The Element

| No Comments

I did the pugh chart for 10 of my favorite sink ideas and decided which idea to pitch based on seven criteria.

How big the impact?
Good market opportunities
how feasible?
Am I personally interested?
Am I competent to implement?

pugh chart.jpg

Based on my ratings, I decided to pitch the water flow measuring system because it had the most plus marks across all categories. The water flow measuring system uses a digital screen embedded in the sink that shows a visual depiction of water usage. What is unique about this measuring system is that it not only tells you quantitatively how much water your using, but it also tells you qualitatively. I decided to name the system the Element because knowing is elemental.

Picture 3.png

I am a bit camera shy so my fiance is the actor in this video and was excellent at taking direction. I think I will use him for pitching again someday...

I couldn't figure out how to show the video directly on the blog so it had to stay a file.
The Element.m4v

Novel, Marketable and Feasible


1) Recycling/ Filtration System
It turns out there are multiple recycling/filtration systems for greywater. The types of systems available vary from household wide filtration/recycling systems to individual sink recycling systems. All systems use the recycled/filtered water in the toilet since that is the majority of water use accounting for a full 30%, compared to sinks which account for less than 15% of water use.
Picture 1.png

Picture 9.png

Most people didn't understand the need to recycle and reuse the water instead of letting the water utility companies to filter and purify the water. They were also concerned with the effectiveness of the purification, especially for washing/cleansing purposes and some even thought that it might make the toilet boil smell. There were a few people that thought it would be a good product/system to have in the house, but were hesitant of the costs saying they would consider implementing it only if they were building a new home. The costs of the system run anywhere from $1500 and upwards.

A recycling/filtration system is obviously feasible because there are existing products already on the market. It isn't feasible however to recycle the water back into the sink because of strict water quality and sanitation regulations. The water that goes into the sink must be treated perfectly in order to reach the standards, and would add significantly to the cost which in turn would increase the price. Many people didn't want to pay for the current systems, and so probably wouldn't want to pay for a system that is even more expensive.


2) Conservation Character Attachment
I found a couple of faucet attachments, but none were engineered to be interactive with users. I envision a tickle-me-Elmo-like interaction that internally measures the flow of water used and advises user based on water used.
Picture 4.png

A little more than half of the people I interviewed thought they would buy an interactive character attachment to interact with and educate their children about water conservation. Some people suggested that the character not only educates about conservation but also about other things like the optimal time to wash hands or brush teeth. Prices they were willing to pay ranged from $20-$50.

The cost to make an interactive character attachment would be close to the cost of making similar children's toys. However it will be slightly more expensive due to the added measurement requirement (so the character can respond based on the amount of water used). Using the retail price of similar toys ($40), the cost to make this product would be approximately $4-5.


3) Drain from sink to garden
It turns out there are many systems that use greywater to irrigate plants. Some filter the water first while others allow the biodegradable material/suspended solids to be composted.
Picture 8.png

About 2/3rds of the people I interviewed did not have plants or gardens and so didn't see the need for such a system. However, those that did have gardens liked this idea very much. They were worried though about non-biodegradable things getting into their gardens and polluting it. Again, those that liked the idea said they would consider implementing it into their homes if their current system needed replaced or if they were building a new home.

4) Rain Fed Sink
I found that a rain fed sink is also not a novel idea, although most systems are used to fill the toilet cistern and not the sink.

Everyone I interviewed about the rain fed sink didn't see the need for such a contraption because they can get clean and fresh water from the faucet and so were not willing to buy this product.

5) Individual Measuring System with use/ 6) Digital Measuring board comparing community goals/Neighborhood
Picture 5.png

While there are faucets that can measure the flow of water, there aren't any that measures it qualitatively, meaning they don't say whether or not it is high , medium or low usage. Additionally, since a company has developed a 3G measurement and reporting software for water use, the water utilities could utilize the technology to do something similar to what some energy utility companies are doing with their customer energy bills- compare household water use with community use. This info could be displayed in real time on a screen above the sink.
Picture 6.png

About 2/3rd of the people I asked thought they would like to see how much water they use each time, saying that they simply don't know if they are using too much water or not. However, they didn't think they would spend money on a system that compares their water usage to neighbors. This component could instead be taken up by the water utilities and shown to customers in their monthly water bills instead of a digital real time screen.

The price of similarly metered sinks is between $50-100, and to included feedback based on the measurement would be just an incremental increase. Based on these retail prices, the cost to make a faucet that measures flow qualitatively and quantitatively will be around $5-$15.

