Eone—a design company that produces timepieces for the blind—is pronounced like the letter “E” followed by the number “1.” It’s short for “everyone.” And with wildly innovative designs, Eone is changing the way products are made. Not only are they fashionable, they are accessible to all.
The Bradley Timepiece, Eone’s debut product, uses special magnets and ball bearings to tell time for both sighted and visually impaired users equally—all while looking like a carefully designed, beautifully handcrafted timepiece. Tim Fleschner, Co-Founder of Eone, was a Finalist for the 2015 IVY Innovator Awards in Design for his pioneering work in transforming one of the most ordinary accessories into a masterpiece of technology.
Tim sat down with IVY Magazine to talk about The Bradley, why it’s so crucial to create special products that are accessible for everyone, and how he thinks about marketing a product to the visually impaired.
Tim is an IVY Member (DC). Connect and collaborate with him here.
You say one of your huge missions is to find a way to make design more inclusive. Do you think exclusivity is particularly an issue in the design field? If so, why?
Yes. I think many products are designed with a narrow set of beliefs about the user’s abilities. In some cases, this can lead to marginalizing people with disabilities. This was the case with traditional wristwatches, which were designed with the assumption that the user has sight. We strive to fold marginalized groups into the design process, and instead create products that are accessible for everyone.
When we first set out to create a universal timepiece, we focused on functionality. We wanted to make a product that was accessible to the visually impaired, providing an alternative to the intrusive talking watches and fragile, inaccurate tactile watches currently available. We quickly realized, while talking with people who are visually impaired, that they were as concerned with fashion as they were with function. As we got more feedback from different user groups, we were surprised to find that sighted users were also interested in a timepiece that allowed them the freedom to both see and touch the time. So in designing our tactile timepiece, we focused on beautiful form and exceptional function, creating an design that maintains a minimalist, modern aesthetic. Staying true to our initial vision, our timepiece accommodates both sighted and visually impaired users equally.
What other designers are really breaking boundaries and creating innovative products for people with disabilities?
- UnderArmour, one-handed zipper
- Rayn jacket for people in wheelchairs
- Nike Zoom Soldier 8 with FlyEase technology makes it easier to pull shoes on and off with one hand
What is your connection to blindness and why did you decide to create The Bradley?
My sister, Kristin Fleschner, lost her vision during her first year at Harvard Law. One afternoon, my sister was walking in Harvard Square with her guide dog Zoe. (Zoe actually has an incredible Facebook page that educates people about blindness). Our current CEO, Hyungsoo Kim, introduced himself to my sister and told her about his idea for a tactile wristwatch. After hearing about her encounter, I reached out to Hyungsoo and offered my help. Later that summer, we launched The Bradley on Kickstarter.
The idea of wearing a watch or timepiece has traditionally been a more masculine concept over history, and many of your watches have perhaps a more masculine look. Can you talk about how you’re marketing this watch to women?
At Eone we believe that good design should be inclusive, not exclusive. We’ve created our timepieces using inclusive design principles so that anyone can wear The Bradley, regardless of ability or gender. We strive to apply our mission of inclusive design in our marketing as well by having both females and males wearing our timepieces.
You currently serve as the Director of Marketing in addition to your primary role as Co-Founder. Can you talk about what challenges you face marketing a product to someone with a vision impairment? Is there specialized marketing for people with disabilities? How are these people reached in different ways or with different kinds of content?
Last year, we shared nearly 300 photos on Instagram. However, the majority of that content was not accessible to a portion of the population. Because we failed to include descriptive captions, many of our friends in the blind community could not enjoy the beautiful photos we shared. Since then, we’ve made a strong effort to include descriptive captions for every image and video we post. One of our goals at Eone is to raise the bar for businesses so that they take into account inclusive design in every aspect of their company – from the products they offer, to the social media content they share.
We’ve encountered similar obstacles in designing an accessible website. When we were in the beginning stages of creating The Bradley, we knew we wanted a beautiful website, one that was unique in its design. After all, we are a design company. When the site launched, we received lots of praise about the look of the site. However, we later learned that it was not screen-reader compatible. That means screen-reading programs like JAWS and Window-Eyes, tools that help the visually impaired navigate the Internet, couldn’t read our content. We’ve since then launched a fully accessible website. (You can read more about this process here.)
I notice you run a magazine as a part of eone-time.com—and you’re not totally unique. Lots of fashion brands run magazines and blogs as a part of their marketing. Can you talk about this trend and why you think it works?
It’s important for us to connect to our community in different ways, and the magazine is one of those outlets. We created to The New Standard to uphold our mission of changing the mindset people have towards everyday beliefs. We strive to bring our community fresh, exciting, and most importantly inclusive content. You can read more about why we created a magazine for Eone here.
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