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sean

The esthetics of modern motor vehicles.

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Why do the sort of esthetics used in the making of most modern automobiles lack what it takes to make a machine of beauty? Ok, please allow me to be more objective...Why do the sort of esthetics used in the making of all modern scooters, lack what it takes to make a machine of beauty? Am I to believe the past designers of the now classic Vespa and Lambretta machines have achieved the certain kind of beauty that only a two wheeled, step through, motorized vehicle can achieve? I'm fairly new to the concepts of the esthetic arguments found in objectivism, but as a guy who has been doing nothing but eating, breathing, and sleeping vintage Italian motorbikes and scooters for over 20 years I can say that the folks at Piaggio (Vespa) and Innocenti (Lambretta) got it right when they made the GS160 Vespa and the GP200 Lambretta. While many beautiful models were produced from the 1950s through the 1970s, both of these models are the pinnacle of vintage Italian scooter style. Like a lot of Italian design, these scooters drew heavily on the esthetics of the female form. Many modern scooters are more utilitarian, and use edgy, straight lines that convey promises of speed that they can never deliver upon. For this reason, I feel for one to seek out and station a Lambretta or Vespa scooter next to one of the many lesser imitators, would be to conclude that the lesser machines would even stand a chance in terms of achieving the same esthetic value.

There seems to be a lot of love for the latest and greatest going on in the objectivist philosophy, but what about the relics of the past? I know, I might be the only scooter nut on here, but what about old cars, planes, trains, etc.? Do estetics always progress, or can we say that in certain eras or periods the height of an estetic has already been achieved, and cannot be drastically altered? I'm a firm believer in the customization of a machine to fit one's personal metaphysical taste, but that's not the same as coming up with something totally new--such as a new design for a scooter.

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Whilst I do not know much about scooters, I do about yachts, where a similar phenomenon has been happening.

Compare this Wally:

Tiketitan_nav.jpg

with these J-class yachts:

jclass1.jpg

But a company realised this, they are called Spirit Yachts, and you may have seen one of their yachts in Casino Royale:

10863.350.jpg

Are there any other equivalents in the motorcycle and scooter world? I do agree with you. I would buy a Vespa. I would not consider a new scooter though. I had never thought of it in terms of curves, but your argument makes sense.

What happened to designers? Why are things of pure beauty so rarely put out for purchase?

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Do estetics always progress, or can we say that in certain eras or periods the height of an estetic has already been achieved, and cannot be drastically altered? I'm a firm believer in the customization of a machine to fit one's personal metaphysical taste, but that's not the same as coming up with something totally new--such as a new design for a scooter.

As far as male fashion is concerned, I do not think that anything "invented" after the 1940s reaches the pinnacle achieved just before WWII.

Compare this modern example:

http://houseoffraser.scene7.com/is/image/H...314_00_20090717

or this:

karl-lagerfeld1.jpeg

or this:

bernalluna-WI-022607.jpg

with this:

power27ou.gif - how people would go to the Oscars when actors were still actors as opposed to pretty boys with stubble...

and this:

Esquire%20-%20Odd%20Vest.jpg

and this wonderful guide:

http://www.blacktieguide.com/Vintage/Vinta...un_Esq_p140.jpg

You can "update" this style with modern colours (within reason); and of course nowadays casual does not imply a tie. But the rules as written and explored in the first half of the 20th Century remain king.

Other fields have advanced. Architecture is one. Look at these skyscrapers, definitely modern, definitely wonderful:

2947752831_9397689e84.jpg

468320FenchurchStreet_pic9.jpg

shard.jpg

gherkin.jpg

solow_9w57_reflection_3feb02.jpg

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Now I'm on a roll. You opened Pandora's box!

Other arts which have stood the test of time:

Music, compare:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2c4L4CPfQY8

with:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsFvnL7e1cE

or:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxJrElIewok

or:

or even:

if we must stay within a similar "style".

There was a time musicians had skill and sophistication.

The same applies to dancing. This is what's considering cool nowadays:

Let me remind you what dancing meant:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpKGY-AZO5M

and the hardest, and most elegant, in my view anyway:

There are only two countries in the world, that I am aware of, that still respect real dancing:

(not very showy but so elegant)

and of course:

(although both dancers belong to the Vienna Ballet, this is a fantastic performance)

I am not touching the evolution of opera and ballet. Worth separate threads :D

So, on the whole, I agree... something happened to the arts. I call it the celebration of mediocrity. It comes from the intellectuals of the 20th Century changing global culture. Ugliness becomes beautiful. Harshness is celebrated. The rough versus the sophisticated. The simple versus the (tastefully, and meaningfully) complex. Laziness over effort.

