Eyewear Design And Development
Looking beyond logos and markings
By Mike Hundert and Nicolas Roseillier
Release Date: October, 2012
Expiration Date: September 3, 2017
Upon completion of this program, the participant should be able to:
- Understand today's eyewear manufacturing dynamics, from country of origin to methods and materials.
- Better understand how to evaluate the eyewear purchased for your office.
- Learn how to best choose and describe quality eyewear for every patient.
Mike Hundert is chief executive officer and chief creative officer of REM Eyewear. A journalist by education, a sports broadcaster and director of world pro skiing before joining the family business REM in 1981, he leads product development and is an expert in the optical industry's supply chain.
Nicolas Roseillier oversees product design and development of all REM Eyewear brands, as well as the company's luxury division, Base Curve.
This course is approved for one (1) hour of CE credit by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO). Course SWJM263-2
Most people, sellers and consumers alike
assign a value to a product according to the
credentials of a designer's insignia, the
store in which it was bought or the stated
country of origin. In the world of eyewear
frames especially, that has often been the
case. However, to really evaluate a frame's
value, it's more than just its logo or "alleged"
country of origin.
UNDERSTANDING FRAME VALUE
Value is a combination of: brand, design,
product components, material quality,
manufacturing and the vendor from which
the frame is purchased.
Brands: Brands affect perceptions and
attitudes, creating the ability to charge a
"brand premium." That is matched with the
need for higher prices to offset both royalty
payments and marketing commitments.
A brand guardian's (i.e., eyewear licensee)
job is to deliver on its promises, which
includes creating a lifestyle perception
embodied in its products that a consumer
can choose to experience. Eyewear may be
the easiest way that a consumer can have
access to an aspirational brand, usually out
of reach financially. For example, you can
spend $4,000 to drape a Chanel handbag
over your arm, or a tenth of that ($400 or
less) for a pair of Chanel sunglasses that
declare, "You're a Chanel woman."
Every brand has a set of core values. It's in
its DNA. Review the brands highlighted,
and discover for yourself what comes to
mind to sense the emotions a brand can
emote. Build a brand book for your office.
List the three to five most important characteristics of every brand in your office. Visit
every brand's Web page or grill your representatives to help build your brand book.
Design: The design process is a collaboration
between designers and factory engineers to
ultimately create the CAD drawings that lead
to manufacturing. The designer is an artist that
draws inspiration from culture and practicality.
After all, eyewear is both a fashion accessory
as well as a medical device. Combining cues
from the fashion world with the wisdom of
optical experience builds a high quality frame
that will enhance a consumer's experience.
The designer must also be aware and manage
the costs associated with the design. Each
brand has a competitive matrix that must be
respected from the price perspective.
The designer begins by establishing the
foundation based on the brand's following
and its consumer demographics, including
age, income and lifestyle considerations.
Technically, both design and engineering
examine shape and form. They look for
details such as the sharpness of angles that
may make an acetate frame provocative on
paper but difficult to achieve since standard
"tumbling" that is used to give frames their
luster rounds off edges and may destroy the
designer's intent. The more successful models
that fit a wider variety of faces are balanced, i.e., neither too "wingy" nor too "sad." Does
the style and design reflect the brand's appropriate quotient of imagination, inventiveness,
excitement, sophistication, fashion and uniqueness, faithful to the brand's core principle?
A designer usually creates some characteristics, often components, that are used consistently from model to
model, weaving a cohesive
story that brings a common identity to each style
in a collection. Take the
temple example from the
John Varvatos Collection.
Each of its temples are
capped-off with a metal
piece that carries the brand's iconic symbols.
When building a sunglass collection, lenses
and coatings are identified to be used
throughout the brand's sun collection, creating an opportunity
for additional storytelling that
makes sense with the lifestyle of
the consumers who best identify
with that brand.
The difference between a
brand and a product is that a
brand has many "brand extensions," often in the form of
licensed products, such as accessories... and eyewear. Designers
of these various products share inspiration in
an effort to ensure products under a brand are
seamless in their attributes and consistent in
delivering similar experiences.
Using those keys to trigger the imagination,
the designer combines intuition and experience to develop a fashion-leading product.
Most often, those ideas are then matched
with the commercial realities that might
temper the design. Or the objectives for one
model might call for a style that screams out
to garner attention for the collection at the
expense of sales.
THE COLLECTION PLAN
At REM, we call it "The Perfect
World." Those responsible for
design, brand management, sales
and inventory management agree
precisely on how many models
should be in a collection "in the
perfect world." This is a living document, revisited and re-evaluated
regularly throughout the year. We maintain
such a plan for two years in advance given that
product ideas often take 18 months or longer
to bring to market. The Perfect World includes
an outlook of how many new models will need
to be phased out and introduced each year.
