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Case Study:

Project Wanda

"Consumers see water filtration as a discretionary category presenting an opportunity for brands that can rejuvenate consumer's attitudes towards water filtration products"

Source: Mintel, Water Filtration, US March 2015

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Mission 

The founders of Wanda wanted to build an eco-friendly brand with a mission to encourage people to drink tap water in order to reduce water miles and their dependance on plastic bottled water.

Our Process 

RALLI Design Studio worked alongside a strategic brand agency to lead the research and design development for a domestic countertop water purifier.

We began the project by mapping out a user-centric approach involving processes from the product design lifecycle.

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Strategy 

To understand what the business requirements might look like we used market research reports to identify the three main consumer barriers that brands need to overcome in this category.

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We also used trend forecasting reports to identify possible opportunities in the drinking water filtration category.

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Competitor Analysis 

We compared the latest water filtration devices on the market that had notable points of difference within this category. We also compared the replaceable cartridges that came with the filtration devices.

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Market Analysis 

While all these brands emphasised the taste benefits of using their products with potable water there was disparity around the sustainability of the filter cartridges inside the products.

 

Brands such as KOR and SOMA promote the coconut shell carbon granules inside the filter as ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ however they did not have recycling schemes in place for customers to return the cartridges after use.

 

BRITA had gone a step further offering drop-off points for customers to return their cartridges, however the plastic casings were not recycled into new cartridges, they were up-cycled into more plastic products and new cartridge casings were made from virgin (oil-based) plastic.

 

As the responsibility is left to the customer to dispose of the cartridges appropriately, inevitably a proportion end up in landfill adding to the plastic pollution crisis.

Summary 

We identified that none of these brands had a circular business model in place whereby the filter cartridge material is fully recovered and regenerated at the end of its service life.

 

At this point we identified an opportunity to produce the filter cartridge casings using bioplastics instead of virgin (oil-based) plastic.

Contextual Enquiry + Interviews  

We focused on the target market outlined in the reports as being the most receptive to innovation from this category. We interviewed users aged 18-34 years old who lived in London that owned a water filtering device to uncover common frustrations experienced with these types of filtration devices.

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The most common pain points using filter jugs were as follows:

  • Speed of filtration too slow.

  • Cleaning jugs with multiple parts and tight access can be frustrating and not always dishwasher safe.

  • Taking up too much space in the fridge and not able to fit in fridge door.

  • Capacity of filtered water perceived as small when taking into account the actual size of jug. 

  • Can be heavy and cumbersome when full.

  • Preference for glass over plastic, however there is lack of choice for glass jug filter devices on the market.

  • Designs not aesthetically pleasing and not decorative enough for display.

The most common pain points using filter cartridges were as follows:

  • Replacing filter cartridges can be expensive.

  • Finding recycling points for filter cartridges not always obvious or accessible.

  • Frustration that filters are not included in local councils recycling collection.

  • Users not sure when to change them.

  • Lifespan of cartridges too short.

  • Cartridges not reusable.

Objectives Defined  

Using the feedback from customers and insights from the competitive analysis we defined the three main project objectives with the client:

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Functional Decomposition  

To understand the complexity of the components in the device we decomposed it into primary functions.

 

Based on insight from the discovery phase the device's functionality included smart tech features and additional purification using UV light. 

 

However we were not sure if these additional features would be relevant to our UK based customers as the trend reports focused on the US filtration market where customers had differing attitudes to drinking potable water.

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Image: Representation of functional decomposition for a countertop filtration device 

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Image: Functional decomposition diagram for a countertop filtration device 

Ideation

After breaking down all the possible functions of the device we ran a series of sketching sessions to brainstorm ideas that addressed the three project objectives.

Following these sketching sessions we presented a number of pathways for the project to the client and the decision was made to simplify the design further by removing electronic components from the filtration device, shifting our focus away from designing a utilitarian appliance to explore a more ritualistic experience around drinking water. 

We used hand drawn sketches as well 3D modelling software to illustrate concepts throughout the development process.

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Image: Initial ideation sketches

Design Solution 1:

 

Activated Carbon Teabag Concept

At the time of this project a newly developed plant-based polymer mesh was being developed by chemical companies for commercial applications.

 

We explored the idea of using this mesh material as a teabag to contain loose granules of activated carbon.

The teabag could be placed in a carafe or glass of tap water to remove the tastes and odours that make people reluctant to drink it.

The advantage of using granules rather than whole pieces/sticks of activated charcoal is that they have a larger surface area which means the filtration time is faster.   

