Design direction vs ethos

Over the past 7 years we’ve introduced a host of new protection products, from chainstay protectors to full bike kits, but all on an individual basis. As new ideas or requirements cross our path, we design a product that does the job and move on to the next. While not a particularly terrible process, it struck me the other day just how disjointed the various products have become. Disjointed in their design ethos. 

Let me clarify my interpretation of design direction vs ethos. I see design direction as the requirements that make a product viable, competent if you will. For example we use rounded corners on all our protection products to avoid unwanted lift or dirt ingress and we have set minimums for this radius. This is an element that dictates the direction the design goes in. Ethos on the other hand is the symbiotic relationship that underpins the aesthetics that give each product a familiar look or feel. It’s this ethos that I think we were missing, with our protection range being a hodgepodge of different styles instead of being part of the same family. 

The first step was to pull all the designs into illustrator and proceed to stare at them for several days. As a collection they were horribly disconnected and I wasn’t sure why it had taken so long to realise this. When you’re on the inside of a business it’s difficult to view what you do and how you do it, from your customers perspective. With everything in one place however, it allowed me some insight into what may seem plainly obvious to someone browsing our website. 

The first step down the road to redemption was to pick out the elements I thought worked well and cast aside those I had aversion for. It was then a case of translating those elements across the different applications, but do so in a way that didn’t compromise the design direction. This was where the real challenge was. When it comes to products like this it’s function over form every time. They’re designed to serve a purpose, and although this exercise appears to be about making everything look good, it’s actually about imprinting each product with a shared identity while maintaining that function. 

Going into this my perspective was mostly centred around a compulsion to have everything looking uniformed. But very quickly it become apparent that by sharing the ethos across the range it started to impart a brand identity onto what were largely generic looking products. This was reinforced by adding our logo onto several of the designs that helped to cement them as ours.

So my biggest hope in accomplishing this re-designs is actually that not many people even notice. That our products continue to get used and continue to server their purpose, just with a little more unity. 

Happy riding
/Simon