A discreet sleep mask for women
that blocks every ray of light

Luxury travel brand TAOA wanted to produce a sleep mask that addressed the functional and aesthetic shortcomings of existing products. Complete light blocking for restful sleep is the most critical requirement, yet the masks that accomplish this are bulky, protuberant contraptions that render the wearer ridiculous. Keeping the mask securely but comfortably in place, allowing space for “eye blink” so that lids aren’t pressured by the mask, eliminating elastic pressure on the ears, and properly sizing the mask for all head sizes and facial contours were additional key challenges. A mask that would be worn in public situations such as air travel also needed to be flattering and aesthetically pleasing.

Research + Problem Identification

I collaborated with the TAOA team on in-person user interviews to gain insight into the behavior of regular sleep mask users, and to narrow our field of prototypes to the most promising options. We administered a questionnaire, tested the hand of fabric and batting combinations, and had users evaluate prototypes based on appearance and after wearing each option. The users were also 3d scanned on-site with a handheld scanner in order to compare their anatomy with their experience of each mask.

Additionally, I analyzed 5,000 user reviews, focusing on the most popular, most highly rated and most innovative designs. I utilized reviews of existing products to gain user insight into successful and unsuccessful qualities of these various products.

Common user scenarios were identified based on the content of the many user reviews and in-person interviews. Criteria were set for potential fabrics based on the functional and aesthetic requirements particular to the sleep mask.

Prototype Construction + Testing

Sewn prototypes were particularly important in testing strategies to create depth for the eyes with various battings and shaped eye areas. Thirty different battings and fills were tested for hand, resilience and thermal properties. Silk, tencel, recycled polyester, kapok, down, organic cotton, wool, polystyrene microbeads, buckwheat hulls and shredded foam were all among those tested.

Patterns were created for each prototype concept and executed in a range of materials to test their properties: silk crepe de chine, georgette, and charmeuse, stretch micromodal, peace silk, and cotton bamboo blends were tested. Strategies for creating eye space, curving the mask, and filling the area around the nose where light seeps in were all tested.

Multiple elastic locations and configurations were tested to control the pull along the top and bottom of the mask. Various elastics and stretch fabrics were tested as strapping. Elastics had different widths, textures, overall stretch percentages and stretch at various forces. Different methods of adjustment were tested to be comfortable, flat and lightweight, while keeping the sizing interval large enough to accommodate all users within a single size.

Pattern + Material Exploration

Once a functional interior shape was settled on through user interviews and testing, tests were made to view the effect of different lines and shapes on the face for the exterior. Options were tested incorporating and shading the geometric star pattern that forms the brand’s identity. Digitally printed nature and celestial themes were also tested.

A range of athleisure fabrics were tested, including heathered, melange and space dyed patterns. Lace was also explored in multiple scales, patterns and colors for its effect. The TAOA brand desired to combine modern function with intricate fabrics. By pairing two eyelash laces, one black and one gold, with a crepe de chine behind, a layered effect was created showing a hint of the gold and highlighting the lace’s shape.

To test the final form of the mask on all sizes and varieties of face and feature, I created a version of the mask using clear vinyl, but with the same patterns as the soft mask. In this way, the eye location, mask contouring, and fill under the eye could be checked between all anatomies.

Tapering the mask at each end to a high angle bypasses the ear area, and creates an X-shaped line of tension that allows an even, distributed pressure over the top and bottom lines of the mask to keep it securely in place, but comfortably so. By splitting the elastic into two separate lines, the mask is held more securely on the head, but the soft stretch elastic accomplishes this without irritating pressure.

An ergonomically shaped darted soft pillow lines a traditional sleep mask silhouette to accomplish light blocking, without the bulbous lines, or bulky forms of other masks. The shaped pillow mirrors the gap between nose and cheek, but the soft texture of the pillow allows it to conform to a range of facial contours. The depth of the pillow also creates a small interior space for the eyes, so no pressure is put on the eye during wear.

To complement the TAOA brand aesthetic of clean modernity with nostalgic elegance, a layered lace outer was created with a peek of gold behind black in the same eyelash lace. Black silk and grey melange options, accented with the cast metal logo charm complete the product line.

The mask is lined with soft Novarel Anti-oxidant encapsulated fiber that contains Vitamin E and Aloe Vera to nourish skin over time. A huge range of battings and fills were tested to create a lightweight but silky hand, and achieve the correct mix of structure and softness.

Travel Case + Package Design

An elegant and functional packaging concept that communicated luxury was a necessary finish to complete the TAOA sleep mask.  An element of the unexpected was desired to create an experience consistent with the brand. The sleep mask carry case is made from a washable kraft paper, that will crumple with time and use, emphasizing the contrast between the paper, and soft, fine materials of the mask. A gleaming copper lining illuminates the interior when the package is opened. A tailored white box with magnetic fasteners and copper embossing encloses the product.

User Feedback

“I find it hard to sleep with even the smallest amount of ambient light and have been wearing sleep masks, both at home and when I travel.  I’m in love with this mask. It is completely light blocking and exerts so little pressure on my face that I barely remember I have it on.”

AnnaSleep Mask User

“Fell asleep instantly after putting it on and woke up feeling refreshed. Love that it didn’t crush my eyelashes, leave lines on my face or leave my eyelids feeling sweaty. The dream mask is so lightweight and comfortable that I didn’t notice that I was wearing it at all.

KathleenSleep Mask User

Whenever I’m having trouble sleeping, wearing this mask seems to put me right to sleep. It blocks all the light, allowing me to sleep peacefully. I’ve also taken it on some recent flights and for the first time I have actually felt rested getting off the plane.

AbbySleep Mask User

I am a big fan of sleep masks, but this one is by far my favorite! It feels like I am barely wearing anything on my face and it’s very comfortable to sleep in, and yet it blocks out all the light and is absolutely gorgeous! If you are looking for the perfect eye mask, look no further!

AniaSleep Mask User