Neuvoir Fencing Mask
Research & Strategy / Product Design
Neuvoir stands for "new vision," which introduces innovation to the historic sport of fencing. It is a head and neck support designed for Olympic fencers that holistically protects the users, while increasing their visibility and performance.
The brief for this project was to choose a sport for the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics and develop innovative design solutions. Design a product that pushes the conceptual boundaries and serves as an inspiration for others in the market. I chose fencing because I knew absolutely nothing about fencing and wanted to challenge myself and test my role as a product designer.
I had the opportunity to go back to my interviewees and show them the concept and walk them through the decision making. They were thrilled to see the outcome and this positive feedback was incredibly satisfying and rewarding. Although Neuvoir is conceptual, all design decisions were backed up by solid research. It was essentially a case study that showed me the power of the product design and how the design process can be applied to any field.
1. Reoccurring injuries to the head & neck
After interviewing a number fencers and veteran coaches a number of common injuries. Concussions from tripping during combat, whiplash from lunges and blows to the head and blade hits the back of the head & neck.
2. Past Failed Mask = Death
An important event in the history of fencing was the tragedy of Russian fencing champion Vladamir Smirnoff. He was killed in 1982 from a blade going through his mesh mask. In order to prevent this from happening again the FIE (International Fencing Federation) beefed up the masks. A heavier, thicker, and stronger mesh construction.
In 2005 Athens Olympic Games the Polycarbonate fencing mask was introduced to increase visibility to the fencers and improve audience engagement. This was successful - allowing viewers to see the more emotion from fencers, however, it failed when the visor shattered.
The Olympics immediately banned the mask and any use of Polycarbonate materials. Its has been 34 years and fencers are still using the same mask with little to no innovation in fencing gear
3. Poor Visibility in Current Masks
When asking fencers about the visibility interviewee responded “You just play through, and try to get used to it.” Fencing is the 2nd Fastest sport in the Olympics behind the marksman’s bullet moving at speeds up to 120 mph. It is critical for the fencers to be able to see and react quickly while competing. The current mask design design was sacrificing visibility and performance for safety.