Sunday, January 06, 2008

One size does not fit all: Designer examines Asian form

Making helmets fit the target population ...

"For those who look at China’s 1.3 billion people and see a potential market of 1.3 billion plastic bike helmets, plus other headgear and eyewear, Roger Ball has something worth taking a look at.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University professor and sportswear designer has developed what he said is the first detailed database of Chinese head shapes and sizes -- based on measurements and scans of 2,000 Chinese craniums. This, he said, has the potential to radically change how those products are designed for Asians.

Almost all of the world’s headgear is currently made based on Western models. But Western heads and Asian heads are different -- Asian heads have a much rounder shape, for example. That holds important implications not just for fit but for safety, said Ball, who presented his research project, called SizeChina.com, at the Business of Design Week conference, held December 10-15 in Hong Kong.

“You are going to have to throw out the Western products and start again if you want to sell to the Asian market,’’ said Ball.

As an example, Ball said Japanese snow boarders have told him Western helmets give them headaches because they don’t fit properly. There could also be health implications for the fight against Avian flu, if better data on Asian face shapes leads to hospital safety masks built for Asians and not for Westerners, he said.

One of Ball’s industry partners in the project, Hong Kong injection molder and sportswear maker Strategic Sports Ltd., sees opportunities and challenges.

The company has 5,000 people working at its mammoth factory campus in nearby Dongguan, Guangdong province, cranking out injection molded headgear for bikers, skiers and others.

All of its production is exported now, manufactured for brand-name firms that then market Strategic Sports’ stuff around the world as their own products. However, the company sees the potential to start designing and manufacturing products for the Chinese market, said Chairman Philip Cheng, speaking in an interview at his Hong Kong office.

"Our products for the Western world don’t fit in this market,’’ Cheng said. “The shape and size is very important for safety. Any gap in fit causes a bit of trouble.’’

Helmets are not widely worn in places like China and Vietnam, even though bikes and motor scooters are very common transportation."    (Continued via Plastics News)    [Usability Resources]

No Helmets In Asia - Usability, User Interface Design

No Helmets In Asia

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