Designers Guy Holbrow and Matt Hurley are given the following brief for our new musette:
- Semi-rigid strap to prevent tangling? Stronger.
- More efficient closing across opening, but still needing easy access.
- Visibility: the musette needs to be in team colours, but they are hard to pick out when approaching at speed, with between 20 and 40 soigneurs packed into a small area. Make them stand out from the crowd.
- Unit cost: professional teams get through thousands of musettes in a season. The design needs to be economical.
We asked for a radical rethink on the musette. And we certainly got one. The early sketches from Guy Holbrow’s notebook indicate a circular structure to which the feed bag’s contents attach externally – not so much thinking outside the box as outside the bag.
At the core of Holbrow’s thought processes lies a frisbee, or an Aerobie, to be precise – a 1980s successor of the original flying toy that caught on in the 1950s and has sold in its millions ever since. The Aerobie holds the Guinness World Record for a thrown object: 1,333 feet, set in 2003 by Erin Hemmings. Souvenir hunters at feed zones may have some walking to do to retrieve these musettes…
“The Aerobie was there from the start,” Holbrow explains of his initial thinking. “The first idea was more of a rucksack-based approach, something to be carried for a time. The frisbee’s main purpose was structural, as something flat to lie across the back, but also to grab hold of and then be discarded.”
Product designer Matt Hurley came on board at this point to refine the raw ideas and develop a more practical bag. “I think from a design perspective, it was intended to be easier for the rider to both see and grasp,” says Hurley.
“The function of the frisbee, irrespective of it becoming a toy afterwards, was to give the opportunity for the soigneur to not have to hold it by the strap, but pretty much anywhere around the bag’s circumference.”
Hurley and Holbrow put their heads together and a more usable solution began to emerge, with the Aerobie placed inside a circular musette, providing a non-spinning handle for the rider to aim for and enabling the contents to be placed inside – the earlier exterior-loaded version having proved less workable. As for team sponsors, this idea provides a double hit from the advertiser’s side.
“As we started looking at it, the design gave a broad brand opportunity for the colourways to go on,” Hurley says. “From a structural perspective, the Aerobie gives rigidity and strength, but also the branding and the souvenir for the roadside spectator to take home and remind them of their day.
“Also, we didn’t want to produce anything too radical, making it difficult for the guys to buy into. That was one of the key elements.
“It would be a big step-change to produce something completely different from what has gone before, whereas in effect we still have what is recognisably still a musette.”
The design has come a long way from Holbrow’s original concept. The prototype the guys lay before me could actually work, with some minor adjustments.
I express some reservation regarding the opening: the Aerobie holds the top of the musette taught by necessity – too taught to be able to have a good rummage around in the bag to unload its contents, I fear. A rider will usually swing the musette round the front of their neck, empty the bag whilst riding one-handed and be rid of it, all in the space of less than a minute. It was hard to see this happening with the new design.
“If we had some additional material either side of the frisbee at the opening, it could hold that opening apart,” Hurley says. “But every additional function that we add is additional cost, unfortunately,”
And there’s the rub. With an Aerobie already sending us way over budget per unit, we may have hit a stumbling block.
We’ll worry about that when we come to it. For now, over to the end users to get some feedback.
Matt Hurley: hpdd.co.uk
Brand New Bag: Redesigning the Musette part 1
Brand New Bag: Redesigning the Musette part 2