When the carbon granules lose their efficacy the bag (with granules inside) could be disposed of in the customers food waste.  

The bags could be sold in recyclable packaging resembling a contemporary tea brand. Vitamins and minerals could be added to expand the offering.

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Image: Activated Carbon Teabag Concept

Design Solution 2:

 

Glass Carafe + Fixed Filter Concept

 

The fast filtration cartridge suspended inside the glass carafe would allow users to fill it straight from their tap.

When pouring, the filter cartridge would slide forward to allow the filtered water to pass through the silicone collar and around the outside of the filter cartridge.

The pinch point in the glass would serve two functions; securing the silicone collar with filter cartridge and acting as a finger grip for users when handling the carafe.

The slim carafe design would fit into a fridge door.

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Image: Glass carafe with fixed filter concept

Design Solution 3:

 

Glass Carafe + Removable Filter Concept

 

Gives users the choice to serve filtered water with or without filter in the carafe. 

We identified an opportunity to produce the filter cartridge casing using a bioplastic instead of a virgin (oil-based) plastic.

 

Our expectation was that the customer would be able to dispose of the cartridge as part of their compostable waste at home. 

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Image: Glass carafe with removable filter concept

Design Solution 4:

 

Countertop Dispenser Concept

 

A common frustration expressed by users was having to refill their filter pitchers throughout the day. This was generally because the pitcher reservoirs were small in comparison to the overall size of the product. The filter and the housing for the filter took up a large portion of the pitchers capacity. 

To try and solve this we explored ideas for filtering larger volumes of water.

This portable design included a handle that folded down allowing users to fill the product under a tap and when full is placed by the countertop edge to dispense filtered water using the front facing tap.

The concept was inspired by pour over coffee makers, eliminating the need for a plastic casing to house the loose activated granules.

We also considered a version that could be stacked on top of a stackable carafe design. The carafe could be stored on a fridge shelf, rather than in the door shelf. 

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Image: Countertop dispenser concept

Prototyping

 

We mocked up scale models for usability testing and explored the possibilities of borosilicate glass production through the prototyping of a carafe with fold down stainless steel handle.

 

Prototyping and testing the unusual glass carafe was important as we realised the functionality was compromised by the wide base design. Users found pouring difficult to control as the carafe would become unbalanced when the water started moving from side to side.

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Image: Foam models and glass prototypes

Key Findings

After reviewing the concepts with the client the following assessments were made: 

 

Design Solution 1:

There was potential innovation with the ‘teabag’ concept and cartridge casings made from bioplastics. However, although derived from renewable raw materials (e.g. potato or corn starch), these materials require industrial composting processes to break down quickly and effectively. 

 

Design Solution 2 + 3:

The responsibility for appropriate filter cartridge disposal would be in the hands of customers and may lead to logistical issues because there is a lack of nationwide recycling schemes and composting facilities set-up for bioplastics. 

Further investigation and testing would be required to determine the lifespan and viability of bioplastic materials if constantly submerged or in contact with water.

Further investment would be needed for scientific testing to develop a bioplastics cartridge. Costs would also include tooling and manufacturing, etc.

Design Solution 4:

 

After testing the loose activated carbon granules concept (without a filter casing) users found cleaning the product problematic. When the granules became wet the result was a sloppy mixture, not dissimilar to wet sand, that was difficult to dispose of and overall quite an unpleasant experience.

Minimum Viable Product

Following a procurement process to find alternatives to granulated activated charcoal the client partnered with a manufacturer of bamboo charcoal. Supplied in stick form, bamboo charcoal offers a more user friendly product. Also unlike alternative charcoal sticks, usually made from hardwood trees, bamboo regrows after harvesting in a fraction of the time. 

 

Driven by the pursuit of a low tech water filter we developed the countertop dispenser concept further.

We conducted another sketching session with the client to refine the shape of the glass. Revising the portability and instead of a handle we introduced a tapered waist for the lower half of the glass. This made it easier to carry when full of water. It also meant the metal basket was redundant. To protect the bottom of the glass, when placed on hard surfaces, we designed a fitted bamboo base.

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Image: Sketches from shape exploration session

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Image: Rendered visuals from shape exploration session

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Image: Design considerations for glass water jar

Final Product

In 2019 Wanda's eco-friendly product range was launched with a back-to-basics offering of water filters and beautiful handblown glassware for everyday use.

Follow the link below to check out their website:

www.livewanda.com

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