The healthy & naturally supportive travel pillow

It took a global pandemic and the gift of time to create the world’s most perfect travel pillow

A unique new travel pillow that revolutionises the prospect of interstate and overseas travel is hitting the market just in time for travel restrictions to ease. 

The Australian-designed pillow NotNodi is the brainchild of Nicole Halsall, who designed the pillow in conjunction with Swinburne Design’s student-led design studio, the Bureau, for product evaluation, testing and marketing development. And it’s anything but another travel pillow. It’s a completely new way to correct posture, allowing for easy breathing, enabling a better sleep and reducing muscle and mental fatigue.

Using her experience in the medical and aged care sector, Nicole was inspired to create a product that supported her head and neck in a natural position when sleeping.

She also knows a thing or two about neck pain. She had a horse-riding accident years ago, which required reconstructive surgery, giving her new insights into the importance of posture. 

Pre-pandemic, her husband Scott was flying in and out weekly, recounting horror stories of scrunching up a blazer as a pillow, shoulder to shoulder between other business travellers on his way home. 

“He knew exactly what was needed for the ideal travel pillow. His criteria was simple. It must eliminate head nodding when at rest on short haul flights, provide natural head and neck support to promote healthy sleep on long flights, must not make him look ridiculous on a business flight, and must fit easily in his carry-on luggage,” Nicole says. 

She set about developing a product that addresses these core health concerns: the lack of support creating next pain, the inability to stop head nod, strain on shoulder and back muscles, and overheating created by neck braces, which may also impact blood flow.

The pandemic was a blessing in disguise, enabling the team to tinker with the design during Victoria’s extended lockdowns and stress test the protypes for longer. The team has now addressed these core concerns by designing a product that promotes a healthier travel experience, so you can sleep comfortably without impacting your health.

“Over the past year we’ve become very proficient at operating remotely and collaborating using Trello boards, email, conference calls, chat rooms and Zoom meetings with the team.

“It has been quite a challenge to nail every one of his criteria, but we finally passed with flying colours, and I’m excited to launch NotNodi into the world. “Swinburne Design has been a hugely valuable piece of the puzzle, helping us navigate our way through the marketing and social media element to support our upcoming crowdfunding strategy and helping to commercialise the product,” she says.  

“We’ve spent the past 18 months fine-tuning NotNodi, with one eye on usability and the other on production. Many iterations, long hours and copious amounts of coffee later, we’ve created the most unique travel pillow on the market,” Nicole says. 

“My husband loves the fact that it’s almost invisible. None of the other passengers even realise he’s using a travel pillow. As he travels light, he’s also demanded the design must be compact, as he only uses a small cabin bag for short trips and was not interested in carrying a pillow around with him all day.” 

“Before Covid, I loved travelling overseas as often as we could, but I always had to plan a few days of recovery from the long flights. On the rare occasion that I would fall asleep on a flight, I would wake with terrible neck pain. I know I’m not alone. I’ve come across so many people with neck issues over the years working in the health industry, and long haul flights are unthinkable for many,” she says.

Nicole is the first to admit she’s entering a cluttered market. There are many other travel pillows on the market, but nothing like this one. She’s poured a significant amount of time and energy into solving the problem. 

The unique design provides unrivalled support, comfort and stability in the upright position. A pipeline of similar pillow-style products for kids travel, the elderly and for people living with disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, will follow. 

“Most pillows don’t support your head in a natural position, your neck always kinks sideways, they restrict your breathing, cause overheating and are incredibly cumbersome to travel with,” she says. 

Registered health practitioner Adam McCarthy endorses NotNodi, having tested it extensively on long car trips. In fact, it can prevent a lot of unnecessary neck pain. The chiropractor has two practices in Victoria, seeing dozens of patients a week with neck injuries that could have been prevented.  

“I was actually quite surprised I could actually sleep in an upright position and found it superior in comfort and practicality to anything I’ve used before. I’ll be recommending it for my patients when I’m travelling,” he said. 

While the initial target customers are passengers on long and short haul flights, a suite of related pillow products are set to be rolled out for other markets.  

These include a travel pillow for kids in car booster seats, a pillow that supports the elderly and people living with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, where much of their time is spent in a seated position and a disproportionate amount of their time is spent sleeping in a chair. 

With manufacturing contracts in place and a Kickstarter campaign set to launch 6 April, NotNodi is about to hit a global market, sold online, airports, retailers and Amazon for $95 RRP. 

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Written by Sara Cantu

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