Have you ever drawn a bicycle from memory? Do it: I dare you. Designer Gianluca Gimini has been asking people for years to take up a pen and, in two minutes, to scratch the contraption onto paper. Know what else? I bet yours will turn out wrong, like 75% of the people who accepted his assignment. We might have a perfect memory for the movement of riding a bicycle once we get comfortable on the seat, but most of our designs fall flat: they are, quite literally, unrideable.
As Gimini notes in his artist statement, “This hand-drawn bicycle is missing a very important part of its frame and it would immediately break if it actually existed and someone tried to ride it.”
Psychogists have studied this phenomenon of humans assuming they understand their world better than they do. Kevin O’Regan suggests that people save brain space by using our eyes and the world around us to create an “outside memory,” thus limiting the amount of information we need to memorize and recall at a moment’s notice. Leonid Rozenblit and Frank Keil pointed out that people consistently exaggerate their abilities to explain the way things work—for example, the science behind tornadoes, human anatomy, mirrors or, say, a bicycle— and when something can be cataloged by our eyes, the illusion of our knowledge is especially overestimated.
In fact, one psychologist, Rebecca Lawson, focused her study on 200 subjects’ (in)ability to draw a bicycle (or at least to identify the accurate illustration of a bicycle), and she confirmed every theory: even the cyclists among us might be clueless about the way a bicycle works.
As one of her participant’s noted: “I never knew how little I knew about things until I had to draw them.”
Gimini, however, finds our illusionary world marvelous. Out of the hundreds of drawings of faulty bicycles that he collected over 6 years, he created renderings of his favorites.
He says, “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.”
If only gravity wouldn’t cause these to collapse upon sitting! Perhaps, one day, we will ride these on the moon.