Designing Speedo LZR Racer: Speedo's Innovative and Controversial Line of High-end Swimsuits

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Please note:

This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

Case Details:


Case Code : OPER075 For delivery in electronic format: Rs. 400;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 400 + Rs. 25 for Shipping & Handling Charges


Design/ New Product Development / Computer Modeling and Simulation / Innovation

Case Length : 20 Pages
Period : 2000-2008
Organization : Speedo International Limited
Pub Date : 2009
Teaching Note : Not Available
Countries : UK; Global
Industry : Elite Swimwear


This case discusses in detail the design and development of the Speedo LZR Racer, a new swimsuit from leading manufacturer and distributor of swimsuits Speedo International. Launched on February 12, 2008, the LZR Racer was considered the world's fastest swimsuit with technically advanced features. Approved by international swimming governing body FINA, the suit was endorsed by well known swimming athletes. Made from a lightweight, low drag water repellent fabric, the LZR Racer was the first laser bonded swimsuit with no visible seams. The suit's unique design increased the oxygen intake efficiency of the swimmers and helped them to swim swiftly for a longer period. It compressed the swimmer's body into a streamlined shape and enabled him/her to cut through the water with more agility.

The case explains the designing process of the suit. The product was the result of a three-year research and development project carried out by Speedo's Research & Development team Aqualab. While designing and developing the LZR Racer, Speedo harnessed the expertise of several agencies including US space agency NASA, the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), ANSYS, and international fashion label Comme des Garçons. The new suit was readily accepted by swimmers and swimmers sporting the LZR Racer broke many world records. As of 2008, a total of 108 world records were broken by swimmers wearing the LZR Racer.

The case also discusses the criticism faced by Speedo pertaining to the LZR Racer, as some experts felt that the suit provided an unfair advantage to its wearers. When athletes competing in the LZR Racer suits broke world records, several rival companies and national teams protested against the use of this technologically advanced swimsuit. They called it 'technological doping'. The case concludes with a description of the new amendments and requirements for swimwear approval put forth by FINA. These rules are to be followed worldwide by swimwear manufacturers who develop competitive swimwear.


» Understand the issues and challenges in coming out with an innovative product.

» Study the LZR Racer development process and understand the importance of design in the new product development process.

» Understand the importance of computer modeling and simulation in designing of a product.

» Analyze the reasons for the criticism of Speedo and its product the LZR Racer and discuss the ethical issues related to it.

» Explore strategies that Speedo could adopt while designing the next technologically advanced swimsuit in keeping with the new FINA guidelines pertaining to design and shape of products.


  Page No.
Introduction 1
Background Note 3
Designing the Speedo LZR Racer 5
Testing 8
The Launch 9
Results 10
Criticism 12
Outlook 14
Exhibits 15


Design, Innovation, New product development, Computer modeling , Simulation , Computational Fluid Dynamics, Testing, Surface friction drag testing, Water flume testing, Performance Factor Tests, Drag reduction, Elite swimwear market, LZR Racer, Speedo, Fastskin, Aqualab, Technological doping

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