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DE-STIGMATIZING MEDICAL FACE MASKS


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DE-STIGMATIZING MEDICAL FACE MASKS


 

THE RE-IMAGINED PEDIATRIC FACE MASK

Fantastic Faces is a product designed to empower pediatric patients in critical conditions. Born from the MIT-RISD Product Design and Development collaborative studio, it reimagines the stigmatizing experience of wearing a medical face mask. It transforms the object that singles out sickness into a vehicle for self expression and hope.
 

 

The Idea

Fantastic Faces is a coloring book designed to empower pediatric patients. Each page of Fantastic Faces tears out and transforms into a protective face mask. It seeks to transform the stigmatizing appearance of the mask and converting it into an opportunity for fun and self expression.

By flipping the stigmatizing image of the protective mask, Fantastic Faces creates a positive emotional experience in order to improve compliance in mask use, therefore reducing the risk of the most common complications; due to a suppressed immune system a simple cold can become fatal.

Fantastic Faces was inspired by my older sister, who at age 6 suffered of cancer. After a year and a half of surgeries and chemotherapy treatments, she was out of risk. My mother tells me my sister used to say she wasn't sick, she just had cancer. I wanted to create a product that would empower all children to feel the same way. To battle their condition and feel they couldn't be defeated; attitude is is one of the crucial elements in any recovery.
 

The Need

During times where their immune systems are suppressed, pediatric patients and their visitors must wear protective masks as a preventative measure. The mask's function is to trap pathogens and other particles that may enter and affect the patient's' system.

However, masks commercially available for small children don't succeed at filtering the air around them. They are flat masks made out of soft material which don't create a tight seal around children's faces. Air flows through the sides of these masks, leaving them exposed when their immune system is most at risk.

Besides the false sense of protection these masks give, they stigmatize the experience these kids and their families are going through. Masks have become objects that signal out illness outside of the hospital context. People read "I'm keeping something dangerous from you" instead of "I'm protecting myself" which creates difficult situations for people who are already fragile. It isn't hard to imagine that children and even their parents might not want to draw attention to themselves by wearing masks, specially if they're not fulfilling their function properly.
 

 


In Fantastic Faces each page is a is a flat-pack mask you can draw on. By simply tearing out the cut out shape and pulling on the integrated straps, a drawing becomes a form-fitting protective face mask. Fantastic Faces comes in a clamshell style folder with non-toxic markers and illustrated prompts designed by illustrators Esmé Shapiro and Sarah Green to inspire children (and adults) to create their own masterpieces. 
 

 

THE THREE CHALLENGES

EFFECTIVENESS

  • SIZE + FIT = SEAL
    From a flat surface to a form-fitting mask

  • CERTIFIED NON-WOVEN FILTERING MATERIAL
    Reaching maximum filtration at 99% BFE/PFE while structuring the mask

  • REIMAGINED USER EXPERIENCE = IMPROVED COMPLIANCE
    From a compulsory measure to a fun and voluntary choice

COMFORT

  • TOP-QUALITY MATERIALS
    Soft Spunbond Polypropylene inner and outer layers for reduced friction

  • INCREASED BREATHABILITY
    Materias with lower air resistance that alleviate claustrophobic sensation

  • REDUCED IN-MASK TEMPERATURE AND CONDENSATION
    Form-fitting design that tackles the two main causes of discomfort
     

STIGMA

  • COLORING BOOK FORM
    Decontextualizes the protective mask making it more friendly and appealing

  • CHANGE IN ROUTINE
    Gives the child a positive and entertaining moment to prepare for/ease the distressful routine hospital visit.

  • A DRAWING FOR A MASK
    Strips mask of first impression "rejection" response from people outside the hospital context.
     

 

"once someone drew dinosaur teeth on my son's mask. my son loved it. he would growl behind the 'teeth'... anything to brighten up the misery.

- Parent of bone cancer pediatric patient

 
 

Fantastic Faces was developed by our multidisciplinary team of seven friends from MIT and I, from RISD in Product Design and Development, a user-centered design course taught in MIT's Sloan School of Management. After 15 weeks of intense R&D, hundreds of models, concepts, acute refining through iteration, and a de Florez MIT MechE Award later Fantastic Faces was born.

To the date, we keep working to get Fantastic Faces to market. Our mask's unique features have been filed for patent in the US in 2014, and we're ready to take our R&D further. If you have any leads or are interested in our project please contact me at dthornbe@alumni.risd.edu or Jeff Mekler at jmekler@mit.edu.