The aesthetics of disability

"Form follows function" said architect Louis Sullivan in 1896. And typically indeed, the aesthetics of an object are secondary to its function. However there are instances where the look of an object is essential to its use. These exceptions are not simply decorations, they relate to the desirability of designed objects.
For example, in this assignment for DES 500, I was tasked with designing a prosthesis. My professors explained that some users will avoid using their prosthetics if they feel they single them out as handicapped people. They gave examples of "solutions" which only further stigmatized those differently abled people. There is often a cultural or contextual visual language that must be respected to fit in appropriately. As designers, we must follow those rules if the solutions we suggest are going to be used.

Table of contents

Introduction : the aesthetics of footballOpportunity : prescription eyewear for footballSolution : Diviser football visorBranding : Diviser logo system

Introduction : The aesthetics of football

In sports, teams develop their brand with, obviously, logos, uniforms, and other visual elements. This the team brand extends to the fan culture and even style of play. Different teams’ visual language and cultural aesthetic all exist within an overarching theme for the whole sport.
Specifically in football, team brands are created to intimidate. Equipment is designed primarily for protection and a competitive edge, of course. But its visual function is also important: reinforcing the team brand and intimidating. This is done, for example, with pads to emphasize players’ size, bold uniforms to reflect innovative gameplay, and new ways to celebrate on the field.

Mood board

Darnell Dockett (Arizona Cardinals) always has a custom facemask Image source
Carolina Panthers' Greg Hardy sporting facepaint in pre-game Image source
Nike Pro Combat gloves for Michigan State University flash the team logo Image source
Odell Beckham Jr. (with New York Giants) showing off Jared Leto's Joker themed gloves Image source

Opportunity : prescription eyewear

One piece of equipment that has not yet been designed for the aesthetics of football is prescription eyewear. There are alternative solutions like contact lenses or laser eye surgery. But these are not always accessible for young players. Contacts can slip under the eyelid or fall out and get lost, causing more danger.
Liberty Sport Rec Specs Helmet Spex XL: "The most advanced helmet sport solution." Image Source
Alternatively, goggles designed to be worn under helmets do exist. Liberty sport, Hilco, Progear and Rec Specs all manufacture frames for sports, like pictured above. Though they are available in a variety of colours, they do not follow the aesthetics of football: there is nothing intimidating about them.
Though these solutions are viable, they are not desirable because they look disconnected from the rest of the sport. The marketing of these goggles is also severely lacking. Sellers can be out of touch with the aesthetics of the sport.
Therefore, there is an opportunity for prescription eyewear in football. This project’s objective was to create a prosthetic that would understand the needs of the sport and its players. The final product should meet equipment’s primary role in protection and maintaining the highest standards of competitive edge. The secondary role of gear, to reinforce brand, is of equal importance to the success of the proposal. It needs to destigmatize eyesight disabilities in football players and become integrated into the aesthetics of the whole sport and individual team.

Solution : Diviser football eyewear

Incorporation of SportRX prescription snow goggle insert

DIVISER is made to adapt an existing technology for football: the SportRX prescription snow goggle insert (shown below). Diviser is in fact a polycarbonate frame to house the existing lenses, which are originally designed for ski goggles. The lenses are held in place by plastic springs that hook into silicone pads behind the visor.

Flex on contact

Diviser sits closer to the player’s face than an object could normally safely be. The visor must protect during contact, not pose a risk. A helmet does so by flexing and padding and the visor must do similarly. This is done using springs incorportated into the visor joinery to the facemask clips (ABS). They act in two phases: the first is softer, for comfort and performance, and the second is stiffer, for safety.

Silicone padding

The silicone elements which house the plastic lense also act as padding. They are on the cheekbones and middle of the forehead to protect the player's face. Its shapes are inspired by stormtroopers.


Fog is often the biggest issue with eyewear for sport. When a player’s cheeks or forehead sweat, moisture accumulates on the lens and obstructs vision. Even breath can condensate.
To prevent fog, both design and habit measure must be taken. Firstly, the shape of the face shield must allow breath to escape. Vents in the visor can encourage airflow for the inevitable moisture. Secondly, Diviser sits farther from the face than glasses or prescription goggles. Thirdly, an anti-fog coating will increase visibility, however these finishes often need to be reapplied as part of regular care. Despite all these design measures, a skull cap or bandana is still recommended as the best prevention against fog.

Compatibility with concussion protocols

Canadian rules for tackle football currently restrict the use of eyewear: only clear visors are allowed. This rule exists so trainers can always see a player’s eyes in case they may be concussed. (Section 11, Article 2.c.) Existing goggles like the ones pictured above can hinder the assessment.
The opacity of the visor is essential to Diviser's aesthetic and its success in the sport of football. It also gives a competitive advantage.
Thanks to new facemask clips, however, eyewear affixed to the helmet is easier to remove than glasses. Riddell, the long-time leader in football helmets, now uses a quick-release fastener to remove facemasks. The operation can be done in seconds with only four buttons and the tip of a pen. The rulebooks should be updated to be inclusive to players who need a corrective lens but can’t wear contacts.


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