For instance, today we would consider a
trendier brand having more acetate (perhaps
50 percent) than is average (about 20 to 25
percent). The trendier the collection, the
quicker the rotation. Women's collections
generally turn over more frequently. Men
are usually more conservative in their choice,
making it unnecessary to create as many new
styles each year. A decision on how much color and what colors are appropriate is decided
upon, often including the brand's licensing
managers in that discussion.
Creating a Perfect World in a dispensary
is sound advice. A frame buyer (optician,
manager, doctor) has the responsibility to
know their clientele, including the local
demographics. A buyer can create a product perfect world plan that matches that
insight. If there are schools nearby be sure
to have the appropriate choices for that age
group. And remember: Don't judge a frame
on how it looks on you! You may be far
from the intended market for that frame.
Production is the serious culmination of the
design process. Manufacturing is complex,
and the steps taken to make a resulting beautiful frame can often be taken for granted. It
is not unusual for as many as 250 technical
operations to take place to make high-quality
frames. The result is a combination of high
technology and creativity—the blending of
science and art, just as frames are both a fashion accessory and a medical device. Read
through these steps, look at the photos and
imagine a tour of the factory.
1. Organize production lines. Develop the
tools and jigs as well as any molds and dies
necessary for production.
2. Identify machinery needs. They may be any
variety of CNC, laser, injection molding
3. Metal frame production begins with cutting
the rim wires. This requires extreme precision,
which often differentiates one factory from
another. The quality of a factory can often be
judged by their eyewire cutting processes.
Remember, production from one order must
be identical on all subsequent orders. This
ensures that the ECP and their lab's experience is consistent from order to order.
Eyewires are soldered to endpieces and the
bridge, while temples are being machined and
hinges are being attached. The metal frames
are tumbled and hand polished for a smooth
finish before going to plating and/or being
subjected to other coloring techniques. The
quality of coloring is affected by the quality
of the frame's surface. A base is applied by
electroplating, usually in gold, silver or a shade
of gunmetal. The frame may then be coated
with a color spray paint. The best quality
paints for eyewear come from Switzerland.
Titanium frames are more expensive for
several reasons. The raw material is more
expensive, but the larger cost difference is due
to its fabrication requirements. Titanium is
extremely hard, requiring huge presses to
stamp any impression into the material. Special welding equipment is used for titanium, as
opposed to soldering equipment used for
other metals. Coloring titanium is not always
simple either since colors adhere differently to
this material requiring special techniques.
Beta titanium is a springy alloy cousin to
pure titanium (think Silhouette's three-piece
mounting). This material is unique to work
with as well. In this case it is neither soldered
nor welded. If it does have a hinge (unlike
Silhouette) the barrels of the hinge is stamped
into the temple as it is being formed into a
"Foil transfer" coloring is more complicated
and is usually confined to metal frames. A
design is created on a computer, which is then
printed on a foil. The plated frame receives a
clear lacquer coating. The foil is wrapped over
the area where the color pattern is desired. It is
then baked in an oven where the ink on the
foil essentially melts from the foil into the
lacquer coating. Once cooled, the foil is
peeled off and the color appears on the frame.
CNC and/or laser cutting is often used to
reveal various layers of a laminated material. It
is possible to "dial in" the depth of the laser
cuts desired to control what layer is revealed.
4. Plastic handmade frames (not injection molded) can vary greatly by design. Materials
are cut into rectangular pieces about the height
and width of the frame front. Modern factories
have invested highly in the past decade to automate the milling steps. While traditionally each
cut of plastic meant moving the frame from
one machine to another, today's computer
assisted "CNC" machines feature multiple cutting blades that are directed to make specific
cuts and bevels, including the eyewire groove,
before spitting it out and grabbing a new piece
of material. Multiple layer acetate provides
infinite opportunities to cut and reveal various layers and colors. Tumbling for days
amidst polishing agents and materials brings
out the material's shine, which is then finished
by hand polishing. Too much polishing can
wear through the frame, destroying it. Meanwhile, temples are shaped and then "shot"
with a wire core. Temple ornaments or plaques
are attached in a variety of ways, including
imbedding them into the plastic.
5. Injection molded frames are made in yet
another way. Materials for optical injected
frames are usually propionate, TR-90 (or its
derivative), carbon graphite or similar. In each
case, the materials come in sacks of pellets.
The machine melts the pellets and forces them
into a mold of the model's shape. When
removed and cooled the part is popped out of
the mold and another one is made. Meanwhile
that frame part is tumbled smooth. Coloring
can be done in the mold. In other words, if
you want a black frame you can use black
pellets. Other colors are usually spray-painted
with paints that can be absorbed by these
materials. Patterns can be made on the materials by masking off sections, or even by simply
holding a mask up to the plastic when spraying it with color. If you want tortoise, then
color the whole frame in a light brown, followed by holding up a mask that has a series
of holes and then spraying that mask with a
dark brown. Pull the mask away and you
have a tortoise-like look. Molds for injection
molding can be very expensive so high volume
is required for a company to usually invest in
Some designs call for pad printing or digital
printing. Pad printing is simple,
printing what is created
on a metal plate, the
same technique used for most temple and
demo lens markings. Digital printing is a relatively new art for eyewear. It is used most often
to print any design on a plastic temple. The
part is inserted into a special printer that
applies the graphic to the plastic.
