Why did the penny-farthing have a large front wheel – Illustrating insight from data

Posted by Ray Poynter, 6 April 2015 ‘What is an insight?’ and ‘What’s the difference between a finding and an insight?’ are two questions I am often asked. Typical definitions of insight in the context of marketing and market research tend to include concepts like: Novel, does it tell you something you did not see before? Why/how, does it provide an explanation of how something works, not just a description of what it does? Capable of being actioned, in particular in ways that create impact. Generalisable; is it specific to the case under investigation, or can it be applied elsewhere? However, it may make it clearer if I share an example of something I think is an insight, all about Victorian bicycles. Why did a penny-farthing bicycle have such a big wheel? Penny-farthing bicycles (or high wheelers), like the one in the image, were very fashionable in countries such as UK and USA from the mid-1870s, for just under 20 years. These bicycles were hard to mount, tricky to ride, and resulted in many injuries (the term ‘header’ was used for people who fell forward off the bike). With all of these limitations, why did this this type of bicycle […]