Criticism Report of the Brita Style Water Jug

Isaac Bonora on

Abstract

The Brita brand, a household name of over 50 years, continues to release water filtration products that are able to capture trends of the day. Innovating incrementally with time, their water filter jug range has maintained core principles whilst also adapting to market needs and wants. To day, Brita’s flagship water jug takes the form as a modern, soft shaped jug under the branding “Style”. The Style water jug is landmarked by it’s frosted clear appearance with minimal accents of colour. Allowing itself to blend neatly into its environment. Powered by Brita’s latest patented filter technology, Maxtra, the Style water jug enables high function and style in the modern household. This analysis explores each component of the Brita Style water jug, deconstructing base elements whilst uncovering influences that led to its form. Finally, the report will analyse with Gestalt and Berlyns theories as well as personality scales to aid in understanding its effectiveness as well as reveal its downfalls.

Introduction

Founded in 1977 by Heinz Hankammer, the Brita Product Company today produces a range of water filtration devices for both household consumers as well as industry categories such as cafes and bakeries 1. Brita, a household name 2, continues to incrementally innovate their personal filter products with their most recent releases being the Brita Style water jug. The topic of this discussion, the Brita Style water jug, represents decades of historical influences from both within Brita’s etymology and external aesthetic inspirations. This critique analyses the product down to it’s intrinsic components discussing its effectiveness as not only just a water filter but it’s place within consumers homes.

Description

Brita was founded in Germany 1966 by Heinz Hankammer. Hankammer debuted the Brita brand with a filtration system “AquaDeMat” whose purpose was not to generate drinking water but to demineralize water for batteries in cars of the time 3.

AquaDeMat

AquaDeMat4

Brita first began producing consumer household water filters in the early 70s with a clear focus on taste as being the driving selling force. Today, Brita covers large segments of the water filter industry instilling itself as a household brand name next to Post-It and Sharpie as well as covering industrial and commercial applications5.

Main Purpose

Brita Style water filter jug, the subject of this critical analysis, has been targeted for the home. The household family, as defined by a large amount of Brita marketing6 is the primary user of the water filter jug. Secondary and tertiary users may include office and school users where filtered water may be desired.

Brita Style Water Jug with Maxtra+ Water Filter aside.

Brita Style Water Jug with Maxtra+ Water Filter aside.6

Brita Maxtra+ filter cartridge is the workhorse of Brita’s Maxtra water filter series. It’s patented design includes an injection moulded plastic enclosure that contains “Activated MicroCarbon Pearls” 3 whose marketing and descriptions refer to its purpose to “… reduce taste and odour impairing substance and provide pure and fresh tasting water” 3.

Objective Details

At a high level the Brita Style water filter jug can be broken down in 5 serviceable components. With only one electronic component, the product affords a stripped down experience that is easily understood by the user without prior explicit knowledge about it’s function. The core component of the water jug is the Brita Maxtra filter, located in the center of the jug between the first and second stages.

Basic usage storyline

  1. Inner lid opens to allow water input from the sink faucet into the first stage compartment. Inner lid opens to allow water input from the sink faucet into the first stage compartment.
  2. Pouring water into Brita Style water filter. Inner lid holds itself up for easy pouring with minimal effort. Pouring water into Brita Style water filter. Inner lid holds itself up for easy pouring with minimal effort.
  3. !Filter water from first stage into second stage compartment fed by gravity through the MAXTRA water filter cartridge.](Photo8-6-2132951pm.jpg) Filter water from first stage into second stage compartment fed by gravity through the MAXTRA water filter cartridge.
  4. Pouring water into a glass from the second stage via the spout up the side of the water jug. Pouring water into a glass from the second stage via the spout up the side of the water jug.

Replacing Filter Storyline

  1. Take the lid off by pulling up on the tab. Take the lid off by pulling up on the tab.
  2. Replace the MAXTRA water filter cartridge simply by pulling on it up. Replace the MAXTRA water filter cartridge simply by pulling on it up.
  3. Reset the filter status indicator by holding it down for 8 seconds. Reset the filter status indicator by holding it down for 8 seconds.

Visible Aspects

The user interacts with all components of the Brita Style water jug. Visually the water jug, thanks to it’s clear first and second stage compartments, maintains an open presence that invites the user to inspect and use. Primarily the user will interact with the lid with any operation they may apply, from pouring, filling to replacing the filter cartridge. Digital interactions are left to an absolute minimum with only just a single LED indicator, flashing red or green on tilt, as an index of the filter’s effectiveness.

Brita Style water filter with lid open as user interacts to go and fill with water

Brita Style water filter with lid open as user interacts to go and fill with water7.

Analysis

Who designed it (individual/company)

The Brita Style water filter jug continues to follow design fundamentals established in the 70s first when Brita was releasing its initial household water filters. While the company continues to redesign and rethink how modern water filter jugs are used, Brita’s founder Heinz Hankammer and original designer can be attributed to the classic designs of the water filter jug and also influences over the modern jugs including the water filter jug discussed 5.

