Gearlab was founded by long-time friends and colleagues Henry Chang and Chung Shih (Cesare) Sun in 2008 as a way to turn their vision to promote low-carbon living through human-powered products into reality. In 2010, Gearlab launched Kuroshio/Oyashio, a revolutionary carbon and fiberglass blend Greenland kayaking paddle, to industry and consumer acclaim. In October 2014, they launched espresso, an urban bicycle specifically created with Chinese-speaking and East Asians consumers in mind. Read on to find out what Henry Chang, Co-Founder and Design Manager of Gearlab, has to say about designing for the Chinese-speaking market.
“The bicycle market is dominated by Western brands, therefore the geometry and dimensions of the majority of bike frames are designed to suit Western (Caucasian) riders. People from East Asia typically have different body dimensions and ratios, but are only able to choose from bicycles designed for Caucasian people,” Chang explains.
Taiwan is known worldwide for building high quality bicycles, he continues, but the island nation rarely produces bicycles specifically designed for the domestic and Asian markets. Chang and Sun strongly believe that urban cycling has great potential in Taiwanese and East Asian cities, and it was this observation that drove them to develop an Asia-specific urban bicycle.
The frame geometry of Gearlab’s espresso caters to East Asian proportions, ensuring a comfortable and confident ride for Asian owners. The choice of smaller wheels with 20 inch rims means the bike accelerates faster, an essential function in the stop-and-go traffic systems typical of Asian cities. These small wheels also make the bike easier to carry in and out of tight living spaces.
“An awareness and understanding of design is rapidly growing in Chinese-speaking markets,” Henry Chang notes. “Consumers started chasing big brands without knowing much about the brand’s story and without much thought as to what products would best suit their needs. Today, consumers are starting to develop a self-awareness as well as an understanding of design that goes beyond interesting exteriors. They are gradually digging deeper into design and demanding better-designed products.”
According to Chang, the urban cycling market is somewhat overlooked by the big cycling brands. With the sports cycling market now saturated, the market’s biggest players will soon start to pay serious attention to the urban cycling market. The Chinese-speaking market is one of the bicycle industry’s largest unexplored markets and as such the Gearlab duo predict a surge in competition in the near future.
“Designing for a specific target market is always different,” Chang explains. “Every market and region has its own special characteristics. The Chinese-speaking market is massive, complex, and constantly evolving. We need to be extra focused to pin down the target audience and market.
“The human factors and the user logic of the Chinese-speaking market are different to those of other markets. Designers have to understand how Chinese-speaking users interact with specific products in order to suit the products they are producing to the needs of the user.”
Henry Chang is Co-founder and Design Director of Gearlab, an industrial design studio based in Taipei, Taiwan that focuses on human-powered products. Before starting Gearlab, Chang worked for DEM Inc. as Design Manager, was an Industrial Designer at ASUS, and was a Product Designer/Manager at Phison Electronics Corp. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a BFA in Industrial Design.