Enduring Symbol – Yamaha SR

Enduring Symbol - Yamaha SR
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Products that grow to be the symbol of a brand
Kunisaburo Uemura


Well-considered moderate aesthetics
It was in 1909, toward the end of the Meiji era, that the first motorcycle in Japan was manufactured.  An engine was attached to a bicycle.  Ever since, the basic composition of mechanical parts has not largely changed over the last 100 years.
While motorcar designs for general use can be grouped into several types, except for special purpose vehicles and differences in details, motorcycles have a greater variety in types as they have been developed to perform special functions for specific areas.
Around 1978, when Yamaha Motor’s SR was launched, motorcar manufacturers set the goal to produce more powerful and faster motorcycles on the backbone of high performance and high endurance technology of Japanese manufacturers.  In the development of motorcycles for hobby
riders, large engine displacement and high speed running were aimed for.
The SR was a model developed intentionally away from this general trend.  Instead of adding advanced technologies and various elements, the greatest goal was to design it to be as compact as possible without any extraordinary accessories to make full use of the single-cylinder engine for off-road riding so that a rider can enjoy the feeling of excitement.
Under the GK design philosophy of “light, slim and compact,” parts are composed in an orthodox manner keeping a good balance among them and in good coordination with the whole.  Seen from any contrasting design terms, such as rusticity vs. delicacy, tension vs. flexibility, heavy and thick vs. light, all parts are moderately placed.  In the SR, the moderate aesthetics of Japanese instrument designs are presented, which is not an imitation of motorcycles in the west.


Change in the market and a headwind
In the 1980s, the media and the public came to pay greater attention to international motorcycle races.  Motorcycles modeling after racing machines called “racer replica” machines attracted riders.  In response to this fashion, manufacturers all together directed their R&D efforts into this type of motorcycles.
The trend meant a headwind for the SR.  But after introducing “customization” to allow customers to change parts according to their personal desires, and also supported by diversifying values, the SR regained its popularity.
Nevertheless, the SR had to face the risk of extinction.  It nearly happened during the process of developing the SRX which was due to be launched in 1985.  As the SR belonged to an old model from a technological perspective, the SRX was developed as its successor.
However, customers and contractors eagerly supported the SR, and GK also
expressed its strong desire for its continuation, and the continued production of the SR was decided.


Responding to the changes and universal aesthetics
The design of the SR was not changed more than 30 years since its launch.  However, small details such as cast wheels and a disk brake which were the most advanced technical specifications at the time of launch have been changed to spoked wheels and a drum brake to emphasize its retrospective design.
The emblem of YAMAHA applied on the tank was replaced with the tuning fork mark as the symbol of the pride of the company, which is still used today.
Various amendments have been made including safety measures, but under the policy “the essential design shall not be changed,” only the color and graphics applied on the tank have been changed nearly annually to give fresh expressions
without making major changes in the style.
The production of the SR was once terminated in 2008 due to difficulties in clearing the strengthened emissions regulations with the existing system.
As the SR was recognized both inside and outside the company for having an irreplaceable brand value that had grown and matured through its long history, it was deemed that it would be able to overcome external environmental changes, and the project to revive the SR was soon initiated.  At the end of 2009, a new generation SR was launched equipped with new environmental measures.
At the beginning of re-designing the SR, consideration was given to installing a device to clear emissions regulations inside the tank, and to change the form of the tank totally.  But because the fuel tank is the face of the SR it was then decided that the fuel tank should be the last thing to be changed.  After this decision, we went through our design process considering “what can be
changed,” and “what cannot be changed.”
Although it is equipped with the latest technological devices, the style of the SR remains almost the same as it was in 1978.  The distinctive design value of the SR is maintained.

Kunisaburo Uemura, Director, GK Dynamics