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R. Marabese is Always Looking for the Right Mix
Our philosophy at Marabese Design is to find new technological ways and try to create discussion and comparison of designs, with great attention to innovation, communication, and a project`s cultural dimensions," says Roberto Marabese, designer and product manager of the eponymous firm, during an interview with CENS.

Robert Marabese is designer and product manager for his eponymous Italian company.

Marbese gave a presentation on motorcycle design at an industry forum held during the Motorcycle Taiwan 2006 show on Oct. 27-29. He was in Taiwan at the invitation of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA).

Marabese Design was established 30 years ago and has become globally known as an industrial design company that collaborates with big international motorcycle brands such as Piaggio, Moto Guzzi, Moto Morini, Aprilia, Triumph, Gilera, Yamaha, Bajaj, Daelin, and Qingqi. The firm has turned out more than 400 prototypes for its customers, and many of the resulting models have proven highly popular in the world market.

While design has guidelines that influence its outcome, Marabese comments, those guidelines are "something that is wider and more abstract than you can imagine. This is the case for both cars and motorcycles, which share very similar styling and technological principles." And, he adds, different design themes have to be mapped out for different customers, because "It is not possible to design in the same way for both small and big companies or for both western and oriental companies, because of the cultural, technological, and financial differences."

The Marabese-designed Piaggio three-wheel vehicle has been a market success.

"One difficulty is to find a design that incorporates the right combination of elements so that customers can identify it immediately. A brand needs to have a strong and ongoing identity," Marabese says.

Mental Reset

"Every time a customer asks our company to work on a new project," the director says, "we first try to reset our minds from the styling concepts we have developed for other firms, and find the inner spirit of the new customer`s brand identity and history. Then we`ll try to pinpoint a specific product identity for the customer. After we work out the design guidelines that represent that customer, we can easily turn those guidelines into a full family of products for the customer."

Marbese is not very optimistic about the future of two-wheel design, which, he says, is constrained by structural, cost, and technical limitations. The risks to that future lie in such esthetic factors as harmony of line and proportion. After working for so many different companies, Marbese concedes, "We can hardly give you an idea about what the future of motorcycle design in general will be, but it might be easier to talk about the future design development of specific brands."

Before the company starts working on the design of a new vehicle, it considers the target market and the specifics of the particular brand involved-whether it has a good history, whether it wants a new history, whether or not it has a good product family, etc.

"We usually make product projections in different ways based on customer demands," Marbese notes, "except when we believe in a specific concept. Then we work out the design in-office and introduce it to the company we think best suited to produce the new vehicle."

Sometimes these projects result in vehicles that tap previously untouched market niches. One example is the three-wheel Sfera and Exagon models produced by Piaggio. "In the past few years my company has worked hard to put new designs and technologies together," the designer stresses. "Today, these two elements can never be independent of each other if you want to have new and really innovative results."

Some of Marabese`s design sketches.

In scooter design, he says, the focus in the past was all on beauty but now the emphasis has shifted to content, because beautiful scooters are everywhere these days.

In the past, Marbese explains, "scooter designers worked on body styling, but now they`re being asked to design the entire vehicle instead of concentrating on styling alone. Engines come in a lot of different types today, and our customers [the manufacturers] are increasingly demanding. This makes scooter design more sophisticated." Also, he adds, more attention is paid to practicality and function.

Another design guideline, the director commented, is vehicle safety because scooters have become pure functional and urban transportation vehicles.

In addition, he goes on, trends that are under intensive consideration include an ongoing reduction in size, because urban parking space is constantly being squeezed. "Some of our customers that had plans for large-sized, large-engine scooter models have paused and turned toward more compact, lighter models. But compactness cannot mean a reduction in protection."

Need for Cost-reduction Ideas

There is always room for concepts that can reduce the cost of use, in terms of both money and time. As the designer notes, "The vast majority of scooter buyers now think about traveling between the home and the office, meaning that the vehicle is used more on weekdays than on weekends. This is a good challenge for us, because the targeted function is very clear and we can do more with it-like when we completed the new Vespa."

The motorcycle is totally different from the scooter, Marabese says; it can never be an objective object, but always provokes reactions and emotions. Today, increased safety and functionality are demanded in motorcycle design-but without affecting the fascination that these vehicles exert upon people.

"We`re in a phase of exhaustion right now," he comments, "bit we think that new technologies and other new possibilities will open the road ahead for us."

Taiwan`s manufacturers of motor scooters and motorcycles, the designer urges, should put more focus on their image, which is much better than that of manufacturers in mainland China but lags behind that of the big international brands.

He thinks that the European market is the best target for Taiwan-made two-wheelers, because of the heavy concerns there about safety, quality, and function. Taiwanese companies have quality and manufacturing advantages over counterparts in mainland China and other low-cost nations, he suggests, but they need to map out something that differentiates them from run-of-the-mill producers.

Product trends that are affecting the market right now, he points out, include a movement toward big-wheel scooters, smaller-engine (under 400cc) scooters, and models with a strong emphasis on safety (both passive and active). In addition, there is a rising segment consisting of three- and four-wheel vehicles based mainly on scooters solutions.

"We anticipate that the era of multi-wheel (three- and four-wheel) vehicles will come within three to four years," Marabese predicts. "Our company has developed many solutions for different brands, which are watching for the best timing to introduce them to the market."
(by Quincy Liang)

Reference: http://cens.com/cens/html/en/news/news_inner_19265.html
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