A revolution in coffee consumption
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 on 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 launch of the first range in 2009, KeepCup has gone on to produce over 5 million cups, sold in over 30 countries. Over that time, KeepCup has grown from a Melbourne based start-up, to now having manufacturing, assembly and distribution 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 reusable takeout cup. 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 that is original
While the term KeepCup is often used as a catchall for every reusable cup brand, KeepCup is the original – the first barista standard reusable cup. Through distinctive design, branding and visual language, highly resolved and refined product and mass user acceptance, KeepCup has become the benchmark for reusable, takeaway coffee cups around the world.
Since KeepCup’s launch in 2009, 5 million KeepCups have been sold in over 30 countries, saving an estimated 2 million paper cups from landfill each year. Recyclable or sustainable materials are predominately used across the product range, while every KeepCup is designed to ensure fit for purpose, longevity, quality and user enjoyment
Designed to match standard coffee sizes (4, 6, 8, 12 and 16oz), KeepCups fit seamlessly into existing cafe culture, making it easy for both user and barista. The easily removable lid ensures the cup can fit under a standard espresso machine but provides a robust seal every time. The simple rotating plug makes drinking easy while the outer band protects from the hot liquid within.
KeepCups are modular, even across different products. This means that lost or damaged parts can be easily replaced, eliminating the need to replace the entire product. Modularity allows for easy customisation and minimises the environmental impact through reduced manufactured inventory and waste.
Apart from the satisfaction of saving the planet, the KeepCup range has been developed to enhance user experience. The shaped lid, easily rotatable plug and easy flow opening make drinking pleasurable, while the glass cup of the Brew range provides users with the full café drinking experience with the advanced of being able to drink on the go.
The keepcup signature is the combination of four unique components – the cup, lid, plug and band, with all models following the iconic design language of the keepCup original. Each component is available in a range of colours and material options, allowing users to easily personalise and customise their KeepCup.
The Team We believe good design happens by expert people working as a team.
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.
Merging experience with user insights
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.