Design with the Brain in Mind

Thank you to the Harvard Medical School for a fascinating day of presentations from world class researchers and clinicians in the area of sports concussions!


Here at tool we constantly strive to apply our proven techniques and processes to designing and engineering sports products that both appeal to consumers and protect them.  Indeed, both appeal and effectiveness determine whether anyone will use a product.  For example, in 2009 Mets third baseman David Wright wore a new extra-protective helmet after sustaining a major concussion.  While it could withstand the force of a 100 mph pitch, its large size gave the impression of a child wearing a helmet that was too big.  His peers would not wear the safer helmet because of the way it looked.  It required a helmet redesign, and a mandate from Major League Baseball, before all players wore the safer Rawlings S100 helmet.


Balancing appeal and effectiveness is no small challenge.  One way in which we have always pleased our clients is by providing them with products that are aesthetically pleasing, capable of eliciting a sense of lifestyle.  Our helmet designs, which are the choice of many Olympic snowboarders, are a great example of that.


However, one way in which we look to complement our good work in helmet and protective equipment design and engineering is by immersing ourselves in the fascinating and rapidly evolving scientific literature on the brain and brain health.  For example, we recently attended an amazing conference at Harvard University featuring a world-class panel of researchers and clinicians studying brain injuries.  What we learned about the types of forces that cause brain injuries, the evidence-based approaches to prevention that demonstrated the most promise, and the prevalence within the different sports will greatly influence our thinking going forward.


Of course, there is a challenge of designing products based on emerging science; it can be like trying to hit a moving target.  But in some sense, balancing appeal and effectiveness has always been a challenge in product design.  We just know how high the stakes are in brain health now more than ever, and we our committing ourselves at tool to utilize scientific research as another source of design and engineering inspiration.