How do you create cutting-edge impact protection solutions for sport, motorcycle and industrial use? Principal Designer Adam Turvey and Product Designer Tom Pearson explain how ideas become reality in the D3O lab.
How do you bridge the gap between insight and design?
Tom: We get the whole design team together at the beginning of every project. We go through as many ideas as possible and try to keep it as a safe space, where there are no stupid suggestions.
Adam: Feasibility is one of the most important stages for us, where we try to prove out our ideas. We’ve probably tried things in the past and maybe they haven’t worked, but if similar ideas come up again we try not to shut those down. There might be new tech, or new team members with different experiences. The point is to narrow the gap between insight and design.
How do you balance technical requirements with aesthetics?
Tom: You shouldn’t be sacrificing any technical features for aesthetics. The aesthetics should be there to emphasis the best qualities of the product you’re designing. A product that’s protective should look protective and shout that at you from the shelf.
Adam: The LP1s are a good example of where we’re governed by a Safety standard. Safety is a priority for us but people buy with their eyes. We want to make parts that people want to wear, rather than feeling like they have to. With the LP1s, we’ve tried to keep some of the distinctive things that we’re recognised for as well as make a part that customers are excited about buying.
In the design process, are you able to consult end-users?
Tom: We’re really lucky at D3O to have so many people in the office who ride motorbikes. Every time I do a limb or back protector, as well as consumer wear trials, I get the team to put them in their suits so they can give day-to-day feedback.
Adam: We’ve got some really close partners and brands that we’ve worked with for a long time, so we’ll send them prototypes. We also do our best to get as much access as possible to the end user, find out what they’re asking for and where we could improve. In the case of the LP1s, breathability was something that users were really talking about. That’s the direction we tried to push in, while maintaining the things they loved like comfort and flexibility.
What are the particular challenges of your job?
Tom: Working at speed is the biggest challenge. Our development timelines are very lean, with little room for error. You don’t often have a lot of time to make the big decisions so we have to make them count.
Adam: What we do is all about protecting people and solving that problem in isolation is probably not too difficult. The challenge is to maintain all the other areas that are important to make a functional product. If it doesn’t fit, it’s not comfortable, it’s not flexible enough, people won’t use it. That essentially means it won’t work.
What has been your most satisfying product for D3O?
Tom: The Chest Protector 1 (CP1) because the development was a challenge. Trying to keep it as low-profile as possible while maintaining technical performance. It looks like a relatively simple product, but there was actually a lot of development and refinement to make something that is so low-profile.
Adam: For me, the Crude Hands gloves we made for RPS, which included some new challenges for D3O. The product had to perform in a brutal environment so we went to oil rigs in the US to do wearer trials. We had to make a big step up in the way we were making parts to meet the brief, working closely with the manufacturers to get our materials onto a stitched glove. It was great that the customers were pushing to disrupt a market that had stood still for a long time.
How do you see impact protection products changing in the future?
Tom: The ultimate goal of body protection is for you to have a pad that you don’t even know is there. To have protection without sacrificing any performance or comfort.
Adam: There’s a lot of work now around geometries; manufacturing is moving on and people are pushing into new areas. Things that wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago could soon end up in mass produced products. Combining our smart materials with more complex geometries is really going to influence the future direction of impact protection.
This article was originally published in Issue 05 of Impact Magazine, which is available to download for free.