In 2009, Italian/American designer Gianluca Gimini walked up to random strangers and friends and asked them to draw a bicycle from heart. Sounds easy, right? After all, everybody has ridden bicycles, most from a very young age. It is impossible to not remember how a bicycle looks like. Well then, go grab a pencil and try it.
“Soon I found out that when confronted with this odd request most people have a very hard time remembering exactly how a bike is made,” says Gianluca Gimini.
Of the 376 people who responded to his interview, only 25 percent managed to make an accurate sketch. Some did get close, but most ended up drawing something that was pretty far off from a regular men’s bicycle. Gimini then took the most impractical designs and digitally rendered them, for his project titled “Velocipedia”.
Gimini’s participants came from across seven different nationalities. The youngest one is aged at 3, and the oldest at 88. Nearly 90% of drawings in which the chain is attached to the front wheel (or both to the front and the rear) were made by females. On the other hand, while men generally tend to place the chain correctly, they are more keen to over-complicate the frame when they realize they are not drawing it correctly. The most unintelligible drawing was made by a doctor.
“There is an incredible diversity of new typologies emerging from these crowd-sourced and technically error-driven drawings. A single designer could not invent so many new bike designs in 100 lifetimes and this is why I look at this collection in such awe,” said Gimini.
The idea started in a bar in Bologna, Italy, during a conversation with a friend. Gimini was recounting a childhood memory about a classmate who was asked to draw a bicycle, on the spot, in front of the entire class. He couldn’t, which seemed laughable. Both Gimini and his friend agreed that everyone knows how a bike is made, but when his friend tried to draw one on a napkin, he failed.
Later Gimini learned that he was not the first one to conduct this experiment. A psychologist from the University of Liverpool once challenged people to draw a bicycle from memory to demonstrate how our brain sometimes tricks us into thinking we know something even though we don’t.
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