WasserFilter to the Brita Style Water Jug. Evolutionary design from the 70s to now

WasserFilter to the Brita Style Water Jug. Evolutionary design from the 70s to now5

The Brita MAXTRA filter system, the same used in their modern products, also attracts high profile designers attention with few designs including the patented filter system as a part of it’s function. One example is Erik Magnussen’s EM77 Jug for Brita Water Filter, designed for the Stelton brand, the jug reboots an classic design of Magnussen’s into the future with modern technology 8.

The EM77 Jug by Erik Magnussen for the Brita MAXTRA Water Filter. Example of high design with the Brita water filter system

The EM77 Jug by Erik Magnussen for the Brita MAXTRA Water Filter. Example of high design with the Brita water filter system9.

When was it designed?

Brita, named after Heinz Hankammer’s daughter, is based in Taunusstein, Germany10. The Brita Style water filter jug is a recent product of Brita’s, being released in the late 2010s. With design and development being completed in Germany before being distributed internationally 11 10.

When was it designed?

Taking a look at the first Brita water filter jug, simply named WasserFilter (German for “Water Filter”), it’s cylindrical form and deep orange filter is derivative of other designs at the time in the early 70’s. Braun, another German company, in this period was known for their iconic orange designs spearheaded by world class designers such as Dieter Rams, their household products were littered in homes across the globe12 13. With this concept in mind, the Brita water filter range has over the years taken inspiration from around itself, typically reflecting design choices made by other products at time of release. However, it has maintained its core components with time, making use of only 2 stages compartments, before and after filtration, as well as the replaceable filter found internally.

Braun KF21 vs the WasserFilter by german company Brita.

Braun KF21 vs the WasserFilter by german company Brita. 6 12

Breakdown

As history has progressed the Brita water filter has with it. Modern filter jug design follows modern tastes with the Brita Style water filter jug taking a contemporary “soft shape…” 6. As previously mentioned, the Brita Style water jug does well to blend in with its environment with design choices made by the Brita design team. While the water jug is simple in design, it still maintains high function thanks to newly developed filters, with proprietary internals that bring technology to a simple object. However, while the filters do provide high function, they are also required to be replaced monthly for best results. Which, because they are not recyclable thanks to a multi-layered design, are considered negative to the environment. With consumable plastics being increasingly an issue, a solution should be considered with further developments14 15.

Brita Style water filter side on with water filtering through Maxtra+ Filter.

Brita Style water filter side on with water filtering through Maxtra+ Filter. 7

Specifications

Upon release the Brita Style water jug was sold for $45 AUD11. With a 2.4L capacity the water jug fits into most fridge shelving, and is thin enough to fit inside of the door of a fridge as well. It is sold at most department stores as well as some supermarkets; it can also be bought from Britas own ecommerce website.

Exploded component breakdown

1. Silicone strap and ABS inner lid. Injection moulded pieces with loop overmolded by inner lid. 2. External lid. ABS Injection moulded, 2 piece mould with 4 ejection pins and 1 injection point. 3. Filter status indication. 5 separate parts, sonic welded. 4 ABS Injection moulded, 1 pcb/electronics. Flashes either red or green when pressed to indicate the filter’s status (which is time based “+-1 Month”16. 4. MAXTRA water filter cartridge. 2 ABS injection moulded pieces for enclosure and multi-layered internal structure with filtration components16. 5. First stage compartment, before filtration. 1 single MABS injection moulded piece, most likely 2 part mould with textured finish on outside and gloss inside. 6. Grip for second stage compartment. 1 single ABS injection moulded piece, adhered with clips running along the inner edge. 7. Second stage compartment, post filtration. 1 single MABS injection moulded piece, 3 part mould with frosted/textured finish on inner grip mould.

Critique

Historical influence Evolution

The Brita Style water jug follows an evolutionary design inspired by its predecessors. Pulling design cues from across the Brita range as well as other elements from outside of its own category extending it into modern culture.

Historical Brita Water filters have influenced the evolutionary design of the Brita Style Water Filter

Historical Brita Water filters have influenced the evolutionary design of the Brita Style Water Filter6 17.

The Brita team does well to take design inspiration of their time. With their first model in the 70s being reminiscent of other popular german designs such as what Braun was producing at the time12 13. To today, the Style water jug is an evolution of what has preceded it as well as taking inspiration from other household products. Key design elements have stayed consistent with time across the Brita water filter range. Incorporating three major elements: clear external water container for the filtered water, an internal water reservoir with the filter attached and the lid with an indicator of filter status. These three elements have maintained their definition over evolutions of the product with only the design language and aesthetic changes being made with each iteration. Inspiration from outside of itself continues also, one example of mimicry from within the house is modern fridges, a place that this product will live inside of.

Modern Samsung Fridge: “825L Family Hub™ Refrigerator SRF825BFH4”

Modern Samsung Fridge: “825L Family Hub™ Refrigerator SRF825BFH4”18

Samsung fridges (pictured) take on distinct design cues with strong lines and rounded surfaces on each touchpoint. Internally these fridges utilize plenty of clear and white plastics promoting ideas of cleanliness and freshness. Something that the Brita Style water filter takes obvious inspiration from. While the Brita design team has over the decades continued with the use of clear plastic being its defining feature, the Style water filter further iterates on the use of clear plastics. Where previously older designs hid the upper water tank, before the water was filtered, with opaque plastics; the Brita style water filter does away with this tradition and incorporates the further use of clear plastic to promote a stronger and more defined identity from its predecessors. A benefit of this design change over it’s previous iterations, the replaceable filter is now a key element in the product, defining itself as the index of the Brita branding on this product. Highlighting that this product is ultimately powered by the filter is just a basic water container without it.

