Design is ElementalOctober 12, 2012
Design is Elemental
By Jason Carignan, Chief Design Officer
Each year, more than 38 billion single-use water bottles end up in U.S. landfills. That equals 1.5 million tons of waste! Appalled at the statistics and the existence of environmental tragedies, like The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, my partners and I, Dave Czerwinski and Brent Reinke, set out to design a product that would help put an end to this senseless waste.
We initially stumbled across the idea of a flexible water bottle by accident. While exploring a solution for another product, Dave discovered the Doypack (TM) (the official name for the stand-up flexible pouch), which was invented by Louis Doyen in 1962 as a packaging solution for fruit juice and olives.
Today, Doyen’s pouch design is spawning something of a sustainable packaging revolution, from baby food to refillable soap dispensers and more. But, at the time, almost no one had thought about using this technology for reusable containers.
The sustainability advantages of a flexible, reusable water bottle were immediately apparent to us. First and foremost, we could make the bottles right here in the USA. We also learned that flexible bottles require much less energy to manufacture than rigid bottles. They are also much lighter than rigid bottles and ship flat which greatly reduces fuel consumption. Best of all, they fold-up, making them extremely convenient for people to take everywhere, reducing the temptation to drink disposable bottled water on-the-go.
The Anti-Bottle Movement is Born
On September 14, 2009, after hundreds of prototypes and thousands of Post-it Notes (TM), we launched our flagship product: the Vapur Anti-Bottle – the foldable, reusable water bottle designed for active, environmentally conscious consumers. In addition to its category-defining foldability, Vapur is also freezable, dishwasher-safe, BPA-free and highly-durable.
We knew that the form factor of a flexible bottle would be new and unfamiliar to most. Because of this, we spent hundreds of hours designing every product detail and crafting the messaging for this radical new product, including our Anti-Bottle Manifesto. Little did we know, we would be sparking an international product trend. Within nine months of launching, we began hearing reports of counterfeit and knock-off “Vapur” products being imported from China. We have been vigorously protecting our trademarks and patents ever since.
Despite the imitators, we continued to believe that a great brand, coupled with an unwavering focus on design leadership, is the best way to build long-term success for our company. Shortly after launching the first Anti-Bottle, we began exploring ways to radically improve its design to meet the needs of athletes and more demanding users (skiers, runners, backpackers, climbers, etc.) who had come to appreciate the foldability and lightweight nature of Vapur products. Specifically, we wanted to develop a larger size, a better spout and a more durable clip. We were also committed more than ever to designing and manufacturing the entire product in the United States, which we knew would pose considerable sourcing and cost challenges.
Vapur 2.0 – Mapping the Customer Experience
We began our quest to design our new bottle by mapping the end-to-end customer experience in order to identify all of the ways people interact with our products (example: Buying, Filling, Drinking, Carrying, Packing, Cleaning, Storing). Then, we interviewed current customers, observed usage habits, reviewed competitive sets and brainstormed ideas. We literally dissected our original Anti-Bottle and counted each of individual components (10 in total, by the way) to identify ways to improve the product from the top-down.
We then invited our key supply-chain partners to join us for an “open innovation” session where we explored new materials, new technologies and new methods for producing our product. The team ultimately developed about 10 ideas for further exploration and then began the process of rapid prototyping and user testing to refine the final design.
The result of this 12-month process was the new Vapur Element, the most versatile water bottle on the planet. The Element features the new flip-top SuperCap with integrated carabiner clip, a larger mouth for easier filling and cleaning and holds 30% more water. About 87% lighter than typical rigid water bottles, the foldable Element is easy to stash and go, making it a great hydration solution for any active lifestyle. We were also able to reduce our total part count by 30%. And, true to all Vapur Anti-Bottles, the Element is 100% BPA free and 100% made in the United States.
The new Vapur Element launched in early 2012 and has been garnering rave reviews ever since.