Aphra Hallam is a 22-year-old BA Industrial Design and Technology graduate from Brunel University London. Her final project is called Zera.
Design Week: Can you explain your project and motivation for doing it?
Aphra Hallam: Although the menopause affects more than 50% of the population at some point in their lives, over 70% of women do not treat its symptoms. This can be attributed to a historical lack of discussion and the stigma surrounding reproductive ageing, and a lack of discreet, non-invasive solutions. Watching the women around me experience the menopause with limited available solutions propelled me to look into ways to combat hot flushes, one of the main menopause symptoms.
Research into the racial disparities in reproductive ageing allowed me to investigate how the menopause disproportionally affects women of colour, exploring how this could be addressed through a carefully considered product and brand.
The Zera Cooling Crescent is a small wearable cooling device that sticks to the back of the neck using reusable silicone. It uses thermoelectric technology to create a cold sensation through the device, providing relief for a hot flush. Controlled via Bluetooth by the Zera app, the Zera Cooling crescent can be used throughout the day and on the go, giving women in the menopause the ability to go about everyday life comfortably and confidently. The portable charging case means it can be charged during the day and kept in a bag, ready to use.
It comes in a range of skin tones, with a mission to include a range of darker skin tones which may not always be represented in product colour choices. Its positioning on the back of the neck also means the device can be hidden under hair or under the collar of a shirt, giving women the confidence to wear it daily.
The Zera app also provides an opportunity to track other menopause symptoms and receive visualisations of the data tracked.
The community feature in the app gives women the chance to engage with and empower one another, providing a means of support when going through reproductive ageing.
DW: What was the most challenging thing about the design process?
AH: The most challenging part of the design process was making sure that the Cooling Crescent would be comfortable on the neck while still being able to accommodate its technology.
A large part of my project focused on the empowerment of women, so I needed to make sure that this could be tackled through the product as well as the app.
A lot of my research also looked into the racial disparities in reproductive ageing and how Black women often experience menopause symptoms more severely. It was important that the product I designed would bring light to this while still ensuring it was accessible to women from all backgrounds.
DW: Where do you see your design career in the future?
AH: I am currently working as a visual designer and in the future, I hope to continue to explore this further, expanding my knowledge of the industry and my creativity.
I also hope that I can use this project and my research to add to the growing conversation surrounding reproductive ageing, filling a gap in the market for a product that helps and empowers women during the menopause.
Check out other graduate projects from this year’s cohorts here.