Occupation: Industrial designer
Typical commute: Up and down Monaco‘s hills
Main transportation: From luxury cars to scooter to Klever S25
Adriana Monk is the designer of the Klever S25. She has designed interiors for luxury brands like Jaguar, Rolls Royce, BMW and Wally Yachts. Adriana now has her own studio. The Klever powered-commuter-bicycle was her first electric bicycle design everand has recently won the red dot award: product design.
This is part 1 of 2 of our interview where Adriana talks about her design approach and the challenges of designing an electric bicycle for the first time.
Hi Adriana, how are you in Monaco?
Well, thank you! Monaco is an interesting place: the climate is great and it is certainly the place to be for someone who is inspired by cultural diversity, by beautiful landscape, by extravagant cars & yachts…
How can we imagine getting around the principality of Monaco – Is cycling big or do people go around in limousines or yachts mainly?
It‘s a city that is based on cars. Many people commute into Monaco, from Italy and Nice and there are traffic jams every morning. So the best thing to have in this country is a scooter- or so I thought.
Interestingly, Monaco was one of the first cities that made electric bikes rentable. The prince is very much into green and environmental concerns. But as there are no bike paths, it is very challenging to cycle.
On weekends, though, the Côte d’Azur is a great place for road cycling. There are many teams that go up and down the hills and along the coast.
Are you a cyclist yourself? Do you use the Klever bike to get around?
When I came to Monaco to design Yachts, I wanted to be in a place where I could walk to work. Therefore, I did not buy a car and only had my mountain bike. This generally worked fine, but I did have some problems sometimes when dressed for a presentation and I did not want to get there sweaty. I then bought a Vespa which was quite a treat.
In November I got my electric bicycle and I have to say, that really changed the way I feel about getting around. It has become very enjoyable. The scooter makes a lot of noise, it consumes fuel, it stinks, it pollutes and you have a to wear a big helmet.
With the Klever bike you do not have all that and it is so much fun, because it feels like there are no hills – and Monaco is all mountains and hills!
You are the designer of the Klever S25. Your background though is in the automotive industry and nowadays nautical interiors. Could you tell us a bit about your work?
I studied industrial design. Both my parents are designers, so I think I have the logic of “form follows function” genetically written into me.
One of my first jobs was at a design consultancy in California called Designworks/ USA owned by BMW. When they acquired Land Rover I accepted the challenge of designing a car interior. Being a very function-led brand a Land Rover is pure product design. I believe my design was very successful because I had a different approach: I was a product designer, designing a car.
In general, I found that it has always been to my advantage to have a different approach. For example, I was the only female in my design class so I had a different perspective. Nowadays, I am designing yachts as a car designer with product design at heart.
Is that what tempted you to get your head around an electric bicycle?
I had never even thought about electric bicycles before. At the time my perception was that most electric bicycles are ugly and look heavy. There is also the negative association that you are lazy. The prospect of challenging all these preconceived ideas was really very interesting.
It was a former classmate and colleague who got in touch via a social networking site and asked me if I wanted to design an electric bicycle for a friend of his: this friend is the founder of Klever Mobility who was looking for a female transportation designer.
I have to complement Klever to have been bold enough to choose somebody who had never done a bicycle before. But I think they appreciated that I was not preconditioned by the constraints of bicycle design and I was providing a new approach.
You did not know much about electric bicycles when you were assigned to design one for Klever Mobility. How did you start your research? From a bicycle or electric bicycle?
Klever Mobility invited me to the Taipei Cycle Show. It was mind-boggling, I had never seen anything quite like it. This is when I realised that bicycle design is essentially a collection of components held together by the frame (a structural zig-zag) which is actually the main design element of a bicycle.
For the Klever S25, I started with the electric power, the engine of the bike.
I realised that if I was to design an electric bicycle, the most important component is the power pack, the heart of the bike.
I gave the battery a unique shape that instantly differentiates it from others that you can buy off the shelf. I designed a beautiful case with a practical handle so you can easily take it with you and which instills pride of ownership .
Then, I wrapped the frame around the battery: the consequence is the somewhat flowing ribbon.
Your design of the Klever S25 has recently been honoured with the red dot award: product design. How does that make you feel?
I have to say, it is probably one of the most prestigious product design awards and I feel honoured and proud to be able to share this award with the team at Klever Mobility. It is something I never thought I would achieve designing my first electric bicycle. It is very nice and rewarding -
I think for Klever Mobility itself, the award is a huge achievement and a great testimony to their engineering expertise and their eager reception to radical design ideas.
The German market especially appreciates the red dot as a recognition of design excellence. To have that means half your job is already done in terms of marketing and credibility.
Is there one design principle you apply across all boards, i.e. that is true for a yacht, a car and an electric bicycle?
I believe that with every design project you have to have a design concept, a story.
I call it the 3D design approach: Dive, Define and Design.
The diving part is where you do research, you really look deep into what the project is, who the client is, what the scope is.
Define is creating a design philosophy, analysing the competition and the guidelines to follow. These become the ingredients and parameters.
Only then, do you start the design process by implementing this knowledge.
This 3D design approach makes the design process flow. With every stumbling block – and there are many – where there is a design decision to be made, these parameters help find the right solution. Design is all about function: problem solving whilst maintaining a sense of aesthetics.
What was the concept or the underlying parameters of the particular case of the Klever design?
Apart from putting the power at its core, I maintained a very pure form language. I was trying to reduce complexity wherever possible, reduce to the maximum.
The Klever S25 is all about straight lines and radii. It is about creating a geometric, yet flowing form language.
When you pedal, there is a 45° angle to your leg which is the same direction that you slide in the battery. Everything is very directional and therefore dynamic. The bicycle has motion even though it is static.
How involved were you in the Klever product cycle? Have you also had input in the choice of material or the overall production?
I was initially part of the brainstorming when determining the product cycle and I appreciate that Klever Mobility kept me involved from conception to production. We have an open discussion about the most appropriate materials and production techniques to achieve my design direction.
Has designing the Klever electric bike changed your perspective on your other projects, or are you taking sth. out of this experience into your other work life?
There is nothing more satisfying than starting with a sketch and ending with a product in production.
(Turns away to look for her sketchbook- holds it in the camera.)
These sketches and doodles show how the bike was born: from a book of thoughts and ideas to riding the first prototypes in Amsterdam – a very rewarding experience. It makes me feel very proud to have achieved something that puts a smile on people’s faces.
A bicycle is a basic means of transportation and addresses the fundamental principles of design where form follows function. Therefore the Klever Mobility experience reinforces my passion for design and ties in nicely with Monk Design’s philosophy: “transportation in motion”
Interview by Nora Manthey
Follow Up: Find Part 2 of our interview in which Adriana sheds some light on what the car-industry has in mind when designing an electric bicycle and which boundaries could be pushed in the future!