Although seismic isolation rubber bearings in bridges and buildings have proven to be a very effective passive method for reducing earthquake-induced forces, a detailed mechanical modeling of the rubber that is used in bearings under large strains has not been established. Therefore, a 3D model of failure behavior and the design criteria for the safety evaluation of seismic isolation bearings have not yet been developed. This paper presents: (1) correlation-based template-matching algorithms to measure large strain fields of continua; (2) a failure criterion for rubber; and (3) the design criteria for the safety evaluation of laminated algorithms, data-validation algorithms were developed and implemented to eliminate possible unrealistic displacement vectors present in the measured displacement field. The algorithms were successfully employed in the strain field measurement of LRB and rubber materials that are subjected to failure. The measured local strains for rubber material at failure were used to develop a failure criterion for rubber. The validity of the proposed criterion was evaluated by applying it to the LRB; the criterion was introduced into a 3D finite element model of LRB, compared with the experimental results of bearings failure, and verified. Finally, design criteria are proposed for LRB for the safety evaluation. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.