The Inventors: CLOSCA
September 17th, 2015
An empathetic inventor never truly completes a product. The process is ongoing: they’ll continue to iterate, test, gather feedback, and pivot as needed. In our opinion, it’s the most exciting aspect of invention, because it’s rooted in a core passion to make things better. Every detail is intentional – all byproducts of test results, feedback, and consequent reiterating. By relentlessly challenging the expected, one is able to create products that are better suited for modern life.
The story of the CLOSCA Design bike helmet starts with Carlos Ferrando, and how he couldn’t convince his wife to wear a helmet around their home city of Valencia, Spain. “She would always say that normal helmets were too ugly to bike to work in,” he explained. “And after she parks her bike, what does she do with the helmet?” A clunky helmet didn’t make sense for her on-the-go lifestyle – and Carlos, an industrial engineer by trade – saw an opening for improvement.
Which brings us to CLOSCA’s fuga, a collapsible bike helmet that reduces its volume by 50% when folded. The final product fits into a work bag and is as protective as any traditional helmet, with an aesthetic that’s designed to make people want to wear a helmet, rather than feel like they have to. And the company has succeeded: 43% of those who purchased the previous fuga model were buying their first-ever helmet. (It’s no wonder that Carlos and his team scored a coveted Red Dot Award this past winter, in the product design category.)
We got on the phone with Carlos to learn more about the process that went into inventing and developing a product that has already revolutionized the daily routine of thousands around the world.
“I’m an industrial engineer, but also a marketing specialist – and I love design. I also love the bicycle as a means of transportation, but I see it as more than that. I see it as a beautiful product.
“So I knew I wanted to work in the bicycle market, though it turned out that’s an expensive market to enter. In the case of a product like the bike helmet, it’s not just about producing the product – there’s also the safety certification, and developing and creating pieces for every size. And then there’s the challenge of actually convincing people to wear a helmet. In Boston, for example, approximately 20% of cyclists wear helmets, and in San Francisco it’s about 60%. But here in Spain, it’s only 10 to 12%. So our big task is developing a helmet that people like to wear. It’s quite complicated and, for a start-up, quite difficult to pull off."
So CLOSCA enlisted the creative genius of industrial design firm CuldeSac to help with the helmet’s design, and the experts from the Polytechnic University of Valencia and Biomechanics Institute of Valencia to advise on the technicality component. By bringing fresh eyes onto the endeavor – not to mention, experts in areas that the CLOSCA team didn’t have as much experience in – they were able to push their vision for a stylish, functional helmet to the next level.
Carlos explains: “We develop the helmet by hinging 3 mobile rings together, in two stable positions, which we test by folding and unfolding the helmet as many times as would give it two years of warranty. We’ve actually developed a machine that can simulate more than 20,000 cycles of folding and unfolding, which has been really helpful.
“Every time we create a new prototype, we have to test and ensure that the helmet can absorb the level of impact that will achieve safety certification in North America and Europe, and those standards are different across continents. So we have to make the shape and safety components not only work together, but work for every region.
“We believe it’s extremely important to validate every step in a design. For the current model that we developed this past year, we were sure to test and gather feedback about everything. Be it concerning design, comfort, ventilation – we stop the design and evaluate what we’re doing. When you’re a startup and don’t have the money to start over five times, it’s especially important to think about your design as you go.”
"Our final product is never final. It’s the simplest and most elegant solution we can find to solve the problems that our customers tell us.
“We’re big fans of Dieter Rams and try to follow his belief that a product has to be understandable – so, in this case, you have to instantly understand that it’s a helmet – which means making a product as simple, cleanly, and honestly as possible. We never want to hide anything in a product. Once it’s in your hands, you should be able to see everything there is to it.
“We decided to eliminate the last model’s attachable fabric cover for that very reason. When you put the cover on, it made the helmet look more like a hat. The cover was hiding the true character of the actual product. Through surveys and customer conversations, we learned that people didn’t instantly understand that it was a helmet. We now know that people only take a moment to understand a product. And in that moment, we want to show them fuga for what it actually is: a helmet that’s not only beautiful, but also has a special function.”