Japanese company Yamaha was founded in 1887 as a piano manufacturer. But after WWII the company leveraged its expertise in metallurgy to branch into motorcycles as well, creating a most diverse product range. Today, the company not only makes musical instruments, bikes and motorcycles, but sporting goods and robots as well. But motorcycles and musical instruments remains their bread and butter and Yamaha’s origins are still reflected today in their logo—a trio of interlocking tuning forks.
In order to stimulate innovation within the diverse company, Yamaha recently embarked upon a design initiative called AH A MAY. The naming was derived from Yamaha spelled backwards. But the project itself was one of cross-dissemination, rather than reversal. They asked their motorcycle designers to create musical instruments. Meanwhile, their musical instrument designers were tasked with coming up with a motorcycle and bicycle.
Root √: a motorcycle created by musical instrument designers
Led by Kazuki Kashiwase at Yamaha’s design department, a team of musical instrument designers came up with root, a prototype for a motorcycle. Taking their cue from the focus required from musicians, the designers removed all the dials from the rider’s view “to enable him or her to be a part of the passing scenery.”
They then created a wristwatch that would sync with the motorcycle and display metrics like speed and rotations. The graceful design of the seat was “inspired by a horse motif that aims to give a sense of unity among people, nature, and the vehicle.”
Fujin: a marimba created by motorcycle designers
A group of motorcycle designers at Yamaha created this wild marimba and named it after the Japanese god of wind, Fujin (風神). Inspired by the image of a 2-seater motorcycle, the designers came up with a layout for two performers that “allows them to add and multiply their energy.”
Whereas traditional musicians move side to side along a horizontal marimba to reach the different wooden bars, Fujin is circular and allows the players to remain seated. A handle lets the players spin the marimba around them creating a “thrill of unexpected swings and gaps.”
In addition to the motorcycle and marimba there was also a bicycle and drum set that was created for the initiative. All the pieces were on display this month in France at the Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Etienne 2015 from March 12 through 22.