7) Misting Sink with Antimicrobial Addition
There are a lot of misting systems available on the market, but none have been applied to the faucet sink directly. Additionally, there are a bunch of antimicrobial sprays but again, none have been integrated in with a sink faucet.
Picture 2.png
Picture 7.png

There were mixed feelings about a misting/antibacterial sink. People were concerned about the mist getting everwhere and having to clean it up. Also, people liked the idea of running water, believing their hands would get cleaner if they used real soap and running water. However some thought it would feel 'cool' on their hands, and might even speed up the hand-washing process. Based on these comments, a faucet that had different settings, like a shower, that had the capability to mist as well as regularly run water for drinking might be more popular with everyone.

8) Coin Operated Sink (for use in public)
Many public bathrooms now are coin operated, especially in Europe. The coin gives the user unlimited use of water while in the bathroom. As an incentive to reduce water usage, the coins could be put toward a specific amount of water. If you reach the coin alloted amount, then you need to insert another coin to get more water.

I didn't get a chance to ask public product procurers about coin operated sinks (which is where I think the market is), but I did ask users, and the overall consensus was that they didn't like the idea of paying for each water use. This makes sense because Americans aren't use to paying for such things, especially public use, but I think the market in Europe would be more accepting.

9) Foot Pedal to replace faucet handles
Using a foot pedal to control the water flow is also a common product, but given its benefits I am intrigued as to why we don't see more of them in actual households

About half of the people I talked to thought that a pedal to control water instead of handles would be a product they would buy mainly because of germs. However, the other half said they wouldn't buy it because they like the look of the sink better when it has handles. Of those that liked the product, they all said they would not buy a foot pedaled sink unless it was replacing a broken sink, or placed in a new bathroom.

10) Inverted Sink that contains water but also splashes user slightly to reduce time spent at the sink/with the water on

I was surprised to find an inverted sinks out there, however the sink doesn't accomplish the slight splashing of the water which defeats the water conservation purpose. Instead of a flat surface, a rounded inversion would accomplish the splashing.
Picture 10.png

Many people thought an inverted sink would not be something they would buy because for one, they didn't like the idea of getting splashed and two, an inverted sink would not be able to hold a lot of water to soak things in, such as a razor. I think an inverted sink would be more beneficial in public places, like a University, where the client has to pay for the water used, not each individual user.

Variations on Ideas

| No Comments

I chose to apply the SCAMPER technique to the idea of a water conservation filtration system for the household.

Can I replace someone involved?
I can reduce the water utilities involvement in cleaning the water (other than the toilet water), thus reducing water utility bills.
Could I use other processes or procedure?
Instead of using membranes for osmosis or filters for filtration, the system could utilize biological cleansing of the water such as bacteria or wetlands/ponds.

Can I combine or merge it with other objects?
The system could be combined with the water heating system so that everything related to the treatment of the water is in one central location. Also, the heated water could be conserved, thus saving not only water, but energy too.
What else is like it and is there something similar, but in a different context?
The system is similar to Heat Recover Ventilation systems in homes, where the heat from the interior of the home that was originally heated is conserved on its way out to the exterior through a controlled heat exchanger ventilation system. This could be applied to a water conservation system throughout the home that connects all of the outbound water that was used in the sinks to a central conservation system that cleans/purifies the water and recycles it back into the system during use. Also is similar to the brita water filter in that it purifies water.

What can be duplicated? Can I make multiple copies?
A large filtration system would require filters/membranes that would need to be frequently replaced to ensure the purity of the water. There would be the upfront cost of the system and frequent replacements of the filters as well as system maintenance.

Put to other Use
What else can it be used for?
A purification system could also be used to clean rain water to directly incorporate into the fresh water reserves for use in the sink or toilet region.
rain drain.jpg
Can I use this idea in other markets or industries?
A home water recycling system could be used in commercial settings as well and would be especially useful in regions that are more or less water starved, regions such as Arizona, New Mexico and other desert regions.

What feature can I understate or omit?
A water conservation system might cause energy usage to go up due to the energy required to run the filtration system, but it could be displaced by the heat that is conserved when you avoid the energy required to heat the incoming water.

