Industrial Design Student Building a Better Batsuit

First-year industrial design student Jackson Gordon models part of his Batsuit replication.

Industrial design student Jackson Gordon models part of his Batsuit (photo courtesy of Daniel Pasquarello for WHYY NewsWorks).

Jackson Gordon, a first-year industrial design student at Philadelphia University, isn’t taking a break from designing over the winter break.

With more than $1,200 in funds raised from a recent Kickstarter campaign, Gordon will spend his vacation constructing his version of the iconic suit worn by Batman.

But he is not simply making a look-alike costume. “No, I don’t plan on fighting crime in my suit,” Gordon explained on Kickstarter. “But from a design standpoint, it must be able to function in that manner in order to be considered a success.”

Thus, the suit is designed to withstand hand-to-hand combat and attacks with bats and knives.

Gordon will release his designs for others to replicate once his Batsuit is complete.

Gordon will release his designs for others to replicate once his Batsuit is complete.

To cover the costs of materials, 3-D printing and mold-making, Gordon posted his project on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website. After receiving media coverage in Philadelphia magazine, 6ABC, WHYY NewsWorks and other outlets, donations began coming in from interested strangers, in addition to the family and friends who initially contributed.

By Dec. 10, the close of the month-long campaign, Gordon had raised $1,255 from 17 backers, exceeding his original goal of $1,000.

With the additional money, Gordon is able to incorporate Kevlar, a strong and expensive fabric, in the suit to make it more slash-resistant against knives.

Any remaining funds after the suit is built “will be used for more gadget upgrades like proximity sensors in the helmet to help cover my blind spots,” said Gordon.

Gordon, a martial arts devotee from Devon, Pa., said he is pursuing the project both out of personal interest and as a learning experience to expand his skills as a designer.

“Gordon’s natural curiosity and passion for design are always evident in his class work.” said Mark Havens, assistant professor of industrial design, who teaches Gordon’s undergraduate studio course.

Gordon also learned valuable lessons from his freshman integrative design processes class. “IDP has taught me how to create concept maps and to ask what is most important in this suit,” he said. “Using this thinking processes, I prioritized that the only places hard-plating is required are the shins, wrist and chest.”

Gordon said he has used techniques learned in class, such as concept-mapping, prototyping and materials testing, and sought the expertise of students in other disciplines. For instance, he consulted with a fashion design student on the stitch pattern for the pants and the most efficient way to sew zippers. “This is the first time I’ve sewn anything this intricate,” he said.

While he does not plan to sell the finished Batsuit, Gordon has promised to release his designs, patterns and fabrication techniques to anyone interested in replicating the process.

So, why Batman?

“He’s a fascinating character,” Gordon said. “As far as superheroes go, he’s the most practical because he doesn’t actually have any super powers. He uses his intelligence.”

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