CHICAGO — Turning over the design of the free condom dispensers to be installed at 24 public high schools to students at Columbia College was a no-brainer, city officials said.
"No matter what the adults in the room may say, or think, or do, it's not going to change behavior or involve the youth unless youth are involved from the outset," Public Health Department spokesman Brian Richardson said of a pilot program to put free male and female condom dispensers in Chicago Public Schools.
Lizzie Schiffman joins DNAinfo Radio to talk about the condom dispensers:
After assigning the design of both male and female condom dispensers to three classes last winter, the city's Public Health Department chose Columbia students Korey Brisendine and Sam Shapiro's prototype with the help of teen focus groups.
"After the semester ended, Korey and I took over in developing and integrating the chosen design, which was the wall-mounted condom dispenser, for mass production," said Shapiro, 22, a Cleveland native who lives in Uptown.
This month, the city ordered 50 more of the duo's custom designs to implement the availability program citywide.
Brisendine and Shapiro's designs have a Chicago flag motif, with a sky-blue base color and red vinyl star appliques framing the clear windows that display each dispenser's availability of male and female condoms.
The male condom dispenser also includes a window that can include printed health and sex education information sheets, Shapiro said.
Richardson said practicality was the primary concern in choosing the winning design that will be featured in two dozen schools before the program's five-year term expires in 2015.
"Though we didn't know it beforehand, the design they created was exactly what we were looking for," Richardson said. "I think their dispensers help address the high school environment: They enabled customization for each school, they were practical, and they dispense both male and female condoms."
Richardson said the sleek design and patriotic theme were added bonuses.
"One of the goals through all of our adolescent health programs is to help youth feel proud of who they are and where they come from, and that includes Chicago," Richardson said. "So any chance we get to show off Chicago while doing good public health work, that's a plus."
The partnership was also an exciting opportunity for Shapiro and Brisendine, who will graduate with product design degrees this spring and winter, respectively.
"You should have seen the wall of prototypes — we had made so many different condom dispensers of all different shapes and sizes and dimensions, there must have been 50 of them on the wall at one point," Shapiro said. "Then we refined and continued to develop, increasing the resolution from paper and cardboard to wood and lightweight steel and finally into stainless steel dispensers."
Brisendine and Shapiro's dispensers are being tested at at Foreman High School on the Northwest Side and Collins Academy on the West Side.
Shapiro said he and Brisendine, 23, a Detroit native who lives in Ravenswood, couldn't have hoped for a better first client than the City of Chicago and the public school system.
"I love these projects with a real client, and this project in particular is so exciting because not only are we working for the city and the Chicago Department of Public Health, but also the ultimate client is the students — our peers in the CPS high school system," he said. "The realness is just inspiring, motivating, it's beautiful."
Richardson said working with students on projects like these can make implementation more effective, since the adolescent health office can lean on college kids who tend to have a better sense of what appeals to high school students.
"Student designers have an edge because they are close enough in age to remember the social and environmental issues at play in high school, and therefore can help lend that perspective and design eye to create an access and availability program that will be more useful to more people."
The remaining 22 schools participating in the condom availability pilot program have not been chosen, but will be selected based on interest from school principals, Richardson said.