Category: Serendipity

The term serendipity is an unplanned fortunate discovery and is often applied to inventions made by chance rather than intent.

Picasso described the artwork in 1943 to visiting photographer George Brassai, saying:



Guess how I made the bull’s head? One day, in a pile of objects all jumbled up together, I found an old bicycle seat right next to a rusty set of handlebars. In a flash, they joined together in my head. The idea of the Bull’s Head came to me before I had a chance to think. All I did was weld them together… [but] if you were only to see the bull’s head and not the bicycle seat and handlebars that form it, the sculpture would lose some of its impact.

Serendipity is a common occurrence throughout the history of product invention and scientific discovery. Serendipity is also seen as a potential design principle for online activities that would present a wide array of information and viewpoints, rather than just re-enforcing a user’s opinion’.

In 1754, English writer Horace Walpole, had been entranced by a Persian fairy tale about three princes from the Isle of Serendip (an old name for Sri Lanka) who possess superpowers of observation. In a letter to a friend, Walpole suggested that this tale contained a crucial idea about human genius: “As their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.” And he proposed a new word — “serendipity” — to describe this princely talent for detective work. At its birth, serendipity meant a skill rather than a random stroke of good fortune.

According to Oleg Koefoed & Stine Avlund of Cultura21 “Serendipity is not just trusting in chance. It is about exploring the world around you, trusting that you will find something else than (what) you were looking for.”

Chance alone does not help us create; it is what we make of this chance that matters.


I regard it as a particular phenomenon that can occur when making things out of a collection of gathered materials and that is having ‘just enough’ to complete the project, or happening upon just the right thing at the right moment in part of a project. This has happened to me many times and when I come across others mentioning it (if I remember) I put it here.


Wikipedia: Serendipity
Artcycling Guide
New York Times – How to Cultivate the Art of Serendipity