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What are the 5 Design Principles
for Night Visibility?

Designing for Night Visibility is very different than for daylight fashion.

A striking visual image in daylight attracts positive response from others.

Clothes communicate economic and social status, aspirations and belonging to a group or tribe.

Industry and Government safety standards and regulations dictate elements required for Safety and Reflective wear in specific work environments such as Construction, Transportation and various Industries.  Companies must comply with these regulations to protect their workers and prevent injuries and accidents on the job. Accidents are expensive in terms of human cost and financial expense. Insurance companies figured out decades ago that insisting on safety and visibility standards reduced costs for business. Employees must also comply with regulations for their specific industries to protect themselves and in order to keep their jobs and paycheque. 


Commercial standards vary between countries, states and jurisdictions. As an example; even though Canada and the USA share many similar standards, safety vests in Canada must display a large "X" on the back of safety vests which lets the driver of a vehicle know that the person wearing the vest is not facing them and likely does not see them as their back is facing them. The front of the vests have a straight line of reflective material running vertically on either side of the chest, indicating that the person can most likely see a vehicle and move out of the way. US  standards vary from state to state.


There are NO standards for Pedestrian Safety wear in North America.

The European Union and many European countries have established guidelines and standards for pedestrian wear in an attempt to improve safety for vulnerable road users. Many European countries have embraced 'Vision Zero', an international program focused on improving road safety with a multidisciplinary approach of improving transportation design, reducing speed limits, developing vulnerable road user paths and education. Many cities in North America are doing the same with the installation of signage, improved street crossings and education vulnerable road users to the benefit of being visible, especially at night.

Attitudes are also shifting towards the concept that roads must be shared by all. Drivers must be alert and responsive to road conditions and vulnerable users but pedestrians also have a responsibility to be visible so drivers can see them and take action to avoid a collision.. 

There has been a huge shift in awareness regarding pedestrian 'accidents' in the past decade. Attitudes towards the accepted concept that accidents are unpredictable therefore unavoidable  - are also shifting. More accurately called 'collisions';  many of these unfortunate events are often a predictable combination of factors that culminate in collisions.


For decades, the driver was automatically blamed for a collision. Newspaper articles would report that a pedestrian had been injured or killed in an 'accident' and the driver either charged or charges were pending. In the past few years news articles now report that the pedestrian was not wearing any reflective materials, dressed in all black clothing and that no charges were laid as the pedestrian was impossible to see in the dark - often followed by reminders to pedestrians to make sure they were wearing reflective materials at night so drivers could see them.

In Norway, 40% of pedestrians wear either reflectors or some type of reflective clothing at night. It is a normal part of life habits. There are very few North American pedestrians who take these precautions to heart and make it a priority to be visible to drivers at night.  Part of this is a lack of education, awareness of the importance of doing so and also a lack of practical options that blend into a modern day lifestyle.

Reflective Advantage wants to change in that. We are focused on creating options that are effective, practical and easy to add to any wardrobe without the necessity of buying a whole new coat.  Many factors need to be considered when designing within these parameters. 

FIVE Design Principles for Effective Night Visibility

  1. 360° Reflective Visibility is Critical: Pedestrians need to be visible from Front, Back and Both Sides so that as a person moves there is always a surface that can be seen by the driver.
  2. Movement Attracts Attention: Light reflected back from thousands of tiny glass beads in retroreflective materials increase visibility. Although the principles of Bio-motion make it easier for a person to be identified by a driver as being a person (not just a bright sign on the side of the road) it is difficult to incorporate into streetwear designs as most consumers simply will not take the time to put on and take off reflective markers to their ankles and wrists) so we try to compensate for this with strategic placement of bold reflective designs that catch a drivers’ attention. 

  3. Low Light Conditions: Dawn, dusk, rain and fog make it more difficult for drivers to see pedestrians. Hi-visibility (Neon) colors are 200% more visible than regular colours because the rods and cones in our eyes can see them more easily. Hi-Visibility Orange and Yellow colours are often associated with ‘danger or caution”’ in the minds of drivers and followed by a natural response to slow down. Regrettably, Hi Visibility colours don’t cross the popular fashion colour scene very often.

  4. Solutions have to be practical: Easy to wear, attractive, fashion friendly and affordable. Classic pieces that are timeless will survive closet purging far longer than trendy items.

  5. Quality Retroreflective Material is Important: Reflective materials must remain bright after multiple washings to be effective. 3M has spent decades developing and testing reflective materials that are highly visible for construction and commercial/industrial use. We use 3M reflective materials exclusively for design visibility because we can rely on the quality and consistency of their product.

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