Are there other patterns, layouts or sequences I can use?
Instead of a central water recycling system, where many pipes from the sinks all go to the same filtration system, there could be individual filters for each sink
individual systems.jpg

I often like to look to nature to see what sort of solutions she comes up with, after all she has had billions of years to perfect the systems to maintain harmonic balance (which ironically is based off of continuous flux, action and reaction). In nature, water is purified through filtration through layers and layers of sediment and rock. What if a water recycling system distributes the used, dirty water to the garden area which is designed to provide for great filtration. A gradient and piping system could be engineered underneath the layers of sediment to return the water for fresh water use. Or another variation of that concept could be layers of filter-like materials that the water seeps through gradually cleaning itself for reuse.

biomimicry variation1.jpgBiomimicry variation2.jpg

Blue Sky Ideation

| No Comments

I got together five people of different backgrounds and ages for the brainstorming session (see below). To get the creative juices flowing, I made sure I brought some candy to increase our dopamine levels and played a game where we each threw out a word to complete a silly sentence. Once we were feeling comfortable, we began the session.

Peter, age 23, professional painter
Chris, ages 22, recent applied econ graduate
Joe, 22, environmental studies Senior
Carol, 51, landscape architect
Bob, 50, engineer
Me, 22, M.S. in business sustainability


At first, it was difficult to get across that we will not be judging (internally or vocally) any ideas and that bad and silly ideas are encouraged. I think this group is definitely used to using their left brains more often than their creative rights, but after a bit of prodding, we all started generating. I know we generated less than 1 idea per minute (especially at first), but after I set the example of generating one silly idea after another (with a quick prototype scribble), they started to get the idea. Here are the top 20 ideas:

1) Rain Fed sink or toilet (Chris)
2) Sink with a separate outlet pipe to the garden (Me)
3/4) Combo Idea: Individual sinks that use and recycle the water through a filtration system (Joe), I expanded the idea to include a whole house system that uses filtration/membranes/osmosis to clean the grey water (the black water from the toilet would still go to the public water cleaning facilities.
5/6) Combo idea: Narrow drain that prevents the water from draining easily (Chris) paired with a measuring lines along the sink that lets the user know how much water is used and what is too much (me)B18.jpg
7/8) Combo Idea: Digital board above sink that shows the amount of water used that day/month/year and compare it with neighbors usage (through a wifi signal) (Me) Chris added to the idea saying that it could be applied to public bathrooms with a comparison to anonymous users - I really like that idea.
9) Sinks that utilize spray/mist to reduce the amount of water used. Antimicrobial spray could be added (Joe, Chris, and me)
10) Misting sinks specific for rinsing dishes (me)
11) inverted sink that splashes people so they won't want to use it very long, but is still contained in the sink- might be good in public facilities or in dorms (Bob)
12) Overuse alarm (Bob)
13) drain from the sink to the toilet for reuse. why do we use clean water for toilets? (Chris)
14) interactive characters that attach to the faucet to encourage little ones to conserve (me)
15) Digital Drag Race Faucet where the goal is to have the shortest time for various activities (Bob)
16) Cleansing towelettes that are renewable, similar to the renewable cloth towel device in some public bathrooms (Me inspired by Carol's story)
17) Foot pedal control instead of handles to control faucet, would cut down on the time it takes to turn water off and the germs from the handles (Peter)
18) Coin operated water, great for public bathrooms (Carol)
19) Japanese-like toilet... no tank and no bowl (Carol)
20) Alert user of overuse using sound. Could be a voice that says turn water off (Carol), could be irritating music (Chris), or could be a pleasant song that when it stops, so should the user (Me)

Idea list

| No Comments

Laugh Clubs
Square for Iphones
Smart Boards
Watch that tells weather
Solar Panel Windows
Hologram phone (the future!)
Nice Ride bikes
Toe Shoes (Feet shoes)

Bug List

| No Comments

On-going bug-list

People that don't put the toilet seat down
People that lie
Stepping in Dog Poo and smelling like it the rest of the day
Out of context statistics (politician's like to use this alot, urggh)
Automated Customer Service on the phone
Self-Checkout lanes ("please wait for assistance")
Muffin Tops (not the delicious baked ones)
Un-timed traffic lights (wastes time, Co2 and Money)
Picture 13.png
Getting calls on my cell phone from people who want to sell me something (product/service or politician)
Paying fees at my Bank to transfer money
Driver's that don't use turn signals
Unlisted prices on menus
Picture 14.png
Raised flower beds instead of depressed flower beds (erosion and runoff)
Snow Emergencies and their lack of signage
Rain coats are cold
Throwing Saran Wrap away (other uses?)
Trying to organize my computer files
Not 'Seeing' Road closed signs because they are undifferentiated from road work signs
Road Work.jpg
Prematurely flushing automatic toilets
Running water while not using it

Saving the World through Conservation


The focus of my ethnographic research is on water conservation related to the sink/basin area. I figured I better begin thinking about product solutions to environmental problems now since that will be the focus of my future business. I started my ethnographic research off with a bit of self observation- we had a monster load of dishes to clean and a load like this obviously required a lot of water- it was a perfect place to start.
Dish Washing.jpg

Through the process of washing the dishes, I realized how much water I wasted. First, there is the process of getting the temperature of the water to the right washing temperature, which itself wastes a fair amount. Then, you fill up the sink, and if you are like me, you continue to add to it while rinsing the dishes because the thought of wasting it right down the drain isn't bearable. But, putting it in the sink with the dishes just makes it diluted and grimy. And, lets face it, many of us just let it trickle off the plates and down the drain anyhow.

