As COVID-19 cases slammed New York City this spring, 3D modeling and printing company ZVerse pivoted to making face shields for medical workers. But as orders rolled in by the hundreds, then thousands, then millions, the company took a moment to deliberate: What would a face shield look like if they had time to redesign it?
ZVerse CEO John Carrington reached out to Scott Henderson, an industrial designer based in Brooklyn, in April. Henderson was tasked with coming up with a signature product with more thoughtful construction than the typical visor face shields already being produced. A new company, ZShield, was spun off and began rapidly producing shields via injection molding. The resulting ZShield Flex is the winner of our 2020 Innovation by Design awards in the Workplace category.
“We started to brainstorm what a better design might be, and were thinking let’s do something like Nike or Oakley, a slick-looking, good-looking face shield,” Henderson says. Rather than doctors, they wanted to focus on the needs of essential workers in the slowly reopening world, such as food service workers, educators, hair dressers, and nonemergency medical workers. “When we started thinking of food service, those workers have a lot of other stuff strapped to their head: A communications headset, a hat, a hairnet,” Henderson says.
The ZShield Flex is a sleek, lightweight face shield that clips around the user’s neck, making it ideal for workers who need to be covered up for long shifts. The large, plastic guard covers the face, but can be flipped down easily if the wearer needs to eat, take a phone call, or reach their face. To account for the safety of workers in busy kitchens, dining rooms, grocery stores and other congested, quick-moving environments, the neck loop is open at the back, and can quickly release if the shield gets caught in anything.
Henderson says the design process was rapid: He estimates he designed about 10 prototypes in 10 days, working day and night to turn it around for quick production. Ultimately, Henderson says, the shield is designed for a “new normal,” letting wearers feel protected but not confined. The ZShield started selling in May for $19, and so far ZVerse has sold 450,000 units.
See more honorees from the 2020 Innovation by Design Awards here.
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