Yamaha's motorcycle and instrument designers trade jobs

Yamaha's motorcycle designers have created some musical instruments, while the instrument designers have created vehicles.

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Michelle Starr
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When you do something every day -- when you know your field inside and out -- you become very, very good at it. But sometimes it takes someone with fresh eyes to see the strange and wild possibilities.

In a very unusual event called "Project AH A MAY" ("Yamaha" in reverse) created for the Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Etienne 2015, Yamaha let its famed motorcycle and musical instrument divisions switch jobs, with no restrictions on what they could design.

"The design divisions of the two Yamahas exchanged their design fields, and, without any constraints related to production or commercialization, created designs according to each Yamaha's method and way of thinking," the company wrote on the project web page.

Yamaha motorcycle and instrument designers trade jobs (pictures)

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"These two Yamahas went about designing these products with the understanding that their products would be mirror images of one another. The goal of this project is for the designers to stimulate each other's imaginations and seek to create products that embodied their shared image of Yamaha."

The two teams each created two things -- two musical instruments for the motorcycle division (Design Centre Yamaha Motor Co.) and two vehicles for the musical instrument division (Design Laboratory Yamaha Corporation).

Fujin: God of the Wind is a two-person marimba -- although it bears more of a resemblance to a glockenspiel, with its wooden keys -- that rotates on a frame, with a section of resonating pipes in front, designed to echo a two-person motorcycle.

"This marimba is designed for two performers and allows them to add and multiply their energy," the description reads. "The seating of the performers brings to mind the image of a two-seater motorcycle and enables the performers to enjoy the thrill of unexpected swings and gaps as they play the marimba."

Raijin: God of the Thunder, on the other hand, is a chaotic assemblage of drums and cymbals arrayed in a steel cage. Inside the array, the drummer can let loose like a storm, unleashing a barrage of rhythm.

"This design seeks to create an ideal form that will allow human beings to go beyond existing methods to express themselves," Design Centre Yamaha Motor Co. wrote. "The design resembles a globe and allows performers to let their imaginations run wild on an assortment of different kinds of drums. Energy erupts centred on the performer and creates an increasingly visually dynamic world of sound."

Meanwhile, Design Laboratory Yamaha Corporation's creations -- a motorcycle and a bicycle -- look a little more traditional, but each features a design twist that brings something different.

The motorcycle, Root, is not very practical -- but it sure is beautiful. The saddle has been created out of one curved, ergonomic form that flows over the top, with the handles tucked underneath for a streamlined appearance -- removing the instrument panel from view. Instead, the motorcycle's RPM are displayed on a wristwatch-like wearable.

"By taking the meters on the instrument panel off the motorcycle rider's view, the idea of the design is to enable him or her to be a part of the passing scenery," designer Kazuki Kashiwase said. "The form was created to flow from the seat to the fuel tank and was inspired by a horse motif that aims to give a sense of unity among people, nature, and the vehicle."

Finally, 0 plus minus 0 is beautifully designed bicycle, with a minimal black frame featuring brown leather and burnished copper accents. A battery is stored in a brown leather case hung from the frame; as the rider pedals the bicycle, they generate energy, which is stored in the battery for later use. When not being ridden around, the bicycle can also be placed in a dock, which allows the user to ride it on the spot, like an exercise bike.

"The electric-power assisted bicycle is placed on a recharging stand, and when cyclists pedal it, this recharges the battery. The battery power can then be taken out of the stand and the electricity generated shared with the family and used to power musical instruments and other electric appliances. The design aims to suggest a lifestyle that takes a positive attitude and approach toward power usage," Yamaha said.