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Student-designed helmets are head and shoulders above others

Industrial designers add a little personality to bike helmets

Industrial design students like things that are both functional and beautiful.

Bike helmets don’t necessarily fit that description because, for the most part, they make people look kind of dorky. The unflattering element of helmets causes people not to wear them as much as they should (and has even prompted one Swedish company to tinker with invisible helmets).

Fortunately, a group of BYU industrial designers are on a mission to add a bit of style and beauty to the functionality of helmets. The students have been tasked by the folks running Trek’s Bontrager line to come up with some solutions to the ugly helmet dilemma.

Their goal is simple: create helmet concepts people actually want to wear.

“We want to create helmets that fit personalities,” said Laura Britton, a Rexburg, Idaho, native who believes most helmets are geared toward racers and look too aggressive. “A big reason why so many people don’t wear helmets is because they look goofy.”

Britton is one of 15 BYU juniors working this semester on the new helmet designs being presented to Trek. While some are focusing on the look, other students are focusing on the function.

Spencer Reynolds and a few colleagues considered the needs of a bike-riding police officer for their designs. Reynolds figured cops (and many other recreational bikers, for that matter) could use a few additional items such as lights and possibly a camera.

“We’re trying to reach out to those who don’t want the standard racing helmet,” said Reynolds, a junior from Ft. Walton Beach, Fla. “Not everyone wants the same thing.”

A sampling of students and their helmet designs:

  • Christian Poulsen created a police officer helmet (above) with design heavily influenced by heroes, such as Optimus Prime from the Transformer movies
  • Carter Zufelt’s “Maverick” helmet includes several options, like a pivoting visor and a lower, neck-covering portion that can be removed with the push of a button
  • Jordan Hosler had a female flower shop owner in mind when she reinvented an old style scooter helmet  by adding textured leather and a clear plastic brim to create her “Vita” helmet

The students presented the final versions of their unique helmet concepts to the Trek folks this month. And while no one “won” the competition, the opportunity to work with a real client has brought real-world experience that is helping prepare students to excel in their careers.

In recent years, students in the program have taken on a range of projects for a diverse group of clients. In the past few years, students have designed sink appliances for Whirlpool, lighting equipment for outdoor retailer Black Diamond, tablet concepts for Dell, weights/barbells for exercise equipment maker Everlast and futuristic speakers for tech company Logitech.

Students say any opportunity to work with professionals and get their feedback cannot be replicated in a regular classroom assignment.

“When you do catch their attention with something new and innovative, then that’s really telling,” Reynolds said. “Although they have the wealth of experience, we students haven’t been biased by designing helmets for several years. We do have a valuable perspective that we bring to the design table.”


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Do these actually work?
  4/21/2014 7:55 PM by Daniel

I like the idea of this project, but nothing in this article leads me to believe that any of these designs will actually function as helmets. Something strapped to the head does not qualify as a helmet. Has there been any testing done? Would having a camera have any chance of causing additional damage during a crash? I think these helmet ideas could go a long way as long as there is some testing to prove they work.

Sport a helmet/Save a brain
  4/16/2014 3:32 AM by A

As a Emergency Room nurse, I am regularly reminded of the devastating consequences of injuries that could have been prevented had a helmet been worn. To the point that I get anxiety each time I see someone without one. Imagine the effort and work that goes into stabilizing a trauma patient, then realizing that now with head trauma this person will never be the same. A traumatic brain injury affects both patient and loved ones so dramatically long-term. I just wanted to thank BYU for finding creative ways to encourage helmet use. The excuses not to wear them sound silly once you've seen what can happen, which is why I so appreciate that someone cares enough to put an emphasis into making them better. Thanks team- saving brains-- one at a time. :)

Buying Helmets
  4/11/2014 3:13 PM by Ashley

Are these going to be available to purchase? I am an avid cyclist and I really like the styles. I would love to get one!

no more strangling, please!
  4/8/2014 1:25 PM by Margaret

Your designs are all great - way to go!!

My biggest problem with wearing a bike helmet is that I feel strangled by the chin strap. Please, please please make one that I might wear without feeling that frantic - about to die - feeling!

To the naysayers
  4/4/2014 5:02 PM by Jason

I see some complaints below saying that these students have perpetuated bad attitudes towards bike safety by acknowledging that people don't wear helmets because they look bad, and trying to designing "better looking helmets." For industrial designers, the key to changing people's behavior isn't to deny current attitudes and pretend that they don't exist, but rather acknowledge them, embrace them, understand them, and then come up with a design that invites people to change. I think there are a lot of helmets here that successfully do that. They hit that grey area between the goofy alien-spacecraft racing helmets and the bulky, juvenile BMX helmets. As far as ventilation--sure, there can always be more, but keep in mind that these were designed for urban commutes, not grueling races. Perhaps it's hard for hardcore bikers to imagine a situation where fashion matters more than performance, but for a lot of young people in the city, that's what they look for. Just my two cents.

