Urban Bicycle #2: The Human & Object’s Affair

(This is Part 2 of The Urban Cycling Project. Head to Part 1 if you like to start from the beginning.)

Here are a few things from the (updated) first concept presentation I like to lay out as I give out the details and thought process. From the very start, I seek for a ground away from the over-saturated pool of designer cycling products while remaining relevant. Tapping into the culture and pride of making, makeshift and everything Do-It-Yourself which apparently is parallel to the growth of commuting cyclists, I realise that there is a strong need to maintain and fix our bike ourselves.

Mindmap Reveal

Journey Mapping

After visiting a few bike shops and online research, I can’t find any decent bike fixing stand. They are either not working well in terms of stability and made of plastic or industrial-looking and comes in a hefty price even though it functions really well. Nevertheless, they both are just a large tool which will take up a space in your storeroom. Apart from that, I also find that people tend to get lazy sometimes and skip a few maintenance sessions. As far as safety is concerned, a professional bicycle mechanic advises daily commuters should clean their bike daily (depending on the weather/mud/dirt), checking and tuning can be done once or twice a week, and parts especially chains should be changed every 6 months.

Aim: To design a desirable personal furniture to fulfill the purpose of fixing or maintaining one’s bicycle.

Objectives: 1) To design a pleasurable fixing cum display bicycle stand. 2) To develop a visually pleasing and efficient bike clamp. 3) To design a product that stands the test of time. 4) To design storage spaces for all necessary bike tools. 5) To take a humanistic and intuitive design approach in details and materials

Project Brief: Design a piece of aesthetically intriguing furniture which functions as a bicycle fixing and display stand. It needs to have storage space for the basic maintenance tools. The furniture requires a system to hold the bicycle tightly whilst maintenance is carried out. The design has to be intuitive and possess longevity in the product life. The materials used have to be suitable for domestic settings.

Function & Desire


Above is my first sketch for the presentation. The feedback from my tutor is that I have restricted myself on the clamp design, which only clamps at the seat bar. Locking down on a major detail like this from the early is not giving any opportunity to rethink the form and design. I have taken too seriously on the mechanic’s advise that the best and strongest part to clamp a bicycle is at the seat bar. Indeed a bad mistake, I should instead rethink the restrictions and build solution around it.

Another key comment is the disconnection between the product and the persona. I will have to need more details on the character’s personalities to proof the product’s viability. The possible placement of the product in a family house, concerning space availability and family members is crucial too. Would the wife be unhappy to have dirty bikes in the living area? Should the furniture be in the foyer, or in the garage? Would it be dangerous with kids around? Are these question and information getting too detail while expecting others to be the same too? Shortly, I caught the problem. On the contrary, the business module I take suggests rather than targeting on demographics, focus on behaviours, environment, location and psychological qualities. Now it makes more sense. Anyone who likes to be hands on, takes pride in owning and caring for his or her bike, appreciate good furniture, lives in an urban city, sometimes lazy to fix their bike, is my potential prospect. To epitomise the idea, my updated persona is a free-spirited married male, living in a SoHo apartment in Brooklyn, New York.

NIckPorter Profile Updated

Constantly introspecting, I feel uneasy for there is something missing in the design. Recurring my design methodologies – Future Nostalgia, Functional Fiction and Digital Craft, the key factor hiding underneath all is pleasure. Then comes the epiphany questions! How can I design something to eliminate negative emotions with our bicycle and turn the process of maintaining or fixing into a pleasurable experience? How can the object motivate behaviours by communicating to the user?

Dunne and Raby urge a step further from creative problem solving, design dreams and fiction from existing and probable social structures. (1) On the other hand, Djadjadiningrat, Gaver and Frens profess to focus in designing user experience with the illustrated examples below, which lights up my light bulb. (2)

1. Don’t think affordances, think temptation
Ergonomics, HCI and product design have borrowed the term ‘affordances’ from perception-psychology (Gibson 1979). Affordance is a very useful concept here, because it refers to the inextricability of both perception and action, and a person and his environment. It is about what people can do. Furthermore, it is essentially a non-cognitive and non-representational concept. However, many researchers concentrate on the structure aspects of affordance while neglecting the affective aspects. We lament this clinical interpretation of affordance. People are not invited to act only because a design fits their physical measurements. They can also be tempted to act through the expectation of beauty of interaction.

2. Don’t think beauty in appearance, think beauty in interaction.
Usability is generally treated separately from aesthetics. Aesthetics in product design appears to be restricted to making products beautiful in appearance. As the ease of use strategies do not appear to pay off, this has left us in the curious situation that we have products which look good at first sight, but frustrate us as soon as we start interacting with them. Again, we think that the emphasis should shift from a beautiful appearance to beautiful interaction, of which beautiful appearance is a part. Dunno (1999) talks of ‘an aesthetics of use’: an aesthetics which, through the interactivity made possible by computing, seeks a developing and more nuanced cooperation with the object – a cooperation which, it is hoped, will enhance social contact and everyday experience.

3. Don’t think ease of use, think enjoyment of the experience.
Current efforts on improving usability focus on making things easier. However, there is more usability than ease of use. A user may choose to work with a product despite it being difficult to use, because it is challenging, seductive, playful, surprising, memorable or rewarding, resulting in enjoyment of the experience. no musician learns to play the violin because it is easy. Bringing together ‘context for experience’ and ‘aesthetics of interaction’ means that we do not strive for making a function as easy to access as possible, but for making the unlocking of the functionality contribute to the overall experience.


Finally, my updated concept is a bicycle fixing cum display toolkit furniture which embodies the behaviour of a grandfather clock. The furniture suddenly comes to live. It is now possessing a desire as much as its user. A desire to take care of its companion – the bicycle. Part 3 will look into details of the new design. Below are the design and material moodboards.


Moodboard 2

1. Dunne, A., Raby, F. (2013). Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction and Social Dreaming. USA: The MIT Press.

2. Djadjadiningrat, J.P., Overbeeke, C.J. and Wensveen, S.A.G. (2000). Beauty in Usability: Forget about Ease of Use! In Green, W. S,, Jordan, P. W. (2002). Pleasure With Products: Beyond Usability (pp.11). London: Taylor & Francis.


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