Jonathan Friedman, ’95
Corporate Vice President of Design, Microsoft
I was feeling quite helpless at the beginning of Covid. I would find myself waking up in the morning feeling despondent that no matter what I did it would not help the day to day lives of people on the front line of this pandemic. Adjusting to working remotely with the kids learning from home really uprooted all of us – as it has everyone in the world. That contributed to this feeling of uselessness. I would regularly hear from friends in the medical industry how they were using disposable masks for an entire week and had no face shields as they were working with patients who potentially had Covid. I was introduced to a self-organized group of people, with 3D printers, who were making face shields and distributing them as a stop gap for front line workers (until the supply of face shields picked up). In a very short period of time this group went from a handful of people making hundreds of shields to hundreds of people producing thousands of face shields across the state of WA. All working together to print, clean, and distribute face shields to hospitals and clinics. I joined in the early days, dusted off my printer and started making face shields on nights and weekends. I found myself waking up in the mornings energized and excited to help!
I realized that we had a couple of limitations with the design of the face shields we were using and with the way we were making them. The first issue was that the fastest to make, cheapest, shields didn’t return toward the forehead to cover particulates from falling into the mask from the air above. The second issue was that the plastic shield part (which we were making out of vinyl three ring binder covers) was hard to cut and took too long to make. To solve the problem, I designed a shield that folded like “origami” to cover the top of the shield. It was cheaper to manufacture at scale and was lighter weight than anything on the market. The “origami” design was ultimately NIH approved and we manufactured tens of thousands of faceshields that were distributed by Amazon.
As challenging as it was, designing, printing, and manufacturing shields was the fun and easy part. The most challenging thing I faced was trying to get large groups of people (who had never worked together before) to cooperate with each other. Together, we were able to make more shields faster and distribute them. When broken up, it went slower and stymied our ability to help front line workers. Multiple times in the course of the project factions of people would break off and start to compete with the main group. Inevitably, human ego would get in the way of the bigger goal of helping people. I spent countless hours on the phone diplomatically getting people to see each others side and drop their egos for the greater goal. What kept me going was knowing that lives could and would be saved by our efforts. It made even the most difficult of situations worth it! To see Jonathan’s face shields, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08D7H37QX/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_fabc_ZD41FbCHC9G29?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1