This last point was interesting because everyone has a different tendency when it came to how they utilize water. So, I constructed a picture matrix to illustrate the different tendencies that people have in regards to water conservation during teeth brushing to get a sense of the user landscape.

Conservation Tendencies.jpg

I wanted to get to the root of the problem for why water conservation is difficult to achieve behavioral changes in the home. I took the '5 Why's' approach and began asking some questions...

Conserving water is difficult in the home
Why? Because it is difficult to know how much is too much with each use
Why? Because people don't know if they are 'good' or 'bad' with water use
Why? Because the water utility doesn't have a system in place for individual household water usage comparisons with other households in the neighborhood
Why? Because the idea is new and is being tested at Excel with energy conservation
Why?Because energy conservation is a growing trend due to climate change, cost, and energy independence sentiments

Conserving water is difficult in the home
Why? Because it is difficult to know how much is too much with each use
Why? Because the only measurement is on your water bill every month
Why? Because sinks don't measure the water that is used after each use
Why? Because it is not automated
Why? Because automating a sink is expensive or Because people don't care about conservation

Conserving water is difficult to accomplish in the home
Why? Because it is hard to remember to conserve
Why? Because it is an absent minded activity
Why? Because it is a habit
Why? Because I've never worried about water conservation before
Why? Because water shortage doesn't seem like a possibility/people don't understand the risk

As a source for inspiration, I wondered how mother nature did the job, so I went to mother nature's source...

Running Water.jpg

Wasting Water.jpg
On my walk, I marveled at the lush life that the springs supported and it occurred to me that we throw away so much water that could otherwise support equally productive life systems.

Perfect Yard.jpg

On my walk home, I saw a perfect example of the yard system that would benefit from a water outlet that would drain our 'old' water. This could ultimately cut down on the water used in irrigation and would basically be a reuse system.

Think about the sink... or be sunk


I started my play off with a competitive game of Deadliest Warrior. I was the Monk, my favorite character. After swiftly defeating my opponent, and dominating the subsequent rematch, I decided to switch to a game of Chinese Chess. After yet another amazing victory, I was awarded a delicious mango by my now humbled boyfriend. At this point my creative juices where really flowing, but I decided to really lock-in to the creative mood by carving a few more designs into a piece a soapstone I've been working on. Now that I was in the zone, it was time to mind map the sink.

I have attached mind map in case you would like to follow along.
Sink:Basin Mindmap.docx

I started my mind map with the notion that sinks/basins are placed in the bathroom, the mudroom and the kitchen. In the bathroom scene, I flowed about the pedestal, and the faucet and came up with the idea of creating bathroom pedestal art. For example, the pedestal could look like an animal hoof, in the style of the greek/Roman statues. Or, it could look like the leg lamp from The Christmas Story. Talk about some comic relief!

In terms of the Faucet, I thought the shape looks like a bird neck, so what if the faucet had the face and neck of a swan and the faucet knobs could be the Swans wingspread. If done well, I think it could be an elegant and artful touch. The thought of swans reminded me of when I studied in Amsterdam, because I frequently saw them in the canals. Also in the Netherlands is the town of Delft which is famous for Delftware. I think there would be a pretty large market for Delftware patterned basin- my mom included! I also thought a light indicator or a sound indicator would be a great addition to a faucet to help conserve water. The faucet would light up when a certain amount of water is used so that the user knows when they are being naughty if they use more, and when they are being good if they use less.

In the kitchen realm, the sinks typically get greasy and grimy. Through a series of Star Wars connections, I came up with the idea of a smart sink that would possibly use nanotechnology or even biotechnology, or laser technology- the possibilities are endless. Who doesn't want a sink that cleans itself?

In terms of the material and appearance of modern day sinks, society has gotten boring. In the days of the Greeks and Romans, they made things elaborate with tile mosaics. What if a sink basin was made out of tile and made into a mosaic? The tile would need to have a glaze over it in order to increase its 'cleanability'. But it would definitely add to the class of a bathroom and could even become a status thing.

