Oct 11, 2021

A closer look at Method's refillable aluminium soap bottles

Soap and cleaning products brand Method has launched a range of refillable aluminum soap bottles in a range of colours that are designed to look great on the bathroom shelf and to encourage refilling.
Elisabeth Skoda

Method's refillable bottles form part of a longer term strategy of building a platform of durable, refillable, reusable home essentials and prioritizing refill across the business to drive circular behavior. We spoke to Sean McGreevy, the company's senior director and head of industrial design, to learn more.

Could you talk us through the design process for the aluminium soap dispensers – what inspired the minimalist, sleek look? What was the vision behind it?

The first step in the design process was developing a design brief help the cross-functional team identify our goals for this project. Next we evaluated different materials to understand the sustainability trade-offs and identified aluminum as an ideal material, due to its high recycling recovery rate. We visited an aluminum can manufacturing plant to better understand the constraints we had to design within.  After that, the fun part – brainstorming and sketching new ideas.  We developed numerous designs and built them in CAD software.  We used our in-house 3D printing technology to develop prototypes that allow us to evaluate form, ergonomics, usability, proportion, etc.  We also used our rendering software to assign material shaders and lighting to create hyper-realistic images.  The minimalist, sleek look was inspired by the physicality of the material.  Aluminum has limitations when it comes to creating form and we saw that as an opportunity to embrace minimalism.

What are the benefits/challenges of using aluminium in a bathroom environment?

There are no real challenges when it comes to using aluminum in the bathroom environment. A common question that we get is “Will it rust?” and the answer is no.  There is no iron present, which is what oxidizes to form rust. Aluminum is a durable, readily recyclable material that can (and should) be refilled over and over again. By encouraging refilling instead of buying new, we minimize our impact on the planet in a big way.

The refill bottles are designed to make the process of refilling easier. How was this achieved?  

We used the design process to brainstorm incremental product improvements like an easy-to-grip bottle for better control and a pointy spout that offers a more precise pour.  

On a more general level, what would you say are the challenges of designing refillable containers?

The biggest challenge we face is designing something that is adoption-worthy. Innovation is nothing without adoption from consumers. The best designs are the ones that carefully balance innovation, sustainability and familiarity.

Do you see the trend towards refillables accelerate in the coming years?

I think the trend towards refilling/reusing is (finally) here!  Consumers are becoming more aware of how wasteful we are as humans. We’re already noticing a shift in consumer’s embracing more sustainable lifestyles and demanding better solutions from brands. We hope to continue to see this momentum, not only within personal and homecare, but across all industries.

Elisabeth Skoda

Editor of Touchpoints magazine, writer for Packaging Europe magazine and design enthusiast!
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