Analyse

Gestalt Theory

Gestalt’s rules allow us to describe what makes an object harmonious and aesthetically pleasurable. When looking at the Brita Style water jug with the gestalt lens, we can find elements that fulfil these rule requirements. Proximity ,similarity and symmetry take precedent within the Brita Style water jug’s design. With Similarity between the green (filter + buffer) and yellow (jug) forms being visually grouped together thanks to design choices that closely resemble one another. Proximity and symmetry then continues with trend with the base of both the green and yellow forms (highlighted in pink) being visually close in curvature. The combination of all these elements ultimately produce a design that is not only functional, but also visually appealing to the eye thanks to the harmonious appearance provided by proximity, similarity and symmetry.

Brita Style Water Filter highlighted with Getalt Theory Rules

Brita Style Water Filter highlighted with Getalt Theory Rules19 6.

Berlyne’s Theory

Baxter20 tells us that Gestalt theory may not be the gold standard many thought to believe. Berlyne’s theory is brought into Baxter’s20 book, Product Design, as a rebuttal to the issue of visual simplicity. Suggesting that visual attractiveness is a result of the perceived complexity indicating that familiarity is sought after to make objects appear simpler and thus more attractive. With modern appliances increasingly following similar design aesthetics, such as monochromatic colours and primitive shapes, the Brita Style water jug further develops this trend, employing familiarity from their previous product lines and competitions as a source of visually aesthetic pleasure. Intrinsically the Brita Style water jug is moderately visually complex, primarily thanks to the use of clear plastics throughout showing internals that otherwise is not visible to the user, something that this water jug has pioneered in the Brita catalog. This visual complexity keeps the product interesting, while not unfamiliar due in part to the use of primitive shapes and common semiotics between other water jugs.

Berylne’s Inverted U curve with Brtia Style Jug position superimposed

Berylne’s Inverted U curve with Brtia Style Jug position superimposed20 19.

Personality Scale

The personalities projected on-to the Brita Style water jug were recorded from two gender based perspectives, male and female. Both participants also were unfamiliar with the product and were only provided reference material to base their projections from. This was done to grab a deeper insight into the immediate visceral reactions that the product may possess, isolating the familiarities of this specific design to past iterations as discussed in Berylne’s theory. The male perspective appears at a glance to be much more sporadic when compared to the female view point. He finds the product provocative, dominant, and serious while also being resistant to personifications of openness, cuteness or childishness. Suggesting that to the male perspective, this product is something to be utilised as a functional object, and that it’s appearance is more that of sophistication or modern sensibilities. Whereas the female displayed fewer powerful feelings than her gender counterpart but, personified the product as being primarily boring, serious, honest and modest. Insinuating the product to her would be less of interest and just another part of her possessions.

Personality Scale result from investigation by Bonora

Personality Scale result from investigation by Bonora19

Jordan’s Four-Pleasure’s Framework

WasserFilter to the Brita Style Water Jug. Evoltionary desgin from the 70s to now

WasserFilter to the Brita Style Water Jug. Evoltionary desgin from the 70s to now7 5.

The Brita Style water jug satisfies Jordans four pleasures in varying levels of capacity. Firstly Physio, arguably the primary function of the water jug is based around this pleasure, with taste being the driving sales force behind the product range since its inception 16 2.

Marketing from the Brita Products Company USA in 1997: “What does it take to make tap water taste like this?” “Not Much” referring to previous generation Brita water filter cartridge

Marketing from the Brita Products Company USA in 1997: “What does it take to make tap water taste like this?” “Not Much” referring to previous generation Brita water filter cartridge2

Furthermore the Psycho pleasure is achieved through methods of filtration, with the utilisation of clear plastics providing easy viewing of the products function, it is psychologically pleasing to witness the filtration process, reassuring the user.

Conclusion

The Brita design team over the years has shown they are able to consistently evolve their product lineup with incremental changes, adapting to market needs and wants. The Brita Style water jug is a prime example of such evolutionary design. Its ability to stay neutral across a range of people is a testament to the water jug as a family orientated product. Continuing to cement the Brita brand as a household name, synonymous with good, clean tasting water. Critical analysis of the design has shown us that the product is not just a quick idea, but is well thought out, touching on design principles and theories that have been tried and tested time and again. The design team’s material choices are an example of market research and deep understanding of their own products. With the use of economical materials to reflect the products environment, it is able to achieve cohesion with it’s kitchen appliance counterparts whilst also maintaining an affordable price point. However, while concerns relating to consumable plastics is still an ongoing issue being examined by researchers and designers15 14, the use of disposable plastic filters in the Brita Style water jug is an issue that still needs to be addressed.

References


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