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Hands on with Jony Ive's Red Nose: Unexpectedly well designed

Sir Lenny Henry wearing the new Jony Ive-designed red nose for charity

The former chief designer at Apple has added a famed UK object to his list of accomplishments, with a radical design of the iconic and charitable red nose.

Since departing Apple, Jony Ive has been busy with his own design studio, LoveFrom. He and his company have worked with major names including Airbnb, Ferrari and Exor, as well as setting up a sustainable design competition with King Charles (at the time Prince Charles).

Now, in 2023, it has been revealed that Ive has worked on another well-known aspect of British culture, all for a charitable effort. He's redesigned the 2023 Red Nose for Comic Relief.

What is Comic Relief?

Comic Relief is a UK charity that supports a variety of good causes across the country, with it being one of two high-profile telethon events throughout the year.

Based on the idea of entertaining people in exchange for donations, people across the UK do silly things or tough challenges in the name of the charity, all to raise money for it.

As part of the fundraising effort, a Red Nose is sold to the public, playing off the Red Nose Day telethon itself. The nose design varies from year to year, and the public is encouraged to pick up the latest variant each time.

2023 marks the 35th year of sales of the Red Nose in the UK, and it has raised millions for the charity during its life.

With the UK's Red Nose Day occurring on March 17, the latest nose has been released, alongside other merchandise, with the profits all going to the fund.

The United States also has its own Red Nose Day, chiefly as part of an NBC charitable effort rather than a BBC-led one in the UK. However, it is a separate entity, and therefore unlikely to benefit from Ive's nose design.

Ive's Red Nose

One of the problems with the design of the usual Red Nose sold in the appeal is that it's made of plastic. Not only is it a material that's easy to dispose of in an environmentally sound manner, but it's also often painful or difficult to wear.

Unlike previous Red Nose releases, the Jony Ive edition folds flat.
Unlike previous Red Nose releases, the Jony Ive edition folds flat.

Enter LoveFrom and Jony Ive, and a revamped design that is a massive departure from the plastic sphere. One that promises to be ecologically sound because it's 95% plant-based.

What Ive generated is a nose that folds flat and can be more easily disposed of or recycled after the telethon.

Unboxing the nose

In what could be argued as an Apple-style unboxing experience, the folded-flat nose is sold in a semi-circular cardboard box. On top is Red Nose Day branding, while the base has a sticker with various legal details about the nose itself.

The cardboard casing is compact, but graphical.
The cardboard casing is compact, but graphical.

There's also a small note stating it is "Red Nose 2023. Created by our friends at LoveFrom."

Around the edge and sealing the box is a single sticker strip declaring "This Nose Changes Lives." A pull of the sticker opens the box, though there is just enough glue attached so that you can reseal it shut.

The only mention of LoveFrom on the packaging.
The only mention of LoveFrom on the packaging.

Inside the box, you don't get Apple stickers or a manual, as you just have the nose itself. You're not getting instructions, as it's fairly obvious what you need to do.

The box also includes a QR code and the message "Scan for a surprise," which takes you to a "thank you" page on the Comic Relief website.

A nose unboxing.
A nose unboxing.

This seems like a lot for what amounts to a tchotchke that will be used for a few days and then left on a shelf, but it's a nice touch.

Design and mechanics

The 2023 Red Nose is a massive departure from the painful plastic sphere, and in many different ways. For a start, you have some assembly to do.

Borrowing the idea of the fold-up honeycomb-style Christmas decoration, the nose starts off flat in a crescent shape, but folds out into a red sphere. It's actually a sandwich of selectively-glued red paper strips, with a plastic panel at the top and bottom.

A top-down view of the new nose
A top-down view of the new nose

Those plastic half-moons bear the words "Comic Relief" and "Red Nose Day," lest you forget why you bought it. The edge is also raised, to provide extra grip when it's opened out and placed on your nose.

The process of folding it out is also mechanically interesting, since it uses a pair of rubber bands. These, along with a pair of circular elements, are used to hold the nose closed when folded up, and to hold it open when in use.

The bands help keep the nose folded, and open.
The bands help keep the nose folded, and open.

As you unfold it, you can feel the tension to snap it back, but once you reach the inflection point at 180 degrees, the tension switches the other direction to form the sphere.

Fully deployed, you end up with a nice sphere, with a plastic seam on one side. If you squint a bit, the design is somewhat reminiscent of the HomePod mini, albeit smaller and without a screen.

The paper isn't necessarily going to be as durable as a plastic nose, but that's not really the point here.

The nose gently clamps the side of the wearer's own.
The nose gently clamps the side of the wearer's own.

To wear the nose, you open apart the plastic seam and simply place it on your nose. The inside of the sphere is hollow to help accommodate the nose, while the two raised edges catch around the sides of the nose.

There is some tension in play on the wearer's nose, but not a massive amount. It's snug and feels very secure, and survived a quick attempt at Wayne's World "Bohemian Rhapsody" head thrashing, so it'll stay attached for less intensive use cases.

The old plastic noses would fly off with ease, and the edges could hurt after a while. Those issues are gone here.

A great design for a great cause

It's unexpected to find such a high level of thought has gone into what is a facsimile of a clown nose, one that is also highly disposable and will probably be forgotten about within months.

The Jony Ive Comic Relief Red Nose, not a HomePod mini mini.
The Jony Ive Comic Relief Red Nose, not a HomePod mini mini.

We have a mechanically-interesting item here, one that is also ecologically sound and a radically different design from the typical fare used for the annual Red Nose.

While we don't know if the concept will be reused in the 2024 Red Nose, it's safe to say that the 2023 edition, with Ive's influence, is a welcome departure from the norm, and one that could capture the attention of potential donators in the run up to Red Nose Day itself.

Where to buy

The 2023 Comic Relief Red Nose is available from the Comic Relief website for GBP 2.50 ($3). It's also available from Amazon UK for the same price.