….Even if one of the heads are made out of styrofoam!

With respect to the previous blogs that I have written I have not focused on the real fun and games I had while creating a way to attach the mask to my face using some newly designed straps, aiming for comfort and ease of use, being able to adjust, comfort and simplicity.

I come into contact with many consumer products designs throughout my day. The example I use every single morning when I wake up and make my morning tea is how to fill up my coffee maker (yes I make tea in a coffee maker that only is ever used to make tea) and there is little lip on the top edge of the carafe. So, wouldn’t you think that someone in the carafe design department asked to try it out before they went on to make the entire product?

 I would have, but then again that would be me. So I will tell you that this coffee perculator has a lip around the carafe with a  plastic pouring spout shape except it is designed in such a way that pouring water at any speed has no effect on its ability to direct most of it in a completely random direction all over the kitchen counter. Every single day… the reason I just went off on my pet peeve is that the entire design, which looks great was compromised by a tiny piece of plastic that was the weakest link in the whole product design and while it is a good product it could have been stellar, except it isn’t because of this teeny weeny piece of plastic.

Soooo, phew, that was a long point to make but this is why I look at our mask as a whole, and while the facepiece, body, function, design of the plastic and electronics are all great I have to look at the design in a “holistic” way and how the straps or methods to affix the mask to ones face may look and feel, and what it might feel over hours of continuous use.

In my previous lives in development of products, I have seen great apps that were designed by engineers (these apps would work fantastically well, always provide the right answer and deliver what was necessary but the user interface was, well…lacking. Some apps still only used command-line interfaces, as a throwback to the 70’s or 80’s some engineers don’t see that as a problem). Other apps look amazing, designed by….designers…the interface is beautiful, but the software might be slow and cumbersome. The priority in these apps would have been the user interface. The really successful apps were somewhere in between. Someone took the app and looked at it as big-picture view and guided the engineers and designers to work together.

Only if one takes the design of the “whole” can the product work as well as it could possibly be.

So, with this in mind, i began with bits of scrap paper, cutting, gluing at first, until I got fed up gluing my fingers to the table or other pieces of paper. That’s when I re-discovered duct-tape which is a truly brilliant tool if you ever find yourself in a bind when you are designing straps for a mask.

There was more to merely measuring and cutting strips of paper. Combining duct-taped strips with other strips until I had a reasonable strap-and-headgear looking thing partly stuck to my hair and other parts dangling off my ears. I then made countless trips from the attic to the upstairs bathroom to gaze in the mirror to inspect my new art-piece. A mass of paper and duck-tape, that by this time was molecularly-bonding to my hair, and what it might look like. There had to be a better way to view the straps without loosing any more hair or trips to the loo.

Enter our newest member of the team: “Head” as he is affectionately called is v2.0 of my effort to purchase a Styrofoam “Head” to use to stick stuff on him and less on me.

My first effort was a low cost Head from Amazon (the go-to-place for literally everything that the human race can sell to each other) I had purchased a seemingly normal sized head, which promptly arrived days later on our doorstep.

I opened the box and found that Head v1.0 was the size of a child’s head which would not work for our present needs. The other downside to Head v1.0 was that it didn’t even have ears? Clearly, this was not a good start at all.

I located a better looking head at a local “Michaels” store that very afternoon and I was like a man possessed to drive the 6miles to pick it up so that I could carry on with the frantic cutting and design energy. Partly out of self preservation (for the last vestiges of grey hair I have left growing on top of my head) and partly because I just needed a better anatomically correct Head, with ears!!

Since Saturday, it’s been a frenzy of activity and paper cutting, duct-taping and attempts to see how comfortable and easy it would be to wear such a headgear that I could easily place on Head 2.0, it was much easier to get an idea what the straps would look like from all angles and how they would all fit together.

In the final analysis, I would like to see that the adjustable straps are not causing any irritation to the ears or any part of the head – they can also be easily swapped out for a clean set if during a particularly busy or active shift the user might sweat a lot. There should be no excuse to change a strap the same way that we can change a t-shirt.

I want to make these straps interchangeable and customizable so that anyone can pick a look from a range of designers or materials.

Onward… I have another hour’s worth of cutting and sticking and tweaking and gluing before tea-time…later!

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