrobat pages panel open

Acrobat pages panel open

Here are two more examples, one from online, another from a desktop application:

Google maps panel

Google maps panel

Dreamweaver panel open

Dreamweaver panel open

Panels act much like tabs in the sense that you never actually leave the current window, you are just expanding or collapsing a portion of the screen to increase your desktop screen space, or open a set of tools and then put them away. The advantage of panels is clear. It allows the user to stay concentrated on their task while allow themselves the flexibility of the tools and the screen space.

Everyday Objects: Marli Bottle Opener

October 13th, 2009

Several years back, on a fall visit to New York City and the Museum of Modern Art, I stumbled on this beautiful object in the museum shop. What better trinket to remember my weekend trip to NYC than a figure-8 stainless-steel bottle opener? Small, lightweight, easy-to-use and perfectly designed. There are no extra moving parts. There is no excess weight. There isn’t even an instructions or the word “open” written anywhere.


It works perfectly and looks great lounging lazily on the counter.

However, it wasn’t until I has purchased the bottle opener and brought it home that I discovered it had a slight flaw. When a friend came over and happily helped themselves to a beverage they struggled at first to remove the cap. Why? The opener had the same problem as the USB connection.

Whenever your regularly connect two unalike objects, like a cord to a computer or a bottle opener to a cap, you must be sure you don’t have any other possible way to connect the two objects that will result in a failure. With the USB port, since the connection pins are recessed in the actual port, the user can’t see which of the two possible ways the USB cord should be inserted. With a firewire port you don’t have that problem since the port shape only allows for one possible way to connect.


So, after one failed attempt, my friend was able to pop the top and enjoy their adult beverage, but only after the slight misstep. This doesn’t mean it would happen to everyone. Given the 50/50 nature of the problem, at least 50% would not have an issue at all. For the other 50%, the design goal would then be to eliminate making the same mistake the next time the two objects are connected. Since the design of the Marli bottle opener has a gentle curve in it that not only rests naturally in your palm but also the correct direction for proper cap removal, the next bottle opening was successful.

Unfortunately with USB, because you are rarely peering down the hole of the port, you are likely to repeat your blunder many times in the future.

Motorcycle Logos 2009

October 8th, 2009

Top Manufacturers Logos by US Market Share

With over 7 million registered motorcycles on the road in 2007 (1) its fair to say that the two-wheel industry is alive and healthy. From dual-sport to soft-tails, motorcycles and America fit perfectly together. The freedom and independence of  leaning it over are only matched by the diversity of manufacturers and the endless customizations available for every bike on the market.

As Ducati and Buell rebrand their respective companies with new logos, I decided to take a look at the top motocycle manufacturer’s logos and offer some thoughts on their design and artwork. I will present them in order of US market share as reported from 2007. (2)

Motorcycle logos from small manufacturers can be seen here.

harley-davidson-logo1. Harley-Davidson (28%)

What I like about the Harley logo right off the bat has always been the badge feel. It belongs on the back of a jacket, as a tatoo, as a sewn-on patch on the arm of a rider. What I have more recently noticed is that the word “Harley-Davidson” is post above the badge. This badge reference could be a police reference, as many police forces ride Harleys, but the overlay of the HD connects more with the image of a Harley rider, more rebellious and free-spirited. I also like that the “T” in Motor appears more as an arrow pointing north. This logo is a widely recognized symbol of the motorcyle spirit, they would be hard pressed to improve upon it.

honda-logo2. Honda  (25%)

Having owned a few Honda bikes (no lawnmower yet) I’m a natural fan of the logo. I am drawn to the symbolism of the wings and how the concept of flight is projected on owning a Honda bike. They even use it to name one of their bikes, “the Goldwing.” The fact that the honda type is the same across their brand helps make a positive connection to their reliability and dependence, but also firmly cements the idea of flying on two-wheels as dependent on being aboard a Honda.

