Honda ONe

howdy guys - thought i’d share my latest university project with you - it was the 5th term for me.

to make it short:
Honda R&D Europe asked our school to come up with concepts to attract Generation Z to the ever aging motorcycle market.
The briefing was very open - basically: young, european, urban market - 2- or 3-wheeled - package and drive within a realisable scope.

We were 15 guys, our prof, and honda heads of design +styling europe, which visited us in munich for kick-off+briefing, mid-term presentation and brought the japanese Honda Europe boss for final presentation. it was a great project, pity it lasted only 4 months- with results varying from café-racer-inspired e-bikes, unconventional 3-wheelers, abstract/sculptural dynamic approaches, ultrasmall mobility devices - pretty much everything. participants were from 3rd, 5th and 7th term - everybody made his indiviual design, but sketching and conceptwork was usually done together.

looking back, i’d say my design was one of the rather conevntional approaches. as usual, i know now what to improve - but anyway - what you see here, is the status of my final presentation. i’ll try to keep it concise and in the same structure- so here we go:


  1. Concept

    So since i am not a motorcyclist myself and don’t have a licence (the mother, you know ^^) i thought i should keep it simple and basic, when designing the story behind my bike. So split my concept and research work up into …

    … where i focused on young, urban europeans close to finishing their studies, or just entering their first employment. I had a look at current trends, like the revival of analog photography, the hobby of restoring/customizing old racing bikes/fixies and of course the success of apple products in my target group. And what i thought was most interesting in these specific product profiles was the limited set of features of these things. people would pay more for products, that, on the data sheet, seemed inferior to other state-of-the-art competitors. For me this exemplifies the “DO-WANT”-factor - i believe people have a much closer emotional binding to these more purist products than to, in this specific case, dumbed-down point-and-shoot cameras, overly hightech bicycles with 200 gears or non-apple devices with a similar amount of card-reader and usb-ports. So i thought if i wanted to attract young people to motorcycling i’d have to keep it simple and cut all the integrated twitterservices, iphone charging - the stuff you see implemented in the ford fiestas these days - and try to focus on the essential feature - so my goal was to design a driving machine, for an urban market which wants to commute to work or uni.

i then had a look at the market in this specific sector - and since munich is quite a bad place to get an idea of urban motorcycling, i connected uni work and pleasure and visited paris with a friend from the project in the winter holidays. what you see there is mainly scooters, three-wheelers and small 125/250cc machines. 125/250cc machines with their nice size and non-toyish look. with reasonable and manageable dimensions. the downside being their rather difficult operation with gearshift and the either old models, or the new, totally overstyled plastic transformers that want to look like 1000cc kawa ninjas.

The scooters on the other hand with their small size and the total ease of use - but of course with the teenager image, which my target group is definitely not looking for.

I believe the benefits of both scooters and small motorcycles can be found in electric bikes - nice size/spohistication and absolute ease of use. Current and projected future battery perfomance being absolutely sufficient for urban commuting.

I then went on a tried to show my interpretation of the essential visual appearance of “motorcycles” - the result was this moodcloud.

  1. the fun part

    yay, sketching!
    at first it was quite a hassle to get into the drawing of motorcycles - so i was basically drawing a lot of current motorbikes, to get a feeling of the needed level of detailing, and the precision in terms of perspective and the level of realism. no wonder, of course, my first sketches for the project looked way too much like conventional bikes. But one could already see that i focused on framestructures, visible technical parts and rather supermoto-like silhouettes with traditional, comfy seating postures.

    i realised that if i wanted to make something new, that would stand out from the competition in the urban mobility market, i needed to think of a more iconic first impression, whilst staying within a familiar context - to still be recognizable as an motorbike.
    so it was at this point that i, after quite some sketching without a satisfying result, switched the medium from pen and marker to painting in photoshop. which brought me to this here …

    this would be the keysketch for the layout of my bike: an iconic frame arround a core, consisting of a battery compartment, and a saddlemount. visible technical parts and a supermoto-like silhouette. sporty/high-tech/performance attitude.
  1. making it round

from this point on everything went in a great, straight way. the schedule was quite tight, but i knew what i wanted/had to do:

… following up to the status from the midterm presentation:

i thought the removable textile saddle fit the needs of the targetmarket and usabilityprofile while being something excitingly new for this specific product.

i also believe it reflects the transparent approach in the designlanguage of my bike quite nicely: after we visited the EICMA motorcycle fair in milano with the projectteam. i was quite surprised how cheap even the most expensive bikes from mv agusta or bmw felt - mainly because of the overwhelming amount of plasticparts. which made these ugly squeeking noises when you moved them arround and sounded so hollow when you tapped them with your knuckles. i wanted my vehicle architecture to be more understandable: like seeing " aha, that frame arround the whole thing, connected to the solid alu mold part with the round grille-thingy which contains the drivetrain and holds everything together. the saddle is made of textile, it’s spanned over the frame, providing a soft seating surface - plus you could put and fix your helmet beneath it"

(i have to say here that in retrospect this aspect is not reflected in my final design as much as i thought at this point. i certainly have to take a few steps back styling, and detailing-wise.)

