Creative Roundtable: La Dolce Vespa

Creative Roundtable-La Dolce VespaThe scooter rolls out its USA site

Frequently cited as the epitome of Italian design, the Vespa scooter was originally manufactured to provide affordable transportation for the Italian people after World War II. It ultimately became an iconic vehicle representing style, freedom and fun the world over.

Fans of the classic 1953 film Roman Holiday will recall Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck zooming about Rome on a Vespa. An oh-so romantic scene.

Meanwhile, some may remember the less cool 2006 incident in which Sopranos star James Gandolfini was clipped by a taxi while riding his Vespa in New York City and left lying in the street dazed and confused. An oh-so embarrassing slice of real life.

Gandolfini - or anyone else for that matter - in the market for a new Vespa (and Gandolfini, who admitted being at fault for his mishap, might be best off relying on the bus or subway to get around), can now visit for all things Vespa.

Designed by the New York and London offices of Last Exit for Vespa importer Piaggio Group Americas Inc., the site is geared toward both potential Vespa riders and established ones, providing features, including a Google Maps-based Community Rides application that allows riders to post their favorite routes, a Vespanomics area that features a Vespa vs. Auto mpg fuel-savings calculator, and an interactive History & Heritage section.

"What we're trying to impart here is not only is Vespa a fantastically iconic brand, but the utility of a Vespa," says Nuri Djavit, partner and chief creative officer of Last Exit and the owner of a Vespa gts 250.

Does the site succeed? omma sought the opinions of two digital creatives - Kate Cohen of tbwa/Chiat/Day and Jason Lucas of Atmosphere bbdo - as well as Vespa rider Claire Connors. Special-projects editor at Shape magazine, Connors rides her vintage 1976 Vespa Primavera to work and is a member of a New York City Vespa club for women called Donne Veloci, which means "fast women" in Italian.

Vroom, vroom.

Creative Roundtable: La Dolce VespaOMMA: Claire, as a Vespa rider, what do you think of the site?
Connors: I know this Web site. I've been here quite a few times. There are two schools of scooter riders: the vintage and the new. The new scooter riders would be the ones that would be more interested in this, but there are elements of this Web site that are attractive to the vintage scooter rider like me.

OMMA: Like what?
Connors: The Community Rides section. If you type in your zip code, you see rides in your area. Now what would also be great for me is if you could go to the Community Rides area and find out where you can rent scooters in an area where you're going on vacation, and then you could find out what rides would be good there. For example, I want to go to Mexico City, and I would imagine that I would be able to rent a scooter there.
Cohen: I also think the Community Rides section is great for people who don't have Vespas because you meet the Vespa community there and see how people feel like they're part of a club like mini Cooper and Harley-Davidson drivers do.

OMMA: Did you find the History & Heritage part of the site interesting?
Lucas: Not so much. I would approach that area from the standpoint of a design lover. I want to learn more about the design details of the Vespa.
Cohen: From a usability perspective, it could be a little bit more obvious in terms of which decade you're in and how to continue to navigate throughout the decades. But I thought it was really interesting.

OMMA: Did you find the Vespanomics section touting the scooter's fuel efficiency a smart inclusion?
Cohen: Yes, but it could be a lot more engaging. Right now, you click and you see the average of two gas mileages between the Vespa and an auto. It would be nice if you could actually input the miles you drive on a daily basis and get something back that's personalized.
Lucas: Having more ways for people to customize content for their own personal usage is definitely the way to go.

Creative Roundtable: La Dolce VespaOMMA: What do you think of the look and design of the site?
Lucas: I like it. I do think it represents the brand pretty well, especially when I see some of the photography. It has that cleanliness that has. If I let this home-page rotation go through, though, there is an illustration that comes up and seems a little out of place.

OMMA: Are you talking about the illustration of Vespa riders made out of what appears to be cut paper?
Lucas: Yeah, that struck me as kind of off. There's this really nice photograph that comes up in the home-page rotation. It's got the red scooter and the gray helmet on a blue background. That's perfect. That's what I think Vespa is. The image looks like Design Within Reach or the MoMA store, really high-end design. But I think the handmade paper illustration isn't right. I can't imagine why that's there.
Cohen: The paper illustration feels kind of analog. That aesthetic is interesting, but it doesn't really seem to me like it's entirely paying off on the Vespa brand and what Vespa stands for.

OMMA: How does this site work for you in terms of navigability?
Cohen: It's good, but I would adjust some of the nomenclature and make it feel a little bit more fun and more in line with the Vespa brand. On the mini Cooper site, I think they use the word "Play" instead of "Community and Downloads," and on the Harley-Davidson site, they use phrases like "Join the Family." That makes these sites feel more personal.

OMMA: What do you think overall?
Cohen: It's really easy to navigate, and they've done a nice job of organizing
the content into bite-sized chunks so people can quickly get through the site and get a sense of why you might want a Vespa. But I think that Vespas are special vehicles like mini Coopers and Harley-Davidsons, and I don't think that the sense of community is really bubbling up through the site as much as it could.
Lucas: It certainly gets you where you need to go and hands you the information they want you to see. It's fairly successful. But they could really dig deeper and make the community area work harder and really explore the design of the Vespa.
Connors: I like the community. I like the downloads. I thought the Where, Why and How section was cute and designed nicely [with the cut paper illustration]. I don't care about the accessories and the merchandise area - my only accessory is my beat-up motorcycle jacket. But there definitely is stuff for me on the site, and I think they did a nice job.

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