The first tricycle was invented by Stephen Farffler, a German watchmaker, in 1655. His version was more purposeful than the red Radio Flyer trike that we all know and love today. Rather than a toy, his invention was a self-propelled wheelchair.
The tricycle’s origin story demonstrates three fundamental principles of design: 1) three is a magical number, 2) function should precede whimsy, and 3) smart design can create opportunity beyond basic function and purpose.
Three is a magical number.
Three is the smallest number from which we can establish a pattern. Threes create short, memorable patterns that exist in nearly all disciplines. We have Newton’s three laws of motion. We have musical triads. We have the narrative trifecta (time, place, action) and the three-act structure (beginning, middle, end). Indeed, everywhere we look, in all spheres of our existence from natural to constructed, the rule of 3 rules us.
Function should precede whimsy.
The tricycle shows us how the rule of three creates both stability and directional versatility. Farffler’s invention allowed the paraplegic to move independently. The first tricycle placed a platform between two wheels, much like our modern-day wheelchair, but then had a third wheel in the front with a crank that allowed the user to both propel and steer the chair. The invention of the tricycle first solved a problem – a need for mobility and independence.
Smart design creates opportunity beyond basic function and purpose.
When Farffler designed his tricycle wheelchair, the bicycle had not even been invented yet. Yet we now, nearly 400 years later, are using his original design in all sorts of different ways. Not only did his invention provide inspiration for the trike that our children today peddle gleefully down driveways, it is also the ancestor of the three-wheeled racing wheelchair that adaptive athletes use to complete marathons.
The Farffler Effect
Good design solves problems AND opens doors for innovation. Whether you’re building a new product, developing a new service, or establishing an entirely new brand – consider how the magical rule of three can contribute to your overall success. Build for primary function first. Then imagine how your basic design can be reconceptualized and renewed in creative ways that address future opportunities.
Here at Hayman Studio, we rely on the rule of three too. We pull from three areas of expertise: photography, video and design. Want to see how the power of three can help your business? Give Ryan a call 7178438338 or email email@example.com.
Great find & article – most inventive use for the Studio. I think (the late) Ron Webb would’ve liked this post.
Kudos, man –