Student Client Project

Setting the Scene
During my final year of university I undertook a student led client project, for this client project I was fortunate enough to work with BrushBox.
BrushBox is a subscription based oral hygiene service, which delivers products on a two month basis from a customised plan. A basic BrushBox contains a toothbrush design of the customers choosing (which arrives in a random colour each delivery) and a two month supply of toothpaste. Brushbox also offer additional extras which include floss and a tongue cleaner.
The 2 month delivery gap is based on the recommended duration between changing toothbrushes.​
BrushBox is a sustainably motivated company. Currently two of the three toothbrushes offered are manufactured out of sustainably sourced Moa bamboo. Brushbox also work with charitable organisations such as Dentaid to provide toothbrushes to those in need.
Initial client discussion
During conversation between myself and the CEO of BrushBox he mentioned a few problems which he was encountering with his current service: Firstly, customers currently don’t feel as comfortable using a bamboo toothbrush as they do using their plastic alternatives, this is why BrushBox still offer a plastic toothbrush in their line of products. Secondly, BrushBox currently have to send more toothpaste than is necessary because customers have been conditioned to use too much through traditional marketing material. The correct amount of toothpaste required for a brushing session is a pea sized amount.

The decided briefs

After the initial conversation with Mike and carrying out research, we settled on three briefs:

  • Create a beautiful and sustainable toothbrush that consumers are willing to accept, whilst taking into account the limitations of product development within a small start-up company.

  • Develop a more sustainable method of providing toothpaste.

  • An efficient packaging re-design to accommodate the new products.

Toothbrush Development
Assessing the different materials and construction methods used in traditional manual and electric toothbrushes.
I was understanding the different elements to a toothbrushes design, through the common traits between each toothbrush. These elements included a thumb grip and hilt.
This is the point where the amount of waste material became clear, as the only element of a toothbrush which needs to be regularly replaced is the head (shown where I have removed the head from the handles).
Comparing the ergonomic elements of the purchased toothbrushes to the BrushBox toothbrushes.
BrushBox currently offer three different styles of manual toothbrush, pictured above are both of the bamboo variants (curved bamboo and smooth bamboo), with the curved bamboo mimicking the same ergonomic ques as the previously assessed brushes.
Other products offered with BrushBox’s service are the tongue cleaner and floss. Each products packaging features a customised bar code shape, relating to the product inside. The toothbrushes packaging features the colour of the brush, likely used to distinguish between colours without having to check the contents.

Firstly, Due to the problem of customers not being as accepting of bamboo toothbrushes compared to their plastic alternatives, I looked at how we could make plastic more sustainable.
The only part of a toothbrush which needs to be replaced every two months are the bristles. a solution which takes this into consideration could potentially be both financially and environmentally beneficial for brushbox.
Development on the toothbrush began with the understanding that consumers were struggling to adopt bamboo toothbrushes. After using the bamboo toothbrushes regularly I would often develop sores on my lips due to the friction caused by the wooden handles.
Rather than look to improve bamboo, I explored areas for environmental improvement within the traditional manual toothbrush. This was done through trying to minimise the waste produced, the only element of a traditional toothbrush which needs to be replaced regularly is the head.
With this understanding, I developed proposals where the head could be removed and replaced. The earliest proposal was to produce a hinge which when locked in place would securely hold the head, but hygiene issues were highlighted with the hinge, likely creating an ideal environment for bacteria.

Further replaceable head concepts were investigated. Ultimately a three component brush was developed, consisting of a rail, head replacement and an insert. This design guaranteed the head would not come lose during brushing, safety was an important criteria to satisfy because BrushBox market to children and not just adults.
The ergonomics of the handle began to take shape during this phase, with various experiments and gradual changes made.
The sizing of the handle and head were informed by the current sizes of traditional toothbrushes, averaging at a length of 180mm.
Further toothbrush refinement. The toothbrush needed to be intuitive to use. Because of this a slight taper was applied to the channel, this meant that if the user were to insert the head after the insert the components would not fit together. This would signify that the brush was not correctly assembled.
This same taper creates a tight fit when assembled, assuring that the brush stay assembled. Also added to the brush at this phase was a seal which sat above the rail, this ensures that the brush is water tight to inhibit bacteria. This seal also helps create a tight fit between each component.
Toothbrush Proposal

The new toothbrush allows for the ability to change the head. This from a sustainability aspect maintains BrushBox’s values, the changeable head also saves BrushBox cost which can be passed onto the customer making their service more viable to a wider market.
The toothbrush has been designed to be intuitive to use. It can not be assembled incorrectly, this is due to a gradual taper on the channel which narrows towards the head this stops the head from being inserted incorrectly. This taper also allows the insert to secure the head in place creating a tight fit, ensuring that the components do not come loose, acting on the same principle as a door wedge.
Safety was a big concern due to the removability of the head. This was combated through the use of a channel.
The head is only able to be inserted and removed from the toothbrush through sliding from the rear of the handle. This means that for the user to manage to remove the head during brushing, the head must inevitably move from their mouth and out of harm’s way.

