In 2007, Abigail Forsyth approached Cobalt to develop a then prescient idea; a reusable version of the ubiquitous single-use ‘paper’ coffee cup. The result was KeepCup, an idea that Cobalt helped develop into a successful family of products that have changed people’s behaviours and attitudes around using disposable cups.

Through observational research of coffee drinkers and baristas, Cobalt worked through the opportunities and challenges of a product that didn’t need to be thrown away after a single use. Once the user experience was understood, Cobalt designed and engineered the components to be locally manufactured as well as efficient to transport globally.

Since 2009 when KeepCup launched its first range, Abigail Forsyth has gone on to produce around 5 million KeepCups sold in over 30 countries. Over that time her company has grown from a Melbourne based start-up, to now having distribution, manufacturing and assembly sites in several continents. KeepCup has spawned an industry of competitors, yet remains the iconic benchmark which has practically become the generic term for a takeout cup that customers keep. Working together throughout this period, Cobalt and KeepCup have always focussed on keeping the product true to the café culture so intrinsic to Melbourne and similar cities the world over.

KeepCup and their family of products have won multiple awards including the US Good Design Prize (Chicago), and being named one of Australia’s Top 20 Inventions (Fairfax Media 2014).

DESIGN ACHIEVEMENTS

  • Fit for purpose; easy to use, drink from, seal, & clean
  • Infinite ‘personalisation’ through a myriad of colour combinations
  • Range of sizes, materials and models; Original (PP), Brew (Glass) & in 4, 6, 8, 12, 16oz sizes
  • Globally, KeepCup replaces almost 2 million disposable cups per year

COMMERCIAL IMPACT

  • Since KeepCup’s launch in 2009, 5 million KeepCups have been sold in over 30 countries
  • KeepCups are distributed globally from production/assembly operations in Australia, US and UK
  • They are sold from Ukraine to Taiwan, and in places ranging from MOMA, New York to McDonalds or your neighbourhood café.
  • KeepCup brand has become the benchmark for reusable, takeaway coffee cups

COBALT TASKS

  • Design strategy
  • Industrial Design
  • Form and ergonomic models
  • Product Engineering
  • Prototyping
  • Product testing
  • Tooling liaison
  • CG visualisation
  • POS & packaging design
  • IP documentation

TEAM

  • Steve Martinuzzo
  • Lorrin Windahl
  • Brett Capron
  • Rob Cuzner
  • Marcus Krigsman
  • Ricardo Figari
  • Daniel Booker
  • Andrew Beard
  • Carla Zampaglione

Keeping it deceptively simple, yet deliberately focussed

Now, years after KeepCup first launched, the idea of taking your own reusable cup to a café has become the norm. But it wasn’t the case when we first started working on the idea. Bulky, stainless steel, thermos style cups existed, but these were as foreign to café culture as driving a Hummer to a Greens convention. That fact that KeepCup is so widely used now is a testament to the integrated business and design approach taken since the very first brainstorming sketch.

Cobalt’s involvement with KeepCup has grown over this journey. Over the years we have provided a full range of product development services, from strategy, user insights and industrial design exploration, to engineering resolution, prototypes and functional testing, following into manufacturing, supplier sourcing, tool management and production metrology.

To deliver on KeepCup’s sustainability aims, the cup’s design had to deliver a user experience better than a single-use paper cup, yet not be any less intuitive to use. To do this it had to be so coffee-friendly and personal that people would prefer using it beyond the 15-uses needed to become environmentally superior to disposable cups.

Early user research gave us core insights that drove the design DNA that continues to influence our approach for KeepCup development. One of these was the importance for users to feel the cup was theirs and want to reuse it. This spawned the idea of creating colour customisable elements which allow users to ‘design’ their own unique cup; and acting as extension of their own self-expression. Users’ emotional quotient with their cup and the brand’s greater purpose is a key to breaking the cycle of disposable cup use and creating new reuse behaviours. As well, the customisation element has also been critical in helping baristas and cup owners match their cup with their lid when in busy cafés.

Another insight was some people’s preference to drink from the rim and not through the sipping hole. So rather than mechanical details or a thread to fasten the lid, KeepCups have a simple lip-friendly rim, just like a regular china espresso or tea cup.

Projects like KeepCup don’t come along often. So when they do, our designers and engineers revel in the chance to design a product that enables real change to occur.  Through KeepCup, and its competitors that followed, millions fewer single-use coffee cups are disposed of annually, which is a  commendable outcome.

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