Face wearing orange black PPE Face Mask

Portable Environments Studio – PPE Face Mask

Clothing is our own portable environment. This class researches and explores functional apparel, body-worn devices, and protective gear with a focus on mobility and using flexible textile-based materials. The COVID-19 pandemic is the single most important event of our lives today. It has and will continue to impact every single person on the planet. As designers, our job is to HELP. This class takes the opportunity to research, explore and innovate personal protective equipment. Protective clothing can be the barrier between life and death in many activities. Protective equipment is both designed and engineered, we will explore, identify and design portable environments.

This project, A Modular Face Mask, for An Active Lifestyle by Leo Zhang, aims at resolving potential discomfort faced by users, affecting their performance during exercise.

What we did

  • Literature review
  • Design research
  • Problem definition and project proposal
  • Design, prototyping and testing
  • Final prototye

Clients / Collaborators

PPE Face Mask prototype on a human model
PPE Face Mask prototype on human model

Project Overview

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lifestyle. While staying home is an effective safety measure, such restrictions aimed to minimize the risk of local transmission of the virus are likely to lead to reductions in regular physical activity. Due to the closure of most public gyms and exercise facilities, more and more people are exercising by running and cycling in public while wearing face masks. While face masks prevent viral transmissions, they also restrict breathing and reduce the amount of oxygen intake while trapping moisture and carbon dioxide inside, causing discomfort and affecting performance during exercise.

PPE Face Mask industrial design sketches
PPE Face Mask industrial design function sketches
PPE Face Mask prototypes on display heads
one person running and two cycling in face masks

Design Process

The design process started with research into the existing face shields in the market. The continuous iterative process with regular testing in various environments improved the functionality of the design. The prototypes were tested on runners and cyclists to determine comfort, moisture level, and breathability.

head wearing face mask with product anatomy
CAD model of PPE Face Mask


The final design features a modular design with a PLA outer shell, an interchangeable polyester filter, and a silicone inner shell that provides a secure seal and comfortable fit. The outer shell holds the convex form of the fabric filter and protects it from deforming due to headwinds, allowing the user to breath more easily when exercising in public.