It’s second nature for me to intellectualize brands. I’ve worked with them all my life: deconstructing meaning, reconstructing a nuanced visual language that answers a series of strategic values aimed at convincing consumers of their worth. You know, all the stuff those of us in design deal with every day. Except, we also know that authentic brands, the ones that connect with us on a visceral, emotional level, cannot be constructed strategically or intellectually. Just like us, they take decades to mature and blossom, until they have tales to tell and experiences to share. Among these authentic brands there are a few that stop you in your tracks with a punch to the belly that leaves you wanting more. Ducati is one of these.
My lifelong love affair with this brand began in the late eighties when I set my eyes upon the thing I would treasure only marginally less than my own two, adorable children. Scratch beneath the obvious chromium plated, boyish lust for speed and there’s so much to fall for.
There’s no push button starter here. Instead, you must reach into the heart of the beast and take time coaxing him, priming him lovingly before you kick-start him into life. Once fired up, a glorious cacophony of guttural growls, whines and gasps unleash his story in an instant. Use your X-ray imagination to slice into his heaving chest and witness an unfathomable carnival of whirring cogs and spiraling spindles, each crafted for one task: to launch you at silly, silly speeds. Fear and vulnerability are fundamentals to Ducati. Not just the rider’s vulnerability, but the machine itself, for each integral element of this metallic monster was sculpted by a modern day, grease-monkey Michelangelo. German, American or Japanese machines are robustly engineered for practicality, longevity, endurance and cost. Italians don’t think like that. They are artists willing to shave every last micrometer off their work to ensure it is as light and as perfectly formed as possible. Fragility is fundamental here too.
Many years ago, one Ducatisti proudly showed me a large dent in his bike’s frame. This, he explained, was where they had to make a little extra room to squeeze the engine in. It’s these man-made imperfections, you see, that give art its value.
The divine yet dangerous dance that marries technology, engineering and art has propelled Ducati to the front of the starting grid and, more importantly, to the top of the list of the world’s most desirable brands. All that heritage, heartache and glory has been condensed into six little letters. Cast your eye across the curves of the silver back that bears its name, then tell me you’ve not fallen.