Fashion and Universal Design: A Timepiece for Everyone

The founder and CEO of Eone, Hyungsoo Kim, sends me an email. He’s going to be in Boston and would like to visit the Press. He has invented a universal wristwatch called The Bradley. I open the link and fall head-over-heels into the future. Onscreen I watch a sleek fashionable timepiece rotate on a virtual stage where I can view it from every angle. Wow. I immediately email a blind engineer friend of mine, check this out, and send him the link. He emails back: What’s so great about it? I am reminded that my entire impression is based on how it looks. My friend is, after all, an engineer and he wants specifics—just the facts ma’am. I begin my explanation: It just looks sooo cool.

Of course I haven’t said anything useful. What makes eye candy so hard to describe?

I try again: I like the matte finish on the titanium face, the elegant dashes for numbers, the way the two ball-bearings roll around. It’s… it’s… it’s so cool. Anyone would want to wear it.

The Bradley Timepiece

The Bradley timepiece

Now I’m got my foot wedged in tightly. “Anyone would” implies that what a blind person would care to wear and what a sighted person would care to wear is somehow different. Of course that’s not true. What I’m really trying to say—and suddenly I realize it—is that products that are typically designed for the blind are rarely fashionable.

Too many products for the blind are characteristically utilitarian, unimaginative, and colorless. Okay, so color may not have anything to do with it because this watch is grey and it’s beautiful. I guess what I’m saying is that the designer, Hyungsoo Kim, a graduate of MIT, took the concept of inclusive design seriously. This is not a wristwatch for the blind; it’s a timepiece for anyone who loves style. Kim confirms my impression in a follow-up email:

“After meeting with as many blind user groups as possible, we quickly realized that they were as concerned with fashion and style as they were with function. In almost every meeting, one of the first questions was always about the look, the material, the size, and even the color of the watch.

“Our aim was to design a timepiece that everyone—no matter if you’re sighted or blind—likes to wear. In our early interviews with people who are blind, most of them wanted to use and wear something that is not exclusively made for the blind. They indicated that there are already too many products that focus on, and therefore magnify, the ‘difference’ and ‘disability’ of the people who are visually impaired, which keeps reinforcing the distorted stereotype and misconceptions people have toward the blind.”

One fashionable timepiece for all—that’s my “wow” factor.

Note: The Bradley timepiece is available to preorder on Kickstarter.