A couple months ago I made a discovery. It all started when I noticed the lenses on my sunglasses were badly scratched and beyond repair. I have worn Oakley sunglasses for years. While browsing the Oakley website I stumbled upon Asian Fit Sunglasses. I was surprised and wary since I had never seen a product so specific in targeting an ethnic group. The product description was very brief. It looked like Oakley copywriters went for the “less is more” approach because they did not want to accidentally commit anything to print that might be construed as offensive. I decided to order a pair. The risk was minimal since I had never been dissatisfied with Oakley sunglasses before. Besides, I was curious to see if I was missing out on something.
While I waited for the sunglasses to arrive, I did a quick search on the web for African, Hispanic, and Native American fit sunglasses and found no matches. I did find a Lenscrafters semi-interactive page for different shaped faces like oval, square, round, and heart-shaped, but this did not seem like the same thing to me.
I have been wearing my sunnies (as Australians call them) all summer and I can honesty say they are the most comfortable sunglasses I have ever worn! What is great about Asian fit sunglasses is that they solved a problem I never even knew existed. Now that I know a pair of sunglasses like this exists in the world, one that truly fits my face, I could never go back to wearing regular sunglasses.
So what is the correlation between sunglasses and our mission to publish diverse children’s books? Oakley and LEE & LOW have created products for specific ethnic niche markets. Oakley sunglasses fit the majority of their customers well, but they went a step further by developing sunglasses that fit their Asian customers more comfortably.
Connecting products to people on an ethnic/cultural level is rare because it takes effort and sensitivity to do it right. I give kudos to Oakley for doing what they did, since it acknowledges that people are different from one another and sometimes a one-size fits all approach is just not good enough. Oakley was able to design sunglasses to fit the features of Asian faces. Books go even deeper by communicating people’s experiences through words and pictures, which can leave a profound, lasting impression on readers.
The deeper you go, the bigger the challenge. It is one thing to design an object for a certain physicality. It is quite another thing to explore the history, experiences, culture, and emotions of an entire group of people. But the rewards are great too. If I am this enamored with my perfectly fitting sunglasses, just imagine the devotion a person would have to the perfectly fitting book.