Sunday, August 3, 2008

Designing the Batsuit

Creating a new and interesting look for the suit worn by Batman in several generations of comic books and movies is an interesting study in design evolution. Imagine being given the assignment to create a new version of the Batsuit that surpasses all the other versions created so far. That would seem like a daunting design challenge.

The writers introduced certain features that need to be incorporated into the suit each time and the different tone of each movie called for an increasingly darker and more intimidating image. In some versions the suit is referred to as armor and has characteristics being developed by the military for real soldiers to wear in battle. Designers have to do research to understand modern materials being developed for space travel, fire fighters, police, and the military to create believable designs.

To design a new version of a suit for Batman, Batgirl, or Robin, students would have to clarify what ideas they would want to incorporate into the suit. Such a list might include items like conceal his identity, strike fear in the hearts of criminals, help him conceal himself in the darkness, protect him from bullets, knives (and dogs) and provide flexibility to move. In the movie, The Dark Knight, Batman himself provides some criteria - he says he needs to be able to turn his head more easily, the suit needs to be lighter even if it might make him more vulnerable, and so on.

Students would have to do some research to see what other suits have looked like and what related suits (military, police, space, etc.) provide as design clues. They would have to research materials such as kevlar and carbon nanotube fibers. They would then need to establish the criteria necessary for a successful redesign of the suit. Then they would have to generate many sketches of possible solutions before settling on one they will develop into a prototype and presentation format. Finally they should present and defend their design choices. Following a design process is helpful for students to see the level of learning and thinking that goes into any design.

Click on the pictures above to see them in a larger version.
Click on the heading above to see Wikipedia's encyclopedic overview and analysis of the various batsuits over time.

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