The Invention and the Evolution of the Bicycle: A Design Thinking Exercise


This case examines the invention and the evolution of the design of the bicycle. The bicycle is a great example of design for everyday objects and its shape has been characterized by a complex evolution that is still subject to change and proposals of new design alternatives. First, the invention of the bicycle and the evolution of its design are presented by following a socio-technical perspective showing how the design of the bicycle has been shaped by the interplay between the evolution of the available technologies and the emergence of new needs by specific social groups in given times and society. Students are then asked to complete a design thinking exercise by inspecting and disassembling an actual bicycle. Working in teams, students are required to select a specific component and then brainstorm to conduct two exercises: suggest design improvements and identify the impact of those improvements on the actual or prospective users and the complex socio-technical ecosystem of the artifact.

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