Toothpaste Development
Research undertaken into alternative toothpaste delivery methods, I discovered tooth tablets. These allow a delivery of the correct amount of cleaning substance required per brushing session. This is also offered in powder form but removes the benefits of standardising the amount used, although the powder might allow for more flexible delivery with the powder taking the form of any desired shape.
User research was carried out with all varieties offered, and the general consensus was that the “dirty toothy tabs” were the preferred shape and flavour. This was likely due to their mint flavouring, reminiscent of traditional toothpaste creating a familiarity with the user.
Consumers using too much toothpaste led to development into of how to limit the amount of toothpaste which was being dispensed.
Multiple methods were considered such as redesigning the lid of a toothpaste tube to limit the amount ejected, to removing the toothpaste entirely and using alternatives.
Sustainability surrounding the disposal of the toothpaste tube was also considered. Because toothpaste is abrasive, the inner of the tube is lined with aluminium.
This creates a body of material which is difficult to separate when discarded and therefore leads to the tubes ending up in landfill. This led to the possibility of utilising alternative materials such as glass which although allowed the possibility of recycling, caused issues with delivery
Very early thoughts.
During the investigation into the viability of using tablets as an alternative to toothpaste, providing the tablets in blister packs was considered.
Unfortunately, the total number of tablets required for a two month supply (plus spares) in blister pack form took up too much space. This is due to the gap required between each tablet on the pack (for the vacuum-forming process), taking up more space (and material) than the current service.
A second early investigation was into continuing the theme of squeezing a tube, but instead of dispensing paste would dispense a tablet. This was to provide an enclosed delivery method, although when squeezed, the tablets would eventually turn to dust. This would also use more space than the current service.
After assessing alternatives to the traditional tube of toothpaste, I decided to further investigate the possibilities of providing toothpaste to the consumer in tablet form.
Through providing tablets BrushBox can physically provide the correct amount of toothpaste to the consumer required per brushing session, this in turn allows BrushBox to save space ultimately giving them the opportunity to offer a cheaper and more competitive service.
Early ideas were to provide the toothpaste I a sweet-like wrapper (later decided a bad idea around children). And to house all the components of the resupply in a single vac-formed negative.
Moving away from wrapping the tablets in a sweet style packaging, development into stacking the tablets loose inside of a container began.
Trials confirmed that the tablets had to fit tightly together to avoid damage during transit, this was addressed through adding a peg to the lid. When the lid is removed the peg is lifted allowing the tablets to move.
Colour and branding were also experimented with, using a pink to match their font. Black was also tested, to create a neutral feel.
Issues were encountered when users tested the opening of the lid (often resulting in tablets all over the floor). New methods were considered but ultimately a sliding lid was developed, the sliding action give users the required control allowing them to only reveal as many tablets required (removing the possibility of them all being released).
The final mock-up was painted white to match the tablets nestled inside, white signified hygiene and felt clinical compared to the black.
A moulding was developed to house the head replacement during transit. This moulding holds the head in place but is aided by the geometry of the box, removing the need for walls ultimately reducing plastic consumption.
Toothpaste Proposal

The initial problem of customers using too much toothpaste was combated through the use of toothpaste tablets.
By using toothpaste tablets BrushBox can physically provide consumers with the required amount of toothpaste required per brushing session. The tablets themselves were sourced from Lush and do not contain fluoride further satisfying BrushBox’s views on sustainability.
Currently the toothpaste tablets arrive in a plastic box which can be recycled or re-used. The box lid creates a secure fit between each tablet removing the possibility for them to rub turning the tablets to dust.

Packaging Development
Assessment of the current BrushBox packaging and presentation. The exterior top of the packaging features the BushBox logo on a gradient background.
When turned over promotional material is revealed publicising their various social media links. The rear also features the customer’s delivery address, this is attached on a sticker rather than being directly printed on the box.
When opened the user is greeted with various oral hygiene facts, some facts are aimed towards certain products which the customer may not have ordered.
The box houses a very complicated net, this net is the same regardless of which products the user has ordered. This leaves empty cavities when the user hasn’t ordered all of the products, which doesn’t leave a positive feeling. To emphasise this, each cavity is marked with what the space was supposed to hold
The packaging was developed to be as compact as possible whilst still protecting the contents during transit. The packaging keeps BrushBox’s current brand feel, to create familiarity with the user.
Various gsm’s of card were tested to find a card with a balance between an ease of folding and durability. The box consists of a simple net which could be easily die cut.
Once the box is sealed, the user would pull the clearly marked strip to access the contents, this strip also signifies to the user that nobody has tampered with the parcel.
The rear of the box has ample room for the delivery address.

Packaging Proposal

Currently my redesigned products have allowed me to reduce Brushbox’s packaging by 77% on the initial delivery which would include all the toothbrush components, and an 85% reduction on the recurring deliveries afterwards which would only require a new head replacement and toothpaste tablet resupplies.
Closing Thoughts

Further improvements which I would like to include would be to develop a Pez-like dispenser for the toothpaste tablets. this would streamline the process of brushing ones teeth.
Another development would be to create a candy wrapper style packaging for the tablets to allow for delivery by letter.
This would further reduce the cost of delivery for BrushBox and increase the services sustainability through even less use of packaging material.

Inspired by this project? Showcase projects you’ve worked on and inspire other people.

Like what you see? Be the first to leave a comment for Joel!

Add comment
Product Design Graduate