Hopefully we can change that.

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What happened to designers? Why are things of pure beauty so rarely put out for purchase?

Because most people cannot afford to buy such items. What makes manufactured items affordable is their mass reproducibility and that works against elegance and beauty to some extent.

My daughter is a head designer at Fisher Price Toys and she used to be a hands on designer from scratch* (she is a vice president in the company now). She liked to produce toys with a beauty appropriate for child's toys, but she also knew the manufacturing process stone cold. She had to sacrifice a bit of the beauty to make the toys manufacturable at a price that could enable large numbers of buyers to purchase the toys.

The same principle holds for automobiles which are mass production and mass sales items. Sailboats are a different story. They are not a mass market item

Bob Kolker

* my daughter is the mother of the second generation of Fisher-Price Little People among other things. She was the lady that give Little People arms and hands.

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What happened to designers? Why are things of pure beauty so rarely put out for purchase?

Because most people cannot afford to buy such items. What makes manufactured items affordable is their mass reproducibility and that works against elegance and beauty to some extent.

My daughter is a head designer at Fisher Price Toys and she used to be a hands on designer from scratch* (she is a vice president in the company now). She liked to produce toys with a beauty appropriate for child's toys, but she also knew the manufacturing process stone cold. She had to sacrifice a bit of the beauty to make the toys manufacturable at a price that could enable large numbers of buyers to purchase the toys.

The same principle holds for automobiles which are mass production and mass sales items. Sailboats are a different story. They are not a mass market item

Bob Kolker

* my daughter is the mother of the second generation of Fisher-Price Little People among other things. She was the lady that give Little People arms and hands.

I have 2 points against this argument (I trained as a production engineer):

1. premium items is what I am complaining about. The Wally yacht I showed above, and most sailing and motor yachts produced, are expensive items that ought to be designed well. Tiketitan is actually not a bad yacht, compared to some of the horrors "designed" for unsuspecting clients.

Premium designers seem not to bother thinking too much about what they are making anymore. I am guessing in part this is because capitalism has made mass market goods so cheap to produce and to do well.

Compare the latest Ferraris to the latest whatever is upmarket for Chevrolet (Corvette).

which brings me to my 2nd point:

2. Mass market items are extremely profitable due to their large volume and economies of scale achieved. There's only one design team, even if there are 50 million units being produced; this team must hit the sweet spot or fail in the market. Thus they can be paid well and good talent can be attracted.

Examples of brilliantly designed mass market items: the VW Beetle, the iPhone/iPod/most things from Apple (sure, upmarket mass market, but mass market nevertheless), the Boeing 737, The Fountainhead, Casio's G-Shock watch (still used by the British Special Air Service), Lego & Playmobil toys (at least in the 1990s, before Booz & Co recommended switching production to outside Europe, which failed and caused them to bring it back), Google, McDonald's... each is beautiful for what it is, very well crafted, with the market in mind.

Examples of terribly designed mass market items: most kettles, Chinese bikes you can buy new for $100... I struggle to find famous examples because by definition, they fail. I guess Nokia PC to Phone software (particularly Ovi, which I've now uninstalled) is another example.

I'd say getting the design right is MORE important if you are mass-market.

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I'd say getting the design right is MORE important if you are mass-market.

Part of "right design" is ease of manufacture. That is very important for items mass produced in high volume.

Bob Kolker

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I'd like to see some break downs here, because in all cases it's not obvious to me why one style is better than another. I can see it with the suit styles, one looks tight and uncomfortable, while the others look more tailored to the body, but I'm not sure I understand why the aesthetics of one yacht is objectively better than another, or why one watch is superior to another.

When it comes to engineering, you want things that work efficiently. You don't want style to crowd out what works.

As to music, well music is a very tough thing to evaluate. I have my criterion, and while I love symphony music, I also love rock, and I've never been able to figure out how or why to love one over the other, even though I see the brilliance of a Mozart or a Rachmaninoff.

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I'd like to see some break downs here, because in all cases it's not obvious to me why one style is better than another. I can see it with the suit styles, one looks tight and uncomfortable, while the others look more tailored to the body, but I'm not sure I understand why the aesthetics of one yacht is objectively better than another, or why one watch is superior to another.

When it comes to engineering, you want things that work efficiently. You don't want style to crowd out what works.

As to music, well music is a very tough thing to evaluate. I have my criterion, and while I love symphony music, I also love rock, and I've never been able to figure out how or why to love one over the other, even though I see the brilliance of a Mozart or a Rachmaninoff.