  1. detailing

This was probably what fascinated me the most while designing a motorbike - all the stuff you can and have to design to make your design look alive. here are a few additional sketches for isolated parts of the bike.

since i had everything set up, i thought i’ll just build the whole thing in 3D - and i somehow managed to build the bike via polymodelling in 3ds max within 3 days using free parts from for most of the technical parts. you can see the results below.

i built a studio and rendered in mental ray with several passes for diffuse color, reflection, specularity, shadows and of course alpha channels for nice and easy compositing afterwards.

This is probably the project i had most fun with in my university career - and i’m quite proud of the result. on the other hand there are llllllllots of improvements to be made, like reducing the headweight, finding a working solution for the front fender, checking on package restrictions for the turning radius of the fork, reducing the amount of detailing, especially in the swingarm, improvements in curves, lines and volumes, etc. but for now, this is how it looks. would be more than happy to hear your feedback!


here are a few more sketches in higher resolution.

Awesome project! It’s funny cause I did an electric motorcycle too for my final project in University! In fact, it was develop after I had graduated and they are selling them now!

Congrats on your project, I really like the sketch you did! Good luck in your career!

thank you! interesting find, your bike didn’t pop during our research. great to hear it’s in production!

… for the term’s university show we had our sideviews printed in 1:1 scale. was interesting to see the “real-life-size” ^^

Awesome work man. Looks fantastic.

Very cool. Nice work!

While it looks nice and is beautifully presented, i have to wonder what problems you’re solving for the user? Where’s the brilliant little (or big) insight that makes people go ‘oh yeah that’s something I need’, as opposed to just ‘that looks insane’. I know desire accounts for a lot, but it seems the automotive world isn’t short of desire, but maybe needs a little more ‘design’ in the truest sense of the word.

Smart (or was it MINI?) proposed doing away with a key in favour of a smartphone (among other things)… Good idea or not, you can see what they were doing.

Lovely thing though and very well presented.

Thanks guys, i didn’t quite notice that there were some new replies to this thread.


I know what you mean.

A recent design that perfectly reflects my view on the actual goal of, or let’s just what I think transpoartation design in general should be doing, is Jean-Marie Massaud’s MeWe Concept for toyota. as well as the entrepreneural spirit and brave intentions behind bmw’s i models. Or just think of older examples like the Audi A2 or the Honda Element.

So the 4W market has, at some point, recognized that i has to change its’ strategies to survive, the 2w sector on the other hand, didn’t, as i pointed out in the description of this project. The brief for this project was to provide concepts for a 2w product that can attract a younger targetgroup to the ever-aging customerpool of motorcyclebuyers.

With my design i wanted to adress some aspects of the current transportation design sector, that i found were problematic and especially visible in the 2w sector. for example the possibilities that come with plastic parts and the still evolving production techniques for the fanciest of surfaces that ultimately led to the current status in transportation design where pure styling has replaced at least function-related designsolutions. 125cc bikes that want to look like their moto-gp idols, crossovers that look like dakarbikes, but are not even fit for gravelroads, etc.

This dishonesty in 2w-design (and in transportation in general) was my driving motivation behind offering a new kind of architecture, taking a step back in terms of the visually implied aspirations and therefore ultimately ending up with a result that looks different from the current 2w-status quo. Because apparently this status quo does not appeal to young people. So a bike for them should not look try to be like the ones that you can already buy. I think that worked out.

I totally agree with you that i do not offer groundbreaking improvements or innovations for a 2w product. I just wanted to communicate to Honda, that i think what they are doing right now and have been doing since the Honda Cub, is contradicting their theorethical heart-warming philosophy (check the letters from the old man). Which ultimately makes their products no longer relevant in terms of function, spirit and consequently appearance to todays group of possible customers.

