Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.

Yamaha Motor Design Stories

Atsushi Ichijo

Always Asking “What is beauty?”

Former President and CEO of GK Dynamics Co., Ltd.

Atsushi Ichijo

Atsushi Ichijo

Born in 1948 in Iwate Prefecture, Japan. Graduated from Tokyo University of the Arts. In 1978, Ichijo joined GK Industrial Design Associates. In 1980, he was stationed at GK Design International, Inc. in the U.S. and was involved in developing the first VMAX motorcycle. After returning to Japan he was in charge of designing products ranging from the SRX, cruiser models and snowmobiles to ATVs, lawn mowers and generators. He also participated in the design of numerous show models like the XS-V1 Sakura, Y125 MOEGI and XTW250 RYOKU.

When I was in high school, seeing the Yamaha DT-1 motorcycle was an exciting shock for me. I didn’t know much about motorcycles, but the aura the DT-1 had instantly captivated me. It was simply beautiful and I longed to have one. That was my first encounter with Yamaha Motor Design.

I believe the essence of it all was “beauty,” and I can say with confidence that there is no other company in Japan that has been devoted to the pursuit of such beauty for so long. I’ve also continued to think about what makes things “sexy” and communicating the sense of something being “full of life.” But beauty is an abstract concept and thus it’s difficult to say unequivocally, “this is beauty.” However, for industrial designers, there have to be reasons based on logic for a particular design. For us, I think design has to be an aesthetically beautiful visual presentation of the machine’s functions and performance.

I loved airplanes when I was a child and I would go off to the airbase and burn all the latest jet fighters into my memory. There was a reason I was drawn to them so strongly; their shapes are formed by the air. The aerodynamic changes occurring across the profile formed by fusing together all of the plane’s many elements, from the cockpit and wings to the engines, are what make a plane fly swiftly and beautifully through the sky. Within this design, it’s the air intakes alone that open up a mouth of air resistance through which the engines greedily suck in air. The commanding shape of these intakes is also dictated by logic. In this way, the experience of perceiving things like this with your own eyes connects to Yamaha’s approach to dynamic design. I think the original VMAX is the model that vividly reflects that concept the most.

On the other hand, design cannot be only for the personal satisfaction of the designer. The same can be said about performance; the first thing you have to think about is what the design can offer the person using the product. When Kawakami-san and Ekuan-san first met back in the YA-1’s era, you could say that this ideology was already there in practice. One of them wanted to offer people a more fulfilling life through Yamaha’s products while the other wanted to enrich society and people’s lives with the enlightenment of design. The meeting of these two people was something that I believe put the YA-1’s design on a different starting line than the utilitarian Japanese bikes of that day.

Atsushi Ichijo

In 1980, when I was working in the U.S., I made a solo round-trip crossing of the country on the slow-footed XS650 Special. The crazy return trip I did by starting from in front of the White House and arriving back in Los Angeles in just four days gave me a very close relationship with the bike. No turning, no stopping, just days of riding straight toward the horizon. It was great. It became a chance to learn what I had never understood in my mind about the country’s culture and its people with my body and all five senses. I realized firsthand the forms and shapes that exist in the wide-open spaces of America.

Design involves thinking deeply about the lives people around the world lead, getting closer to and living alongside them. Designing motorcycles is a process of always asking what a bike means to those people, and then creating beauty from it. That’s the kind of design that makes Yamaha products unique.

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