yamaha-logo3. Yamaha  (17%)

Yamaha’s tuning forks or suspension forks offer a glimpse of how they feel about timing, precision and excellence. Their signature blue is vibrant and solid. Like Honda, Yamaha must leverage and balance the brands other product lines while still maintaining its connection with the motorcycle marketplace. Only Yahama and BMW make use of a circle logo that here doubles as a wheel with the forks perhaps loosely resemblant of spokes. The wheel/circle also allows for the feeling of progress and moving forward.

suzuki-logo4. Suzuki (13%)

Another Japanese company, Suzuki’s logo has always lagged for me. Perhaps its the close identification with Stussy, a clothing brand made popular when I was growing up, or that fact that the red blue color scheme felt like it competed with itself and more notably the other big Japanese manufacturers, but the logo has never sat right. The big red “S” might resemble a curvy road of some sort, but even this comparison is a bit of a stretch. As a designer, I would love the chance to re-examine their logo and make my own suggestions, (perhaps a future post) but for now, I’ll let others weigh in on their opinions, this one just doesn’t do much for me.

kawasaki-logo5. Kawasaki (11%)

The last of the Japanese motorcycle companies, Kawasaki’s giant “K” logo with san-serif title-case company name is a slight bit out of balance to me. The heavy down stroke of the giant “K” pull the logo to the left, and with the lowercase type I’m never brought far enough back which causes me to lean to the left the entire time. I’m not saying leaning while riding is bad, but you have to lean both ways unless you only drive nascar tracks. The swooping portions of the right side of the “K”, especially the lower portion feels like a perfect mountain road curve which I think brightens up this somewhat boring logo.

ktm-logo6. KTM  (2%)

“Keep the Motor” was the first words uttered to me after I learned about the German motorcycle company. Since that day, I’ve been passed by KTM’s on the track, trails and open road enough to know that those who ride them, ride them hard. The logo’s right lean along with it’s thick type treatment say power, movements and momentum. I also really like the giant “T” which gives the logo balance and looks like a set of handlebars. KTM, keep the logo.

bmw-logo7. BMW (1%)

This is a classic. Not much to say besides elegance, performance and a bad movie quote the made YTMND.com so popular, “white propellers zipping around a blue ski…” I love that BMW has not altered their brand logo in any way to connect it with their motorcycle division. I think in this case, the parent brand is the strength.

triumph-logo8. Triumph (1%)

The Triumph logo showcases a bit of a smile to the tough-and-tumble world of motorcycles. The sweeping tail on the “R” nicely connects with the “H” to make this more cheerful logo balanced and friendly. Once again, this swoop as seen in other logos may conger up images of the open road. I like the British company’s logo, simple and straightforward, albeit, with those English serifs, I’ve got a picture of green hills and a street triple leaning into each curve.

ducati-logo9. Ducati (1%)

Unveiled just a year ago in November of 2008, the new Ducati logo is a great example of design excellence. The first thing is that there isn’t one thing that is more dominant or noticed first about the logo, it is just viewed as a whole rather than a sum of its parts. Its parts however, are the traditional Italian red, the classic Ducati typeface, the curve of the road and the emblem or medal that it all sits on. The curve leans to the right which is the same direction you would read the company name, so there is a natural feeling to the movement from left to right. The logo, like BMW, also has a beveled edge to it, giving it the feeling of something you want to touch or run your finger over. Finally the medallion shape of the background also draws an invisible “V” which could stand for “Victory”, a staple mission statement connecting Ducati to the racing world. Excellent logo, it certainly makes you want to see the rest of the bike.


