Machine Form

Confederate P120 Fighter

What’s the one motorcycle better looking than the Confederate P120 Fighter?

Confederate P120 Fighter (black option)

The Confederate P120 Fighter, in black!

There has been a buzz around Confederate’s line of motorcycles for many years, so they are no stranger to publicity.  Their bikes are true “wish list” toys with all the muscle and attitude you would expect from a machine that costs you as much as 3 mid-size family sedans.

So what’s all the hype about?  Well, for starters, just look at this thing!  It screams attitude!  Whether this bike fits your personality or not, when you are seen riding one of these beasts, you will be thumbs-upped, honked-at, waived-to, winked-at, jaw-dropped, and maybe even expletive-ly shouted at (by those jealous, of course).  I mean, this thing is just unlike any other motorcycle – or any thing for that matter – that you’ve ever seen, before.

So what truly sets Confederates bikes apart from the competition?  Is it the carbon fiber wheels?  Maybe it’s the 120 cubic inch radial twin motor producing 160 horsepower and 135 foot pounds of torque.  Perhaps it’s all of the really “trick” components adorning every inch of their bikes (of which most, if not all, are fabricated in-house).  Well, all of this could be true upon visual inspection of these machines.  The aspect of Confederate motorcycles that fascinates me, however, is the ingredients, if you will, behind the design of these machines, which isn’t so apparent at a glance.  I’m referring to the process by which these machines go from idea to reality.

When one visits the website of Confederate Motorcycles, you begin to understand why these machines look so different.  The descriptions and writings on the site sound more like courses in philosophy than the usual “bike lingo”.  When listening to Ed Jacobs, lead conceptual designer for the company, talk about his design process, you hear that every component on these machines is “questioned” as to why, where, how, etc. should they look & function the way they do.  It’s from these questions that Confederate Motorcycles has built a reputation on designing and manufacturing the highest quality motorcycles. “The Art of Rebellion”, as their slogan goes, takes them down a very different path, but then again, very different in this case is VERY good!  


Formal Expression

Most, if not all, of us have heard the expression “form follows function”.  This phrase, supposedly first coined by 19th century American sculptor Horatia Greenough, has been the subject of much debate regarding most everything that requires some design process.  Oddly enough, what we consider to be function-influenced formal expressions are not entirely evident in Horatio’s own work.

In 1896, however, an American architect by the name of Louis Sullivan (who would become an iconic American architect) expressed in his article entitled “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered” that “…form ever follows function”. 
Arguably, this mantra is the single most influential idea considered to influence designers to this day!  Again, though, some would argue even Sullivan’s architecture did not truly express his ideology. 

This is the crux of the problem as design, in and of itself, is purely subjective, and based on the viewpoint of it’s observer, could be classified as “purely functional” (as are many machinery designs), or “purely ornamental” (swans atop Dolphin and Swan Hotel, Walt Disney World, designed by Michael Graves), or perhaps a combination of the two.  It is however, in my opinion as a designer, inescapable that form is in fact an expression.  Whether ornamental or pragmatic, a decision about form is made, in some way, by us, as human beings, regardless of how you would classify it. 
It is this expression of form, in design, which we will explore with this blog, in the days, weeks, months and years ahead. We will strive to offer some compelling commentary on examples submitted, while hopefully providing you with lots of “eye candy” to support our views (because, let’s face it, most of us are visually stimulated, anyway, and may never actually read any of this).  With that said, welcome, to the Somod design blog!