Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Michael Tseng's Mopah.

The Mopah: It all looks so simple: and that's the beauty of it...
The Mopah was created in response to a visiting professional who scrutinized the amount of "blue sky" design amongst students. As David Sedaris pointed out in "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim," the danger in viewing romance movies is that we can all relate to falling in love. The experience is universal and the viewer is lead to a number of unhealthy comparisons, ultimately raising the question "Why can't our lives be like that?" The Mopah is an attempt to design an experience "like that." A reminder that industrial design can be about more than a tangible product, It can be about infusing our lives with something entirely personal: my journey, my music, my moment at the end of the movie when I drive away into the sunset with the perfect song playing in the background. Of course, in order to really prove this point, I needed to create a working prototype. The photos online display the functioning prototype and human reaction.

The typical scooter is designed for efficient transportation. The Mopah is about taking the scenic route. I wanted to alter the interaction of travel, with a soundtrack life isn't so mundane. I chose the Apple Ipod as the soul of Mopah, because of what the device stands for. Apple is turning product interactions upside down, making small improvements on existing devices that create massive change. The Ipod has become a cultural artifact... an expression of personality and ease of use, the flagship for interaction design as product innovator.

An interesting discussion I had with a fellow designer, prior to the Mopah project, was on how to prove that an interaction is a successful one. When building a sketch model or just creating a beautiful rendering the aesthetic feel is conveyed but not the interaction. I believe that until a design is created in vivid detail, the way we think a user will react to its use is purely speculation. The only way to experience Mopah is to hop onboard and take her for a spin. For this reason I decided to make a fully working prototype. My senior thesis was right around the corner so I made plans to go from ideation to final prototype in just 10 weeks (the length of the course). I knew I had to focus on specific parts if I were to get finished so I decided to push the aesthetics off to the side and make the interaction as real as possible.Mopah isn't about creating a beauty queen, it's more of a personal exploration in what it takes to make an idea real. That's not to say that I feel the aesthetics are lacking. I went with a much more personal simplistic style. I was influenced heavily by the furniture designers at my school, I always admired their use of detail as a source of style, the placement of a screw can make all the world's difference. Material selection was very important to me, which is why I went with bamboo and aluminum, two materials that may be considered luxurious in the grand scheme of mass production. The built in speakers and the boxy back pay homage to the beautiful wood speaker boxes of the 90's.

The essence of the scooter is that it's not just a motorized bike with speakers, instead its a mobile boom-box. It's an outlet to freedom beyond mere transportation, a way of unlocking the limitless possibilities we have in life. And in conclusion it's a scooter powered by an Ipod, a detail which enhances the playfulness of the design.

Mopah doesn't like being taken seriously.

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