Suits - really, it simplifies down to what is most harmonious to the eye. That includes colour too, for example the classic scene in 25th Hour where the broker tells the analyst he looks like a "*** optical illusion" because he wears a striped tie with a striped shirt. Extensive books of guidance have been written on how to match patterns, colours, etc. in the most harmonious manner (much like classical music has its Common Practice Harmony which is the result of centuries of development). These rules still apply today, although only the most senior ranks of corporate organizations, together with half of Wall Street, seems to still care. Nobody wears suits to work except those guys, anyway. There's also how to wear it - see how your coat ("jacket") moves if you button the bottom button vs. if you leave it unfastened. Some are just fashion points, such as the four-in-hand knot's asymmetry being considered "better" than the symmetrical Windsor knot, and those are hotly debated (I'm a four-in-hand guy but then I grew up in the UK).

Engineering - yes, absolutely. Beautiful designs - at least to my engineering-trained eye - are those that are most functional. The ultimate is the SR-71 aircraft, where everything is custom-made for its job of Mach 3+ supercruise. However, for less specialized applications, engineering customer products needs to add a certain "artistic" aspect, which enables the person using the engineered product to thoroughly enjoy it every time they look at it. I know at least two forum members really enjoy their cars; I love the way my phone is built, it's perhaps heavier (due to using stainless steel rather than alumnium) than competing models but it's solidly built, feels strong and well designed (software is another thing). A year after buying it, I still feel I have a beautiful object in my pocket. This is extremely the case with watches, as the above - watches don't just tell the time - and also with the scooter, which isn't just two wheels with an engine, but has them arranged for reasons half aerodynamic, half style-related. Simple, beautiful.

As for music, I wouldn't say it is so much about style as about artist development. Compare Bruce Springsteen, Prince or the Beatles to modern "artists" like aforementioned MC Hammer. The music industry designs the same stars, mass-produced, picked for their looks and manipulation potential at teenage, and dropped after a few years in the limelight to "connect" with the next "generation" of customers. It used to be about spending up to a decade and a half, watching the artist develop, picking artists much later, when they had lived and therefore had something to say in their music. I am not saying classical music is superior to rock. I am saying artists used to be artists; they are now the equivalent of the minced beef in the McDonalds production line. About as much individuality. I like to hear something good and personal when I listen to music.

Bob - those issues don't have much to do with the visual design, other than perhaps the choice of materials (yes a titanium door handle will look good, no it is not a good idea to mass produce them). You can make most things easy to manufacture. There's always a compromise though; an ease of assembly and disassembly can impair the functioning of the device itself, for example a jet engine needs to be easy to swap around but attachments and reusable bolts cost precious weight which costs fuel efficiency. Design is a complex matter, but it can and should remain about beauty both engineering and visual. Beauty that comes from effort and the human mind.

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rtg24, aren't you comparing apples to oranges here? Take fashion and style for example: Karl Lagerfeldt(bleh!) and sloppily dressed actors(?), compared to pre-40's style and elegance?

I would rather compare to this:

http://www.wornthrough.com/blog/wp-content...009-scarf-1.jpg

(a little busy for my taste, but a wonderfull play with colors and patterns)

Or this:

http://pici.se/pictures/DCEMJdgSE.jpg

Or this:

http://www.modetrumman.se/system/datas/913....jpg?1263379687

As for watches, Patek Philipe certainly has some exquisite new models too. That Hublot watch is just a completely different style.

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rtg24, aren't you comparing apples to oranges here? Take fashion and style for example: Karl Lagerfeldt(bleh!) and sloppily dressed actors(?), compared to pre-40's style and elegance?

I would rather compare to this:

http://www.wornthrough.com/blog/wp-content...009-scarf-1.jpg

(a little busy for my taste, but a wonderfull play with colors and patterns)

Or this:

http://pici.se/pictures/DCEMJdgSE.jpg

Or this:

http://www.modetrumman.se/system/datas/913....jpg?1263379687

As for watches, Patek Philipe certainly has some exquisite new models too. That Hublot watch is just a completely different style.

Lagerfeld exaggerates, sure, but he represents much of what is "modern" accepted fashion - thin lapels, polyester-like shine, long pointy shoes in weird colours, etc.

It's an appropriate comparison because it is the style most often sported (at least in Europe - but Americans have button-down collars, so we're even :D), much as in the 40s men would wear suits in the style depicted above (perhaps not a peak lapelled 2-button check, but you get my point). The people picked by the Sartorialist are New Yorkers with a very distinct sense of style, and not really representative of what passes for fashion in the rest of the country... Marzotto dresses alongside lines that would have been acceptable in the 1940s, I notice with enthusiasm a single breasted peak-lapelled (barathrea!) dinner jacket with outstandingly cut double breasted waistcoat, nice and low as it ought to be. The same applies to your grey-suited gentleman; although a British tailor would put his pleats forward (to avoid that dreadful tight pants effect as displayed esp. when sitting down), and I'm not so sure about matching pocket square and tie as opposed to shirt, the style is otherwise correct.