6. Acetate temples most commonly have their wire core
"shot" or ultrasonically
embedded into the plastic
temple. Sometimes the
wire core is also laminated
into the temple. There are
many core options, which is
determined during design. Temple tips may
have an embedded logo, which requires precision cutting, laying in of a foil logo and
covering with epoxy.
7. Nosepads are chosen
to meet a variety of
functional and design
needs. Size and system
is decided upon during
the design phase and is
made to order during
the dimensions and
orientation of the pads.
Metal frames also
require choosing the
type of nosepad arms
and pad shape/size.
Acetate frame design
requires selecting the size and angle of the
pad placement, which depends on the audience. For Asian and African-American fits (those people with a "flatter" bridge) part
of the production may have different
nosepads, fit lower and with increased
depth, flaring wider and faster.
8. Finally the frame is assembled to
bring all the component parts together. Frames are
compared to a
to make sure
the arc of the front and the bend of the temples are consistent and according to expectations of designs.
9. Cases and packaging are made in parallel at
specialty case manufacturers.
10. Nonprescription sunglasses require a
decision about bezel design. That determines
whether the frame will also be Rxable. A
"U-shaped" groove is commonly used for
nonprescription sunglasses. A "V-shaped"
groove is the common shape for products that
will be Rxed. Sun lens material, colors, coatings and if polarized are determined in the
design phase. They are sourced from lens
manufacturers, and usually edged and glazed
at an assembler. Where the sunglass lens work
is completed often is the country of origin
marking that appears on the frame. As an
example, the frame can be made in China and
shipped to a lens company in Italy. There, the
lens company makes and glazes the lenses into
the frame. Expect that frame marking to read
"Made in Italy." This is yet another example
why you need to know how to evaluate product well beyond the country of origin marking.
The frame has been manufactured but the
quality of the intent must be confirmed. Quality assurance means that quality happens at
all stages, not just at the end of production
(quality control). Material quality is checked
when received from component manufacturers (for example, hinge size and finish, nose-pad color and consistency), then at every stage
of production and finally before packaging.
After a visual inspection, the frame is
adjusted to the specs for front curve and tilt
Batch testing is used to ensure
that all the design and operational
features are delivered as specified.
of hinges can be
tested using a
device that opens
and closes the
temple hundreds of times to ensure that the
hinge will not wear excessively or the screw
design won't back itself out of the hole in the
first week of wear. The finish is tested using a
standard 3M-tape test. Like AR coatings,
tape can be used to test adhesion with results
predicting years of wearability under normal
conditions. In fact, there are a variety of internationally agreed standards that frames meet
and in some countries are required. For example, a common test for Europe's CE mark
includes a sweat test to determine metal leaching as well as finish durability. Drop ball impact
and optical tests for sunglasses and reading
glasses are required.
QUALITY VS. VALUE
Using the attribute table, review a product's
attributes. Consider using the same checklist
when showing customers the differences
between that $100 and $400 frame. Mix and
match the results for each of the categories.
In summary, know your materials. Understand that processes like casting, acid etching,
coloring techniques, finishing steps and care,
and the like all add to a frame's price. Brand
names add to the cost through their required
royalty payments and marketing requirements—not necessarily because the frame is
any better or more expensive to manufacture.
And please don't decide whether to carry a
frame based on how it looks on you. You are
one of many target markets.
And finally, make sure the suppliers you
choose have your best interests at heart. Make
certain they support you with information,
education, point-of-sale materials, a good
warranty, and keen knowledge of the industry
and products they sell. What is their longevity
record? Where are they when you need them?
What is their fill rate? Nevertheless, timely
resupply is the responsibility of your vendor.
Ask about a company's "fill rate." The most
reliable companies will have a fill rate (orders
received today are shipped today) of about 95
percent. This company prides itself in a fill
rate above 97 percent.
Look for frame suppliers whose knowledge,
commitment and passion for the supply chain
are superior, who can talk-the-talk of how their
products are made that can help you educate
consumers in ways that elevate your credibility
and their comfort in following your advice.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
With the material presented in this course,
you can now rely on a new knowledge,
which is more accurate than evaluating a
product based on its country of origin
marking. Clearly, the country in which a
product is made no longer assures its quality or value. More pertinent is the "factory
of origin," since each is individually owned
by people who have different commitments
to excellence. Since you can't evaluate
those factories, we hope this primer will
assist you in defining product value that
can lead to the ultimate objective—creating