From a Student
  4/4/2014 11:59 AM by Bryce

Thanks for all the reviews, I was a part of this exploration and we were very fortunate to have Trek/Bontrager guide us through the process. This sort of design process is only the beginning step at places like Trek. The goal from here would be to have these new ideas influence their future design thinking. None of the above are final designs but concepts to spur future innovation. I do agree about the need for more ventilation and that is how I would like to take my concept further.

Let the market decide
  4/4/2014 10:11 AM by Steven

When these helmets go into production, ensure the local bike shops, Outdoors Unlimited, and the BYU bookstore sell them. I like the idea of making helmets stylish. A few more ideas: 1) include a generous amount of reflective material (reflective materials can be made to appear any color in daylight), 2) integrate a white front light and a red flashing rear light as part of the helmet. The head is the tallest and most visible part of a cyclist. A camera is also a good idea, but could be expensive. It would be great to be used like a dash cam as evidence in an accident. I agree with others that the "helmets are uncool" campaign is bad. Just say that these are the best looking or in style. I also agree that many of these provide little airflow. Saying that helmets are uncool is like saying non-smokers are uncool. It would be a dumb decision to not wear a helmet just like it would be a dumb decision to smoke. Both decisions can kill you. In 9/10 bicyclist fatalities, the bicyclist was not wearing a helmet.

  4/4/2014 9:07 AM by Nathaniel

Some things to consider (that may or may not have been)

1. disguised helmets? helmets that look like hipster hats and have colors too carefully designed to tell.

2. where will my action camera go? If you REALLY want to take off your company you'll cater towards concealing action cameras in a non schaulent/ safe way. and not just gopro,

3. What would look stylish would be different for different sports and along with that would require different infrastructure for protecting the individual.

a- biking, aerodynamicis

b- bungee jumpingthe type of impact when a cord snaps is different than a bike/ can you imcorporate a built in parachute that is tiny enough to have a little lift?

c- rock climbing.. rock specific to what type of rocks a climber most likely could hit..

d- The 'Future" of helmets... i think this might be the most important but if you could create a helmet that amplifies phone signals, wifi, bluetooth, and integrates different hands free gadgets as well.. that might be a big deal.. ALONG with that.. consider what would be the best helmet for someone with a jet pack.. technology doesnt have to go very far to make it public its just the safety that is the main concern.

  4/3/2014 7:27 PM by Mason

well saying that helmets are dorky just perpetuates it and keeps people from wearing them still. I don't like that this focuses so much on that. Also, sure they are trying to make helmets that look good (yellow eyepiece thing?) but what about the helmets ability to actually protect the head and brain? I would rather see improvements there and skip out on the large black eye shield thing

Bad design
  4/3/2014 10:34 AM by David

I also agree with Daniel, it would be too hot with no good airflow. While some of the designs do appear innovative, they are still not very conventional.

Bad design
  4/3/2014 8:04 AM by Daniel

These students must not be bikers. There looks to be minimal airflow through these helmets (hot and uncomfortable).

Swedish neck helmets.
  4/2/2014 11:18 PM by Daniel

I saw this awhile ago, and don't know if the idea is actually reality or just some odd youtube gag but these Swedish "invisible helmets" are pretty incredible if they do function as the video suggests. I'd guess that the students working on this project have already seen this but if not here is a link, it may provoke further design ideas.

Special Helmets for Special People
  4/2/2014 10:07 PM by Micah

I have a boy with a cochlear device. There are internal components implanted under the skin just above the ear. A processor hooks over the ear, and a cable attaches to the outside of the skull via a magnet. I have been wanting to invent a special type of helmet, that wouldn't interfere with the cochlear device while at the same time allowing for head protection. If the magnet part comes of or is pressed on too hard, the device does not function well which means my boy will not hear the sounds around him as he rides. Please take a look at making a helmet for people with cochlear implants.

  4/2/2014 5:28 PM by Daniel

I don't think they'll be able to top this:

  4/2/2014 10:08 AM by Quinton

I want the optimus prime helmet! that is such a sweet helmet.

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Industrial design student Jordan Hosler works on her bike helmet design sketches.

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Students in the industrial design program designed more attractive bike helmets for Trek.

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Industrial design students discuss concepts for their helmet designs.

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Carter Zufelt's helmet.

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Jordon Hosler's "Vita" helmet.

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Bryce Twede's design.

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Helmet designs from Spencer Reynolds and Scott Schaelling.

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Designs created by Shelby Burton and Steve Puertas.
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