Finally, the mudroom was a little more difficult for me to brainstorm as I am not normally the user of one. But I do remember using it to give the dog a bath. A hands free shower addition to the mudroom sink would definitely make dog baths easier!

Cookie Nouveau


The thought of creating a totally new cookie immediately excited me. Inspiration first struck Friday night while sitting around a fire with my friends. I was listening to Ben, a friend that just got back from living in Australia for 6 months, talk about the types of foods that Australians typically enjoy. He mentioned potpies as a local favorite and I got to thinking how much I really like potpies. The flaky pie crust, all the different flavors and chunks of veggies melding together in a steamy and moist pocket- delicious. I started thinking, why not take the potpie concept, miniaturize it, and use sweeter ingredients (after all, for me, a cookie is not a cookie if it doesn't satisfy a sweet tooth!). I began doodling in my design notebook the different forms I could use and most importantly, the flavor combinations.

Cookie Concept Category: Pot Pie Cookies

Flavor Combo's
My first thought for an ingredient was sweet potato. It is similar in consistency to pumpkin, and I know I've had and enjoyed pumpkin in cookies before. I then started brainstorming and writing down what went well with sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potato (Mash and chunks)
Carrot (Mash and chunks)
Brown Sugar

and more along the traditional potpie line...

Sweet Potato
Sweet Orange Tomato Soup

I started brainstorming outside of sweet potatoes and came up with the following flavor combos:


Rice Pudding or Tapioca
Almond or Vanilla Extract
Sweet Basil or Lemon Herb

This last combination is reminiscent of a dessert dish I had in an Indonesian Restaurant that had sticky rice, mango and a creamy coconut sauce. Yum.

I decided to test out the first and last recipe since those appealed to me most. Before baking the cookies, I had 5 friends over to first taste test the fillings in order make sure I was on the right track. The original sweet potato, carrot and brown sugar mixture tasted great, but I thought that it was too close to sweet potato pie, it needed something more. A friend of mine suggested adding raspberry. We tried it and it was a hit, the flavors melded so well together.

Sweet potato Raspberry Delighs.jpg

As for the other mixture, since I had tapioca on hand and not rice pudding, I used tapioca pudding as the base. When I told my friends about adding basil or lemon herb to the mango tapioca mixture, many were reticent about it. So, I cut up some mango slices and some of the herbs and sent them around for them all to test. Both flavor combos got the thumbs up, so I decided to see which combo tasted best in a finished cookie.

Making Filling.jpg

I baked three different cookies, each with a different shape and filling mixture. I knew that I wanted the tapioca mango cookies to be refrigerated before eaten, but I wasn't sure if the sweet potato raspberry mixture would be better eaten warm or cool. We tested the optimum eating temperature and found that it was best eaten cooled or at least at room temperature.

Three forms and Flavors.jpg

All the cookies tasted spectacular and received great reviews from the taste testers. Comparing the lemon herb vs. the basil, I found that I liked the lemon herb slightly better because it enhanced the sweet flavor of the cookie. Additionally through the taste test, I found that without adding sugar to the top of the crust, the crust tastes a bit dry. I modified the recipes by lightly brushing the top of the crust with a honey water mixture and sprinkling just a bit of sugar on top. Since both flavors went over so well, and since the overall concept of the cookie is the potpie cookie, I will be bringing both flavors to 3M.

Potpie Cookie Flavor Variations:
Sweet Potato Raspberry Delight
Mango Tapioca Morsels

Recent Comments

  • stei0727: I thought you did a thorough job of benchmarking and read more
  • spoox007: You do a great job at exploring the different types read more
  • buck0316: Hi Rylie, I like how your products apply so directly read more
  • gilbe503: Are you trying to solve the problem of water conservation read more
  • Taylor Hill: Very thorough investigations - I like how you developed a read more
  • grim0168: Great images showing the dishwashing process! And I like your read more
  • SarahKanan: I like how you took your silly ideas to another read more
  • maxwe068: First of all, I think that any product that includes read more
  • Nance Longley: I can really see your connection to nature and the read more
  • schof052: Your cookies were delicious! I love the idea of assembling read more

Recent Assets

  • joesink.jpg
  • Element.jpg
  • pugh chart.jpg
  • Picture 3.png
  • s34s342.jpeg
  • imgres-15.jpeg
  • imgres-14.jpeg
  • imgres-13.jpeg
  • imgres-12.jpeg
  • imgres-11.jpeg

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.