“My face isn’t designed for glasses!” – Project Participant
This project explored a socio-technical systems approach to designing eyewear for South Africans. Marcha Naudé began the project as a student in a BA Industrial Design in 2017 and then expanded it into a MA Design (offered in Industrial Design) from 2018-2020. I was her superviser for this project for both qualifications.
In South Africa, there is a scarcity of prescription glasses manufacturers and the majority of locally available eyewear frames are imported. The bulk of this imported eyewear comes from a singular umbrella organisation, which designs eyewear from a predominantly Eurocentric perspective. For example, there are currently only two types of eyewear fit, the “regular” fit, based on European facial data, and the “Asian” or “global” fit, which was developed in reaction to the inappropriateness of the “regular” fit. In South Africa, a country with a significantly diverse population, there is an opportunity for properly fitting eyewear that is often not accommodated by either of these fits. Improper fitment causes discomfort and leads to blurry vision and long-term vision problems. Fitment is however not the only problem with the current imported frames. The South African eyewear industry is a complex system, with both social and technical challenges that often influence the process of how someone would go about acquiring prescription glasses. These challenges include the complexity surrounding medical aid structures, private and public eye care services, and eyewear frames that are not considering the contextual needs of South Africa.
The design research study, therefore, aimed to address some of the local eyewear complexities through the design of a product, guided by theories of socio-technical systems, appropriate technology and human-centred design. The outcome was an adaptable eyewear frame that could be produced locally, whilst better considering the needs of glasses wearers in the South African context. Following such a design research approach ensured that the product outcome was attuned to local needs; such an approach could therefore be beneficial to a wide range of localized industries in the Global South.
- Naudé, M.C. 2020. Eyedentity: A Socio-technical Systems Approach to Designing Eyewear in South Africa. MA Design Dissertation. Univeristy of Johannesburg. (Awarded Cum Laude). (25Mb).
- On completion of her Master’s in June 2020, Marcha was appointed as a Lecturer in the Three Dimensional Design programme at Open Window School of Visual Communication.
- Naudé, M.C. & Campbell, A.D. 2019. Spectacles and Hinge Arrangement for use in the Manufacturing Thereof. ZA National Patent. 2019/01244. Pending. Class G02C. (In partnership with UJ TTO)
- Naudé, M.C. & Campbell, A.D. 2017. Spectacles and Hinge Arrangement for use in the Manufacturing Thereof. ZA Provisional Patent App. 2017/08136. (In partnership with UJ TTO)