That in the end i went full berzerk in 3D and ended up with an overloaded, unbalanced totally badass-wannabe bike that does not entirely reflect my philosophy and what i wanted to say with the result, is true, and i know it. I mean, it doesnt even have a “start/stop engine” button or any other kind of interface that makes it move.
(but doing it was a crazy amount of fun, i can tell you :slight_smile: )

Anyway, i am currently with Honda R&D Europe in Rome for 6 months and work on translating my mindset into products in a better way, so i’ll just tell you to lean back, i will post more refined and thought-through concepts on transportation stuff next year :slight_smile:

all the best,

PS: Regarding the smartphone integration: basically 80 percent of our project team were having “smarphone as a speedometer”, “race with your buddies and compare tracktimes’n’stuff online”, etc. in their concepts.
i didnt like the idea of adding stuff a certain group of people likes and uses to something that we want to sell them. i understand, that it can make sense to get their attention, but i thought the fundamental problem why bikes dont sell to young lads was because of - well, more fundamental aspects than just “trying to be cool and young and fresh and web 2.0 and twitter” - so i tried to stick to the conventional parameters in 2w features and design.

Hi Max. Like your stuff. Looks like a great project.

For my .02, I think the fundamental problem in selling to a young audience is still unknown, no transportation manufacturer has figured it out, 2w or 4w.

There was a time that transportation equaled freedom. That was an extremely powerful proposition. A few thousand bucks gives you the opportunity to get up and go. Whenever you want. Wherever you want.

Today, I can do the same (OK, not quite the same) with the free mobile I got with my data plan. I can “see” everything on my phone. I can “see” thousands of best moments in only a moment. If I go out in the world, those moments are few and far between. I know seeing it in real life would be better, but if what I “see” on my phone is that great to to begin with, why bother. And while there may be appeal for the open road, the reality is you are stuck in traffic, behind a crappy minivan, going 10 under the limit.

Nobody has figured out how to replace freedom. And it certainly is not easy to do. I personally think having an app to compare your “experience” with others on social media will lose appeal in 6 weeks. Even if I am wrong, it is not as powerful as freedom.

Iab has a point. I’ve seen this in my own family. I’m technically generation X and my brother is Generation Y. Before I turned 16 I had my driver’s license test book all studied, ready to go! My brother seemed like he couldn’t care less. He didn’t get his license until a year and half later. This is an anecdote of one family obviously, but it aligns with what seems like a trend of younger people not caring as much about cars.

Geography is of course a factor as well. Living in SF working with a lot of young designers, the emphasis was on spending money on iPads, iPhones, and lots of gadgets… here in SoCal there is definitely more emphasis on having a hot ride.

Zooming out, can you really design for these things explicitly? I think the best we can do is create a target and do our best to hit it, but the market will decide how right you were. 5 years later, who would have predicted the Kia Soul would be selling the pants off the Nissan Cube and Scion xB? All of them are boxy designs aimed at urban youth.

Great observation - and one that I, too, have noticed with family and near family experiences - Millenial’s (Generation Y) desire to experiment with mass transit, bicycle, walk and grab a ride with friends seems to be good for their health, our environment and is helping to bring urban living back to ‘cool’. Like you, I’m all about having fun driving from point A to point B. Recent transit rides in Toronto, DC, Barcelona and Madrid were not exciting to me in the least bit. I saw their value but didn’t get any excitement out of it. I’m doing my best to instill the fun of travel via manual transmission sports cars into my kids (both of the Silent Generation - Z)!

It’s all about the hamsters, dude. :stuck_out_tongue: As an aside, I wonder if the Soul’s pure, simple approach to boxy tech is its recipe for success. It seemed like the Cube tried to facet everything and blend round with boxy while the Scion Xb got lost in it’s own evolution. I personally love the Honda Element and Kia Soul - their straightforwardness is refreshing.

Agreed. The original xB was more pure and a bigger success. The Japan only original Cube was fantastic, this one is a little melted. The element was great, a big seller in its prime. Unfortunately they never really updated it beyond a small facelift and sales dwindled until they decided to cancel it without a replacement… which leaves the Soul.

I’d be curious to know how the actual sales demo’s line up with the target audience. Most people I know that have them are gen x’ers not wanting a “family car” or SUV and interested in parking in urban areas.


same thing about gen Z.

As a representative of said generation i have to say: give me the Toyota MeWe - or update the honda element with a new, more efficient engine. small displacement diesel for instance. or is it just designer-me talking? i don’t know.

After spending 2 months in italy i also noticed the microcars with motorcycleengines all arround - with kids in their teens driving them. probably because they offer an individual mobility solution that is cheap enough to leave the monthly contract payment for the iphone within realisable scope.

anyway - difficult development. that’s why for me the transportation sector is still the most interesting branch of design - a lot of buddies at uni, initially keen on designing cars all day, have lost their interest in it during the years.
even more exciting times right now, i guess.