Take a long, hard look at the bike in the picture above. Have you spotted what’s wrong with it? We won’t give away the secret quite yet (head to the bottom for the answer), but we will tell you how it came about.
A few years back, an Italian designer realised that whenever he asked people to draw him a men’s bike from memory, they would nearly always come up with imaginative, outlandish creations that bore little resemblance to reality. But in a really good way.
So he decided to start collecting these flights of fancy and make them into lifelike 3D rendered pictures. So real in fact that at first glance most people would think they’re photographs.
“Back in 2009, I began pestering friends and random strangers,” says Gianluca Gemini, an assistant professor of product design at the University of Ferrara. “I would walk up to them with a pen and a sheet of paper asking that they immediately draw me a men’s bicycle, by heart. 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.”
Apparently this is actually a test that psychologists use to demonstrate how our brains sometimes trick us into thinking that we know something, even though we don’t.
Cognitive psychologist Rebecca Lawson has previously studied this phenomenon, and concluded that there is a solid reason why this happens: “It lets us efficiently interpret the world and make accurate, causal predictions without overburdening the limited processing and storage resources of our brain.”
Back to the bike sketching project: Gemini collected drawings of 376 bikes from participants from seven different countries, with the youngest being just three years old and the oldest being 88.
What’s fascinating is that there are some patterns that came out of this project: for example, women are far more likely to attach the chain to the front wheel, while men are most likely to overcomplicate the frame when they realise they are not drawing it correctly.
As can see from the pictures, some wonderfully far-fetched designs have been found through this project, from all-wheel-drive fat bikes through to disc-wheel equipped track bikes that sport a flag for extra style points. Check the gallery above for more pics.
Gemini mainly asked people who were non-designers to take part, and says this “confirmed my suspicion: everyone, regardless his age and job, can come up with extraordinary, wild, new and at times brilliant inventions.”
Oh, and in case you were wondering, the most unintelligible drawing was not by the youngest participant, says Gemini – it was made by a doctor. Head to the online project for lots more examples of wacky bicycles.
…and the answer to what’s missing from the bike mentioned at the beginning of this article? It’s the chainstays, totally absent.
Which is your favourite drawing? Could you draw a bike from memory? Let us know in the comments below.