The Sound Idea Behind Sebastian Vettel’s Helmet Design – Christoph Niemann
There is something truly amazing about the squealing and screaming sound of Formula 1 race cars. For me, it creates the sound effects that I would use to describe speed. It doesn’t really surprise me either that this very same sound proved to be inspirational in a unique helmet design.
F1 racer Sebastian Vettel contacted illustrator Christoph Niemann to see if he was interested in creating a visual design – a branding of sorts – on a race car helmet. Niemann did what I probably would have as well. He went to Berlin to watch Vettel run some laps in a pre-season test run.
Niemann admitted at the time that he expected to be impressed by much in the way of visuals to be found in the F1 setting. What made the greatest impact on the designer was the sound. If you haven’t been to a F1 race, let me tell you that what you see on TV is just a small taste of the entire environment. The sound of the vehicles roaring past you is well, extremely hard to ignore. It’s almost as if the engine noise was designed to capture your attention to the point that you would forever identify the shrieking and high-pitched buzzing as being part of the F1 experience.
That was what inspired Niemann with the design he created for Vettel’s racing helmet.
Vettel gave the designer complete control over the creation with one exception – it had to contain a narrow German flag which appears on all of Vettel’s helmets. So the beginning of the design process went straight to sound and was represented by concentric circles around the ears.
From the back of the helmet, extending above the neck are black, red and yellow stripes which climb up the helmet and weave above and below each other to where they end up running side by side across the top of the helmet. I’m guessing that the stripe colour choices came from the German flag which would have established the palate.
The final touch is a single red line that crosses the visor to the front of the helmet.
What I love most about this entire design is that it is not a logo or a brand as we would typically refer to something like this. It’s more of a personalised brand that does a great job of representing the excitement and frenzied chaos that can be a huge part of such a fast-paced motor vehicle event.
The helmet speaks to the sport by acknowledging that the most outstanding and attention grabbing part of any F1 race is the sound. Niemann took that and was able to translate the sounds he heard into a fairly clear visual display of what sound might look like.
I like this helmet design a lot.
I also like that the colours used pay homage to the German flag, Vettel’s home country. What you may not know about the driver is that he has had a fascination with designs on helmets since he was a little boy.
Although the actual helmet is designed specifically to muffle sound – as well as provide head protection – Vettel’s helmet is a celebration of sound. This particular helmet design serves as a bit of a road map where sound leads the way to the checkered flag.
Credit: Christoph Niemann / www.christophniemann.com