Rawlings had very recently reentered the helmet industry when they brought our team in to help advance their technology and explore ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. With bottom-tier and mid-tier helmets beginning to sell, Rawlings asked fredsparks to help make their top-tier helmet truly stand above the rest. 

The reason that helmet safety had seemingly topped out was that players, despite their biggest priority being safety, were not interested in bigger helmets that made them look “like bobbleheads.” After a plethora of research on impact materials, we were able to design a helmet that created the illusion of being smaller when in reality it had more mass. We did this using by strategic standoffs to insert more padding in high-impact spots and corrugations to stiffen the helmet. 

Further, we discovered another breakthrough idea. The industry standard for football helmet interiors was to have an inflated comfort layer against the player’s head with a padded, protective layer inside the exterior shell. We inverted this standard process by putting the padded, protective layer against the player’s head and the inflated comfort layer between the shell and protective layer. This created additional standoff between the protective layer and external shell, so when the external shell deforms on impact, it has to deform a greater distance before starting to break down the protective foam layer next to the player’s head.

Not only did our design look smaller and feel extraordinarily more comfortable, it also tested to better prevent head injuries than previous models. Exceeding NOCSAE minimum standards, it earned a Virginia Tech 5-star rating and entered Rawlings into the top-tier helmet category. Validating our innovation, the design won an Edison Award and the concept has since been replicated by other industry leaders noticing the breakthrough idea and sales.