Conspicuous Consumption: The Importance of Bike Share Branding

Bike-share users in Montreal, New York, Minneapolis, and D.C. all have one thing in common, they're sitting atop the same Bixi bike designed by Michel Dallaire. How each city brands their bikes is a potent statement and key piece of their success.

According to Bryn Smith, the popularity of the Bixi system of bikes and modular docks (there are 38,000 Bixis in more than 10 cities) is not just due to its functionality, but the "foresight of [product designer] Dallaire and his team to provide ample real estate for branding . . . ."

"The way a city brands its bike share can be telling," writes Smith. "New York City’s for-profit system, Citi Bike, is a traveling advertisement for Citigroup, who provided a large portion of the financial backing for the project. . . . Minneapolis and Chicago turned to local design firms to create graphics and names for their systems, Nice Ride (a play on the motto “Minnesota nice”) and Divvy (with the tagline “Divide and Share”), respectively, but the day-glo green and powder blue results are more trendy than classic. In Washington, D.C., the logo for Capital Bikeshare is a comically circuitous array of arrows, and could just as easily represent the state of politics on the Hill."

"Dallaire attributes the success of the Bixi to its aesthetics, and urban areas adopting his design continue to multiply," adds Smith. "Capitalizing on the cities as brands themselves and toning down expected visual tropes is a way to own the bike’s ubiquitous design, and make it a unique part of each city’s infrastructure."

Full Story: Same Bike, Different City

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