Masks are everywhere, but does anyone ever stop and think about how their masks came to be?
“For the masks that we distributed after the COVID testing, the company we worked with actually designed those at our direction,” said Nikki Goodenow, director of brand and trademark licensing at WVU.
“We have licensees, so essentially, a company that is authorized to produce products using our trademarks,” Goodenow said. “We had over 50 companies apply -- to sell them at retail or to work with individual departments on campus to give them away and so forth.”
Goodenow said the selection process was extensive, involving an elimination process.
“All those 50 companies who wanted to sell face masks for WVU sent us samples,” Goodenow said. “And we just went through and found the one that we thought would be the best option for our students, for faculty and staff, and for everyone all the way around.”
Goodenow said the University eventually chose the current designs with both variety and functionality in mind.
“We wanted to offer some more designs, so we thought doing a gold version with the all-over print would help a little bit from a dirt perspective,” Goodenow said. “And then the navy one with the Flying WV, we thought that would be a good change and it would provide people some options.”
Goodenow said the process was also influenced by the explosion of the face mask industry.
“As the face mask industry has expanded and exploded, you can see that there’s all different designs that are out there,” Goodenow said. “We thought people might like a smaller logo on it. Much like a tee shirt; some people love a giant logo on it, some people prefer something more discrete, but they still want to show the brand.”
So, what do students think about the masks? Mercedes Snyder, a freshman secondary education student, said she likes the newest design the most.
“I think the simpler the better,” Snyder said. “I feel like if it’s too loud, it’s not for me. It’s just too busy.”
She also said that the masks fit comfortably on her face. Comfort was something that Goodenow’s team was paying special attention to during the selection process.
“One of the reasons we went with [our] company... was the fact that it was adjustable,” Goodenow said. “They were one of the first companies to offer us an adjustable band around the ears. [In the early days of masks] a bunch of [designs] came out, and now they’ve had the opportunity to refine it. When you’re quick to market you’re going to go with one design, and then tweak it as you go.”
Goodenow said WVU’s supplier was the only one to offer such comfort in subtle features.
“Fabrique was the first company to really come with a wider piece that goes around your nose to assist people with glasses and also to have the adjustable part around the ears,” Goodenow said. “What we had found was some companies had one of those features but not both. Fabrique was one of the few that had both and had more than one layer of protection.”
This final feature was the decisive factor in the selection process because according to Goodenow, safety is WVU’s highest priority.
“A lot of the masks that first came out to market just had the one layer of protection, but we made sure that the company that we licensed had to have a minimum of two-ply layers of protection,” Goodenow said. “That was working closely with Clay Marsh [West Virginia’s COVID-19 czar] who said, ‘Alright, for masks, make sure they have XYZ,’ and we used those standards for the masks we put out.”