Industrial designer Yves Béhar of fuseproject has created a range of spectacles that will be distributed free to children in Mexico. Update: this project is included in Dezeen Book of Ideas, which is on sale now for £12.
The VerBien ("see well") project is designed to overcome the stigma of wearing glasses and help the estimated half a million Mexican children with poor eyesight who enter the school system each year.
The glasses, produced by Mexican eyeglass manufacturer Augen, feature two-part plastic frames that are "almost unbreakable".
Here's some text from fuseproject:
SEE BETTER TO LEARN BETTER: YVES BÉHAR DESIGNS EYEWEAR FOR THE DEVELOPING WORLD
Yves Béhar and his fuseproject design team that created the One Laptop Per Child XO Laptop will launch a new program in partnership with the Mexican Government to design and give away free eyeglasses to disadvantaged children in the states of Mexico on a yearly basis.
The glasses have been designed specifically for children, with a particular attention to the design increasing adoption and persistence by hanging the perception of being a handicap and stigma, a very real issue in Mexico. “Similar to the OLPC philosophy, I want to design products that are suited to the children’s specific needs, life and environment,” explains Béhar. “The children receiving these glasses need frames that are durable, ergonomic and have key customization elements like shape and colour that make wearing the glasses fun and personal.” From advanced plastics that are almost unbreakable and the lightest engineering plastics in existence,to the two‐part design that provides both a unique assembly system that simplifies logistics and means that children can choose two‐colour frames, this eyewear is specifically re‐thought for children and their lives. The glasses have been designed to be fun and fashionable, to avoid the children having any stigmas about wearing glasses.
The proven research behind this give away program has shown that many students’ grades drop dramatically during scholastic years due in large part to problems with their vision. 11% of children in classrooms were not learning simply because they could not read blackboards or books. The proportion of children in need of lenses at or above 0.75 correction can be as high as 60‐70% in some schools in poorer states such as Morellos, Sonora and Chiappas. Half a million new children with the need for corrective eyeglasses enter the school system every year in Mexico. The aim of “See Better to Learn Better” is to provide a solution to children in families that cannot afford the high cost of an eye exam and eyewear.
Yves Béhar designed a flexible collection of glasses using a unique construction system which not only addresses the need for fit, durability and simple manufacturing, but also enables easy customization of the eyeglasses for individual users. The top and the bottom of the frame is split in two halves, allowing for easy assembly of the lenses inside the frame without using a traditional heating process (which is a costly option in the field). These frame options are achieved through high-tech manufacturing located in Mexico, where the nose bridge is sonically welded, creating a connection between the top and bottom frame, after the easy insertion of the lenses (the ends of the frames remain open at this stage) and then the glasses are closed with a simple hinge screw.
This new construction of the frames provides children with unique choices of numerous colour and shape configurations for the eyewear frames. The design consists of five different frame options in three different sizes (for face and age variations), in seven different colours, resulting in many unique and iconic combinations. Children are able to pick colourful, unique versions of the glasses, and hence make them a point of pride rather than a visible handicap. "When kids choose for themselves what fits and looks unique to them, it completely changes the stigma of wearing glasses, they receive custom glasses that they feel they have designed and are truly personal to them," says Yves Béhar. The glasses are distributed by local and visiting optometrists employed by the organisation; they travel to the school classrooms, test the children, and then place the order with the factory. A couple of weeks later, the personalised glasses are given to the children in the schools, free of charge.
The new eyeglass designs give children a tool for learning and self-expression, and promote the altruistic cause to others by bringing greater visibility to the program. Discussions to expand the program to other countries and regions in need are taking place.
The manufacturing partner in the program, Augen, is based in Mexico and is the 10th largest producer of lenses in the world. Augen and Yves Béhar/fuseproject partnered in building a unique custom-made product for this cause. In the last 12 months, brand new injection machines, assembly and logistics were put in place in Ensenada to produce the glasses locally. Mass production of the glasses with the first phase being given away in April 2010 is underway. This partnership resulted in a 50% reduction in manufacturing cost from currently imported frames, a feat that will improve the viability of the program and support its expansion.
The visual identity and messaging development is another reflection of the mission and the design of the glasses. A unique book within an eyeglass shape was designed to guide providers and children through the selection process, as well as a new logo/identify both visualising the relationship between vision and education. Lastly the key message of the brand is "See Better to Learn Better" (Ver Bien Para Aprender Mejor) further cementing the vision behind the program.
"This project follows our philosophy that design should continue to make a difference beyond the commercial world, and that non-profits do need emotional appeal and efficient solutions just as much as for-profit companies. Design can make a tremendous difference and we believe this is a responsibility that the industrial profession carries: to bring transformative solutions." Yves Béhar
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