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You Can’t Draw A Bike, And We Can Prove It

This artist made 3-D renderings of people’s pathetic attempts to visualize a bicycle and came up with some ridiculous results.

If you’re like most people, you can’t draw a bike from memory. It’s actually a classic psychological test: Researchers say the inability to draw a simple bicycle is an example of how people overestimate our ability to explain how things work.

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For Italy-based designer Gianluca Gimini, a stack of attempted bike drawings was also a source of inspiration. Gimini started asking friends and random strangers to draw bikes in 2009. After amassing a huge collection over the last seven years–impressed by the accidental creativity of the results–he decided to turn some of the sketches into realistic renderings.

He says he was awed by the diversity of typologies non-designers created in their sketches. “It’s a feeling you get from looking at the whole collection,” he says. “A single drawing might just look ‘wrong,’ but all together they are rather perceived as incredibly imaginative, and this, in general, is what I think makes crowdsourced projects so fascinating.”

Most of the bikes wouldn’t actually work in real life. “Others would function, but they’d turn out to be totally impractical due to their proportions, or you would not be able to steer them, with the frames or chain connected to the front wheel,” he says. “Others would break under the weight of the first person who tried to ride them.” Only a couple, he says, might actually be rideable.

If Gimini has an opportunity to exhibit the renderings, he plans to try making some of the bikes. “I discussed all the designs with a bike manufacturer, and if I found a sponsor we would be ready to start making them today,” he says. “Clearly they would be for exhibit purposes only.”

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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