But look at common designer brands, Armani, Ralph Lauren, YSL, Hugo Boss, etc.

Watches - I'm not a fan of the "newer" PP (e.g. World Time), or indeed their squarer models (nor most Rolexes, for that matter). But I guess then we enter the realm of the personal taste. However, I do feel most PP watches simply decline variations of the old design, much as Porsche declines variations on the 911.

It was my understanding that the thread starter complained about a certain loss of elegance in modern scooters compared to Vespas. I would say this applies across the luxury goods industry, thanks to a certain "bling"-ing of tastes. I would gladly pay (if I could afford it) the $70,000 that the Richard Lange "Pour le Merite" in platinum (or $40k for rose gold) warrants (due to its extremely intricate manufacturing process and beautiful design). It's a beautifully made piece of jewelry. Gold Hublot watches on the other hand, I consider to be mostly brand premium and definitely not worth their $30k price tag.

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Here is one of my "scooters'. This is a classic Cinelli B (I also have the "A" model) from 1968. It is hand built from high quality steel. The fenders are hand crafted aluminium. The bike is an antique as far as running gear design is concerned, although the quality is second to none. The big changes came in the eighties when Iron Man contests spurred technological innovations and new methods of mass production. In the days this Cinelli was built, the materials were too delicate for mass production, so only craftsmen could put these together. Cenelli would be to bicycles what Lamborghini is to cars. What is missing from modern bikes is that human touch.

884393577_4be21c812a_b.jpg

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Arnold, absolutely. Owned a similar bike (based on Reynolds 531 tubing). So beautiful and wonderful (although I conceded a Shimano 105 groupset to modernity and had clipless pedals because of the distances I was covering). I've ridden many road bikes, carbon and aluminium, and none feel like a handcrafted steel frame does. Other cyclists are always amazed at how light the thing was. I prefer it to Cervelo P3s and other carbon beasts...

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"What is missing from modern bikes is that human touch."

I totally agree with this in the sense that the human touch makes for a positive sense of life, but not in the sense that things have to be hand made. Vespas and Lambrettas were not intended to be luxury items--they were mass produced with the idea of being cheap transportation for the general population who could not afford cars after the war. Nonetheless, they had to make them desirable enough to compete with the other scooters on the market. For example, the Cushman scooter was one of the first and was pretty utilitarian and ugly. (Ugly as they are, Cushmans still do have a strong following in some circles.)

When we talk about "the human touch" what is important about that is that the person who designed the vehicle or object in question wanted you to feel something or have a particular kind of inspiring experience when you look at and use it. Modern vehicles, in particular modern scooters, seem like they are designed with some kind of weird futuristic vision of what beauty will look like when we all live in space.

Vespa GS160

o856du.jpg

Series 1 SX200 Lambretta

wits12.jpg

Series 2 Li 250 Lambretta custom street racer

uroev.jpg

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sean, I love those scooters. They were all around me when I grew up in South Africa in the fifties. Even if they weren't hand built, they were 'hand designed' in the sense that the designs were not skewed to favour the automated manufacturing methods we have today. I have a classic Saab 900 that could not be built economically in a full automated factory these days, as the design doesn't (economically) allow for it, and relies on too much human input. Yet, it is that human input that makes one attach emotionally to the individuality of the design.

As some have said, some machines are made to be loved, others are simply appliances, even if very good ones.

It is the same with watches. I have a small collection of mechanical watches. I just can't love a microchip the same way I do those fine mechanical bits that move and give a sense of life to the piece.

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Vespa GS160

o856du.jpg

Series 1 SX200 Lambretta

wits12.jpg

Series 2 Li 250 Lambretta custom street racer

uroev.jpg

I find these designs a bit on the feminine side. I like machines that look like machines. These scooters look a bit "pimped up" to me. I like objects that are male-crude or plain. But what can you expect from someone who deliberately bought a 2006 Scion XB? I love my ugly box on 4 wheels. And who is going to try to steal it?

Bob Kolker

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I find these designs a bit on the feminine side. I like machines that look like machines. These scooters look a bit "pimped up" to me. I like objects that are male-crude or plain. But what can you expect from someone who deliberately bought a 2006 Scion XB? I love my ugly box on 4 wheels. And who is going to try to steal it?

Bob Kolker

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That picture was included in the brochure that I received from the salesmen. And I agree with John, I enjoy that picutre more than the one I linked to earlier.

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