EASTON — Kevin White’s invention, the USee self-refracting eyeglass system that has helped thousands in the developing world see more clearly, has captured the attention and accolades of the international design world, winning gold at the 39th annual International Design Excellence Awards 2019 ceremony and gala on Aug. 21 at VenueSIX10 in Chicago.
For the past five years, the Easton inventor has shepherded his idea through each step — from paper to CAD design, from 3D printing to field trials, and from injection molding to final product — with the help of PolyOne’s IQ Design engineers and designers who worked pro bono to create the USee system.
The USee device enables local volunteers trained as ‘refractionists' to assist patients, who turn dials on the USee to determine their own prescription (self-refraction). Volunteers then make a pair of snap-together, correct-strength eyeglasses on site. GV2020 calls it the “Dial-Snap-Wear” method, and it takes about 15 minutes per person. The USee device is packaged within a kit that contains various strength lenses and conventional eyeglass frames.
IDEA is one of the most prestigious and rigorous design competitions in the world, according to a Sept. 9 press release issued by the Industrial Designers Society of America, sponsor of the awards competition.
This year, IDEA received over 1,600 entries from 24 countries and regions. “Only 101 of those entries were chosen for awards, and only 19 were designated as Gold winners,” said Maaike Evers, IDEA 2019 Jury Chair and co-founder of Mike & Maaike.
“These numbers may seem stark; however, the IDSA believes that this program exists to highlight the absolute best that industrial design has to offer, and therefore only the most deserving will make their way to this podium tonight,” Evers said at the ceremony.
Evers led a jury comprised of over two dozen global design experts in judging categories covering products, experiences, strategies and more. Onsite jurying was held in May at The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Mich.
The USee: Vision Screening and Prescription Glasses for All won gold in the Social Impact Design category.
The USee system is the brainchild of Kevin White, who, along with his wife Rebecca Guay, lead Global Vision 2020, based in Easton. Its mission is to help improve the vision and lives of those in the developing world who can’t see clearly and don’t have access to refractive vision screening or eyeglasses. About 2.5 billion people worldwide need vision correction.
Using White’s sketches, Brian Everett, John Church and Jane Spikowski of PolyOne’s IQ Design team created an elegantly simple device to help those without access to vision care.
Everett, global director of IQ Design, accepted the award on behalf of the team and thanked PolyOne for providing them with the opportunity to work on such a humanitarian and important project.
“We donated our expertise in materials science, manufacturing, and design to help overcome multiple performance and production challenges in bringing the USee from concept to reality, and it feels really good to know that the device has helped over 35,000 people to date,” said Everett.
“As an inventor, handing over your idea to a designer is like handing over your child and asking them to take it to college graduation,” White said. “This award is proof that the USee device not only graduated, but was the valedictorian.”
PolyOne’s team of industrial designers and design engineers combined their expertise to help overcome multiple performance and production challenges in bringing the USee from concept to reality.
Unlike vision care in the developed world, the USee enables those with blurred vision to dial in their best optical acuity while viewing an eye chart, thus determining their correct prescription. With trained local refractionists assisting in the process, it takes about 15 minutes to deliver prescription glasses for less than $5 per pair.
“Our IQ Design team sought to enhance the device’s simplicity in both design and production to facilitate larger-scale vision care that met low-cost targets,” said Cathy Dodd, vice president of corporate marketing at PolyOne.
“It’s amazing that this system is getting that kind of international recognition,” White said. “One of the comments from one of the judges (referring to the entire system) was: What first appears to have almost no design, at closer inspection, is perfectly designed.”
At first White didn’t realize the significance of the award.
“Not being a designer, I thought, okay, great. It’s an award. It’s very nice, and I was pleased,” White said. “But once I started talking to professional and degreed designers, they said, ‘This is like an Oscar for us. This is resume gold, both for our firm, and the designers who worked on it.’”
The USee system is a process as well as a product involving “the identification of poor vision, the easy finding of the prescription and then the immediate application of a pair of eyeglasses that solves that problem,” White said.
White said the USee Vision Kit system solves a widespread problem in the developing world “faster, simpler and much more efficiently.”
“Tackling a worldwide challenge like this one aligns well with our sustainability goals and commitment to our local and global communities, and we are honored by the recognition that this award from IDSA conveys,” Dodd said.
As an IDEA-winning design, the USee device will be part of the permanent collection at The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, an IDSA partner in Dearborn, Mich.
Based in Avon Lake, Ohio, PolyOne Corporation is a provider of specialized polymer materials, services and solutions. IQ Design is an award-winning, full-service design team within PolyOne.
“I can’t thank PolyOne and its IQ Design team enough for donating their time, passion and expertise to help change the world with the gift of clear sight,” White said.
To see a video of PolyOne’s design process for the USee system, visit this website or add the title to your online search: A Pioneering Vision Correction Solution for the Developing World