LifeStraw and life-changing design
I was recently given an assignment to write a piece about design/product development, which I thought would be interesting to share on the blog because I've been following in this product and admire the path that the company has taken. Let me know your thoughts and if you've come across a similar product in the past.
The impacts of design innovation can be boundless and far-reaching; whether it’s aesthetic or function, the purpose of product development is to change the way we live our lives, however insignificant. In some cases, the development of an innovative product can shed light on a consumer need that was not envisioned from the onset.
First introduced in 2005, LifeStraw is a compact water filtration device that contains no chemicals or batteries and weights in at 2 ounces. It is able to remove 99.999 percent of waterborne bacteria and parasites larger than 0.2 microns. In the past 9 years, it has been field tested by more than 4.5 million people working or living in parts of the world where drinkable water is difficult to come by.
The need for such a product is evident for those living in areas requiring of disaster or humanitarian assistance. In relation to the latter, water contamination is noted as the cause of around 3.4 million global deaths annually and around 345 million people still live without access to clean water.
Awarded Time magazine invention of the year in 2005, LifeStraw has been introduced to a number of retail markets in the past couple of months. Around 13,000 units have already been sold in just a month following its entrance into the U.S. market, where it retails for around $US30. This number is indicative of the reality that water safety is a concern to many living in a country where standards are one of the highest in the world.
Water contamination is an especially prevalent issue for low-income areas in the U.S., as they are often located near incinerators, landfills, and toxic industrial sites. It is undeniably the case that racial minorities suffer disproportionately in terms of heavy metal poisoning as a result of unsafe water, thus bearing more of the burden for industrial output.
Further, low-power groups are often powerless to improve living standards due to the systemically discriminatory public housing system, their relative weaker political leverage, and inability to face litigation costs. The cyclical nature of environmental injustice is prevalent in all countries, forcing at least a portion of the population to face serious health issues as a result of pollution.
Similarly, we can’t overlook the toll that climate change has posed on the rate of natural disasters, of which one’s access to drinkable water can be taken away at a moment’s notice. Thus, the demand goes beyond those individuals who need a product like LifeStraw but also those who want such a product for peace of mind. Evidently, the simplicity and affordability of the product resonates to a much larger group.
LifeStraw has shown that – when there is true innovation – design and product development does not simply follow consumer demand. Rather, it leads and opens new doors for demand because the functionality alters the way we do things on a deeper level. This philosophy rests at the heart of *, as we endeavour to innovate so meet the needs of, and facilitates the accessibility to, a product that is potentially life changing.
Please leave your comments below on this idea of innovation and demand, LifeStraw, or any other thoughts you may have. We love to hear from you!
 “LifeStraw by Vestergaard.” Vestergaard: Impacting People. Accessed 20 July 2014. http://vestergaard.com/lifestraw-personal.
 “Millions Lack Safe Water.” Water.org. Accessed 20 July 2014. http://water.org/water-crisis/water-facts/water/.
 Tim Bates. “LifeStraw Won’t Help Discover Gold But Will Eliminate Contaminants from Water.” Baystreet. Accessed 20 July 2014. http://www.baystreet.ca/viewarticle.aspx?id=417083.
*company name omitted