How Isis Schiffer made the foldable bike helmet

The EcoHelmet made international headlines and won numerous awards.

Bike sharing is already hugely popular in the United States and China, but as industrial designer Isis Schiffer pointed out during her Design Talk, riders often report feeling unsafe. This is because there’s no convenient way to carry a conventional helmet around when you’re making use of temporary bikes.

The Pratt Institute graduate’s solution to this problem clinched the prestigious James Dyson Award in 2016 among other international awards.

Called the EcoHelmet, Schiffer’s product is made of paper, is 100 per cent recyclable, and requires no assembly. Rather than carrying around a bulky, conventional helmet, riders are able to pull out the banana-shaped folded helmet, unfold it and get going.

In her Design Indaba Conference 2017 talk, Schiffer details her design process and motivations, from the value of the product’s honeycomb interior structure to the product’s durability and crash testing. This, she said, was the easy part even though she painstakingly made the first dozen prototypes by hand:

“In order to work as a helmet, the honeycomb material needs to be modified. Each cell needs to be perpendicular to your head so that you can fall in any direction and still be protected. You can’t get this stuff commercially; it doesn’t exist. So I had to make it,” she explained.

But then came the business end of the process, making the product viable for the market. At the time of her presentation in March this year, Schiffer was still in a testing phase, waiting for her factory made products to be as dependable as the ones she made by hand. Now, they’re looking to launch in late 2017.

Watch the Interview with Isis Shiffer