Why Should Red Cross Emergency Gear Look So Sexy?

If the beauty were just skin deep, The American Red Cross wouldn’t have put their brand on Eton’s Turbodyne series.

During a blackout, earthquake, or other scary emergency, aesthetics are likely to be the last thing on your mind. But that doesn’t mean they don’t still serve an important purpose, as Eton’s Turbodyne series of American Red Cross-branded emergency gear shows. Designed by Whipsaw, this gear is to getting out of a jam what the iPod is to pumping out the jams: form married to function in the best possible way.


That emotional appeal means they’re more likely be used.

The industrial design of the Turbodyne set was meant “to be more emotional and more appealling than the typical emergency tool so that people wanted to own them and use them on a regular basis even when [there is] no emergency,” Whipsaw president Dan Harden tells Co.Design. Indeed, these look more like designer toys than dependable tools at first glance. But that emotional appeal has a serious purpose, Harden explains: “Pride of ownership also means they will more likely be out and ready for use instead of being relegated to the basement or the emergency kit.”

Indeed, Whipsaw calls its design language for Turbodyne “the emergency aesthetic.” While that phrase may cause some eye-rolling (I admit it did for me at first), that’s mostly because the word “aesthetic,” much like “design” itself, has been a bit bastardized to mean something whose value is skin deep at best. But aesthetic really just means “appealing directly to the senses” — and in an emergency, that’s exactly what our tools need to be more than anything else. “On emergency products, non-ornamental and informative aesthetics can play an important functional and human factors role,” Harden continues. “Bold forms, expressive details and high contrast colors can express function and operation so clearly that it takes no thought to find and use the product – which is of course good in an emergency when you just can’t think.”

Obviously the best tools in an emergency are the ones you have with you, “emergency aesthetic” or not — but as long as you’re calm and collected now, reading this blog, Turbodyne makes a compelling argument for design that works under pressure.

[Read more at Whipsaw]

About the author

John Pavlus is a writer and filmmaker focusing on science, tech, and design topics. His writing has appeared in Wired, New York, Scientific American, Technology Review, BBC Future, and other outlets.