Thursday, February 9, 2012

Brita® Please!

Brita® Product Analysis:

Water Pitcher Design : Space Saver® w/ Calendar Minder® Indicator

Last year I promised to deliver some product design perspectives on a single product. Excuse my dilatoriness. I selected a "random" product that relates to something I am "radical" about: healthy drinking water.

How would you evaluate a product? What can we do to make things “Greener”? Am I picking on Brita®, no, I picked Brita® and you will discover why.

I have seen many bright companies start with a great product then forgot what got them where there: selling great products. I am sure you can think of a few. Some companies that I feel would benefit from some innovation are: RIM, Ford, Google*. I think companies have to rediscover their product and prove they deserve the customers they so proudly serve! It sure beats the taxpayer having to sustain operations. Talk about risk. I say let poor management die, but, back to the product, not the administration.

Before I start, remember to ask yourself what green means. If a product says it's “Green” and ends up in the landfill "before its time", is it Greenwash?

Being a designer, one must objectively criticize designs. The object is to deliver what your customer asked for, even better if it crushes their competition. Capitalism loves a winner, it is good for business. If a product can be both green and profitable then: “Muahahaha!”, the designer may say.

If my customer does not know what they “want”, I query them on their intent: “what is the goal of your product?” After squishing this data around, I provide an opinion and demonstrate the pros and cons of the design to the company. If everyone is happy then presto, a new product is born. Smile?

Seems many products are being "born". For the economics of scale, companies make long term commitments to manufacturing the same product-family* many times. This lowers the per unit cost until operations are profitable ( break even point or ROI time-frame ). Another way to say this is capital investment in serial production. This is a risk for corporations, since they do so before they produce any revenues or profits on the product.

Most of the time new products are born in the “Military” and eventually “trickle down” into the consumer markets: Cell Phones, Computers, Smart “products”, nanotechnology, security systems for the home and even water filtration. After the military is done playing you can have the “whats next” because they have "something better".

As with all great products, all eventually break. This is reality. Seems many products cannot endure the long-term structural failures of plastic: it gets weaker and breaks. Eventually even my old Brita® succumbed to the lifecycle of plastic: failure.

So Brita® is, what I think, a product that helps reduce bottled water. The DIY water system. I have had Brita® products for many years. Simple, functional, efficient. Thanks! Replacing filters is easy. I trust their brand. Am I wrong about this?

So, my old Brita® broke. Trusting the Brita® brand, I went to the store and assumed they could replace my old broken Brita® . Boom Brita® done? I bought a new Brita®. Have a nice day. I took my new Brita® home! Smile?

Being a designer I broke my first rule: never assume a product meets the design criteria: a happy and hydrated customer. I feel ashamed, yet, I must go on. After “weeks of fury” dealing with my brilliant Brita® "choice”, I smiled and knew what to write for my late product review!

Brita®: Greenwash vs. Green? You decide!

Brita® Product Analysis: Non-destructive Compliance Testing.

Purpose: Identify Brita® product improvements.
Customer: Me
Summary Results: This product is a fail!

Summary of Issues: Brita® : Requires Product Redesign / None = Success

Performance Observations of Brita® :

1.) Normal Operation,
2.) Refilling &
3.) Pouring Water

1.) Normal Operation:

a.) During normal operation, product should not have sub-assemblies that disengage or “fly off” the product under normal dynamic circumstances. Due to sub-assembly failure, water is then free for spectacular ejection onto floors, hot oil, electronics, significant others, electrical sockets, inside the freaking refrigerator and on my freaking kitchen mat and a little on the dog, simultaneously. Grrrrr.

2.) During Refilling: ( okay lets make this sound more serious and professional )

b.) Thumb or other finger can disengage lid sub-assembly. If lid falls into a potentially contaminated environment, direct contact of critical exposed surfaces may contaminate the upper water chamber. This risk then forces the customer to sanitize the lid for safe and healthy performance. See issue a).

c.) While refilling, the thumb or finger, used to activate the refilling access hatch to the upper water chamber, can torque the lid sub-assembly off the product ( from level “steady” position ). This results in issue a).

d.) The refilling assess hatch does not remain open when thumb is removed. Is this desired operation? But look, no issue a)!

e.) If the water input exceeds capacity of the upper water chamber ( without lid sub-assembly in place ) excess water exits over handle and enters the product via 2 part construction of handle cavity ( this typically occurs after observations a, b & c while the lid subassembly is being sanitized ). Once filled, this “gem of a design feature” leaks water for about 30-40 seconds. This forces customer to wait until the cavity gravity drains of all water. Don't forget the pleasant remaining drips on the base of the product which further spreads water on surfaces.

3.) During Pouring of Water:

f.) While pouring water, the lid sub-assembly can disengage from the product. See issue a).

g.) If the upper water chamber is full (water has yet to be filtered or full water capacity is reached), the refilling access hatch will be forced open due to hydro-dynamic force and the open orientation of the access hatch opening orientation. This open state then allows unfiltered water to run freely down the outside, and possibly contaminated, surface and into the customers glass. If the potential of the hydro-dynamic force is close to maximum, this will result in my personal favorite moment: issue a)!

Recommendation : Please contact @deepgreendesign for further details!

So, there is a quick and fun analysis of a product that did not meet my expectations. So?

This will force the customer to accept and adapt to the poor design, or this Brita® water jug will hit the landfill. Remember I spoke of products that have the "Green" intent but actually just end up hurting the environment? Will Brita® tweet me?

Well, it is my opinion that Brita® can improve their product. Thats a win – win for me & Brita®!

It is comical to see what business has to say about success in business. If you check their list “of issues” seems the product never mattered to begin with.

That is the failure. What did banks and auto manufacturers sell? Faulty products to its customers. Talk about anti-capitalism.


* - oh, chill out.

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