1. http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2007/mv1.cfm

2. http://knol.google.com/k/bobbie7/the-u-s-motorcycle-market/21yokwucnoqmb/6#

Steep and Cheap, Now Even Cheaper

October 7th, 2009

If you’re online as much as I am and wishing you were offline, knee-deep in some powder at Vail or ripping around on your mountain bike in Moab then you’ve probably heard of the suite of websites at Steep and Cheap. They operate much like those shopping network channels (secret addiction of mine, please steal the remote from me when I’m sitting on one of those channels) where they sell one item for twenty minutes or until they run out.steepandcheap-logo

I’ve been using this site over the past couple of years and have successfully bought a pair of sunglasses, snowboard bindings and some googles all for more than 50%  off their retail price. However, it was only recently when they added a few additional site features that made me become even more endeared (read “addicted”) to them.

These three changes, with the last being an innovative web marketing idea, are all brilliant.

1.Individual Quantity Drill-down for each Color and Size


Quantity listed for each color and size

They used to show you just the total quantity left for the item. Now, they offer their users a small image of the item in the corresponding color with a bar graph showing that items color and size remaining quantity. Underneath the graph they even offer the total purchased and total available.

This small change allows for users to easily identify their color, size and quantity remaining. This is the small, big thing.  It allows Steep and Cheap to put up more “Sold Out” images and dwindling graphs that encourage users to act now before “it’s gone.”

2. Time Remaining

They used to show a stat called “Sellout Rate” which would tell you have fast they were selling the listed item. For example, “1.3 per minute.” For most users this is too much math to figure how much longer the item will stay available. Steep and Cheap was just simply converting the time the deal was up by how many items they had sold. Since the deal would remain up for a certain maximum amount of time or until all the items were sold, the sellout rate really only hindered people from feeling the need to jump in a purchase that item right away.


Time remaining tick down bar graph

So they replaced it with a time remaining bar graph that changes color from green to yellow to red as the time ticks down. This allows users not interested in this auction to know how long until the next. This allows the current user who are interested in the deal to read some reviews, do their research and then get the deal before its gone, much like the time limit attached to online ticket sales which helps you feel more comfortable with your purchase. No buyer’s remorse. But, the engineering behind this is also intelligent. If the item isn’t selling you can just quickly add a few minutes to the clock to adjust to the sell rate. And with the total quantity graph placed right below the time remaining graph the user can easily see if they should add to cart before the quantity hits zero.

3. $1 Deals

Introduced just over two weeks ago, the $1 deals have added traffic to the site, refreshed the site to its loyal users, increased word of mouth marketing, offered a great value to their customers for a very low cost to their bottom line and inserted even more excitement into their online shopping experience.

The secret that Steep and Cheap uncovered is that their best assets are their current customers. Probably, like myself, most users have bought more than one item. With $1 Deals you are targeting the already converted with an even sweeter proposition, you’ve made loyalist out of just average shoppers, pushing more people into advocates and die-hards.

Now offering $1 Deals

Now offering $1 Deals

A few times each weekday the page flickers, the favicon in their open browser tab flashes yellow and a leftover item they couldn’t sell goes for one dollar. They offer a few colors and sizes, but honestly, its sold so fast it’s hard to even click over fast enough to see what you’re buying. But at $1, who cares? Its a steal no matter what it is!

$1 Deal traffic spike

$1 Deal traffic spike

They sell a few items they couldn’t previously get rid of for next to nothing and gain the equivalent to the Black Friday doorbuster crowds everyday. These $1 Deals encourage users to sign up for an account and stay logged in so they can quickly process through checkout for the $1 items. This also leads to a lower overall effort required to sell other items since users already have an account AND are signed in. These deals encourage users to keep the Steep and Cheap website open all day in an easy-to-reach browser tab.  With a nifty yellow flash of the favicon every user gets a notification to the deal and Steep and Cheap drives more traffic to their site. And the proof is right there in front of you. These two screenshots were taken not 10-seconds apart. The first one, right as the $1 Deal goes up shows 9,060 people on the site. This quickly jumps to more than 13,200, over 4000 new visitors in a matter of seconds.

Small changes to design and knowing their customer has increased the user experience and brand value.