May 23, 2014
The Turtle Helmet: Creating New Classics

Turtle Day

May 23rd is World Turtle Day – Hug a turtle!

In Michigan’s Lake Huron there’s an 8-mile-wide island, shaped rather like a turtle’s shell, called Mackinac Island. Rich in history, Mackinac was long the site of an Indian settlement, then a key port for the fur trades, and finally is now a popular summer tourist spot.

It’s thought that Mackinac gets its name from the Ojibwe word mitchimakinak, meaning ‘big turtle.’ And though it might not seem so at first, Mackinac Island (it’s pronounced ‘Mack-in-naw’) is actually the perfect place to develop a fun helmet design, because since 1898 the island has banned motor vehicle traffic. Bikes rule on Mackinac, except in deep winter, when snowmobiles are king.

turtle kids

Photo courtesy MICF.

Back in 2011 the Mackinac Island Community Foundation (MICF) decided they wanted to increase the safety of all the island’s cyclists, and they held a contest for a helmet design. Turtle graphics were an obvious favorite. MICF then called Nutcase for help in getting their graphics onto a small run of helmets. MICF had also created a tag line to get more people to wear the turtle helmet: “Brains are swell, wear your shell.”

“We gave MICF’s graphic designer ideas about what would and would not work as far as translating their artwork into usable helmet art,” said Nutcase founder Michael Morrow. “We helped them with colors, brightness, and the puzzle-like process of making this helmet really look very turtle-like at the same time that it has a totally modern aesthetic.”

When the final design emerged after a painstaking process between Nutcase’s helmet producers and designers, everyone agreed the Mackinac helmet shouldn’t be only available to the folks on the island, though it did quickly become an island favorite.

Thus, the ‘Mackinac’ was re-dubbed the Turtle, and is now available in Bike, Skate and Little Nutty versions.