We're happy to make a statement via the clothes we wear, so as face masks become the "new normal" amid the coronavirus pandemic, why not express ourselves by wearing something other than the standard-issue surgical mask?
That, at least, is the thought on the minds of designers across the world, as they attempt to make a rather simple necessity more visually appealing.
Here are six rather unique designs for face masks we’ve come across in recent weeks.
The 'scary' one
Icelandic designer Yrurari’s knitted face coverings made headlines around the world because they’re pretty bizarre. While they’re not designed to particularly stop the virus in its tracks, they are created to be “scary” looking, and so prevent other people from coming too close. Yr Johannsdottir – the designer’s real name – has incorporated grotesque tongues and freaky fangs into her work.
She has no plans to mass produce the items, but rather keep them as a reminder of unusual times. Textile museums in the US and the Netherlands have already reportedly expressed interest in adding the masks to their collections.
More information is at www.yrurari.com
The spherical one
Berlin art collective Plastique Fantastique has come up with the iSphere, which is inspired by 1950s science-fiction comics and utopian movements of the 1960s.
“The iSphere is a funny and serious object that stimulates how to approach this exceptional situation,” founders Marco Canevacci and Yena Young said in a statement. They designed it when it became mandatory for people to keep their nose and mouth covered while using public transport in Germany's capital city.
While they aren’t selling the product, they are teaching people how to make one in a tutorial on their website. “[It] is an open-source project that everybody can produce, develop and improve. We taped two transparent hollow hemispheres together and cut a hole that fits our heads. The whole procedure took approximately 30 minutes and the costs for the material are around €24 [Dh95].”
The pair suggest also using add-ons such as a sun shade, mirrored layer, integrated microphone, a speaker, ventilator or even a snorkel.
More information is at www.plastiquefantastique.de/iSphere
The inflatable one
Three Italian design studios came together to come up with the Soffio, the Italian word for “blow”, which is a brightly coloured inflatable face shield that will allow people to socialise safely in restaurants and bars.
MARGstudio, Alessio Casciano Design and Angeletti Ruzza have conceived a shield made from PVC with a plastic visor and elastic head strap, and the shield will be positioned away from the face so that whoever is wearing it can still eat and drink. They say each mask could be manufactured for less than €1.
The fashionable one
While fashion houses across the world have begun producing their own versions of face masks, one of the more intriguing creations has come from New York designer Joe Doucet. He has designed a less “uncomfortable and awkward” face shield that will protect non-medical users and can be worn more like a pair of sunglasses.
The conceptual design is curved, with a transparent guard that fronts dark sunglass lenses and arms. He imagines the device would be made out of polycarbonate and manufactured in a similar way to sunglasses.
“How do we encourage mass adoption of an unwanted necessity?” the designer asked when posting his designs on social media. “To try and create a face shield that people would actually want to wear rather than simply put up with, Joe Doucet has designed a shield with integrated sunglass lenses and arms that make them more practical and feel less alien and intrusive on the wearer than a typical face shield would.
“It is hoped that improving the basic face shield design will encourage far greater uptake of its usage and help everyone adjust to the ‘new normal’ that awaits us.”
It was last reported that Doucet is searching for a brand or manufacturing partner to produce the shield. The company confirmed to The National that they hope to bring these to market by mid-summer.
More information is at www.joedoucet.com
The one with a face
Resting Risk Face is a company that prints users’ faces on masks so they can use facial recognition technology while wearing them.
The US brand was set up by artist Danielle Baskin, who lives in San Francisco. Inspiration struck after she realised people who use this kind of technology couldn’t unlock their phones when wearing any standard-issue mask. “My immediate thought was to put a face on the mask,” she told design website Dezeen.
“I was aware that it is a bit dystopian to sell a virus-related product, so I played into the dystopia,” she said, adding that the company describes itself as a maker of “trendy dystopian product”.
The company’s N95 TrueDepth compatible masks, which do unlock phones, are still in production, but as there’s a shortage of N95s, they’ve also started a fabric version as the company Maskalike. That one doesn’t unlock phones, but it does resemble your face and make you more recognisable to others. There’s a waiting list to get one, though.
More information is at www.faceidmasks.com
The one with an electrical charge
The Guardian G-Volt by LIGC Applications is a face mask that uses a graphene filtration system that can be sterilised and then safely reused.
The idea is that a low-level electrical charge will be passed through the mask when it’s plugged into a battery pack via a USB port, therefore repelling any particles trapped in the mask.
Watch this video explainer on the product here:
The company, which is based in New York, claims the system is 99 per cent effective against particles bigger than 0.3 micrometres and 80 per cent effective against anything smaller. Graphene is naturally antibacterial, so the mask will also protect users from bacteria, as well as air pollution.
Rather than being a reaction to the pandemic, the team has said it's actually been designing and testing the mask for the past five years. However, while it was last reported that the company was crowdfunding for the project online and plans to manufacture the items in Belgium, this campaign has since ended and there’s no word yet on a release date.
Need inspiration for your own designs? Watch our video on how regular people are getting creative using materials at home to make face masks: