Decoding Design

Why countertop soda makers dodn't need the iPod treatment

Posting in Design

Yves Behar is known for his innovative design, but the Source is an answer looking for a problem.

Yves Behar has remade the home soda maker. His iteration of this device -- the latest craze in kitchen appliances -- is called Source, and he designed it for the market leader, Sodastream. It is to other home soda makers what iPod is to the generic MP3 player.

Except that it's not.

To use any other Sodastream maker, one fills the bottle, mounts it under the CO2 nozzle, and presses a button. To use the fureproject version, one fills the bottle, mounts is under the CO2 nozzle, and presses a button. The Source version, however, is smaller and sleeker than most. Some other versions force the user to screw the bottle into place, whereas the Source snaps in. Others require a manual pump of the gas, whereas the Source has three automated gas-level settings.

"Sustainability is an opportunity to make any product or service more efficient for the world, and more practical and engaging for the users," says fuseproject, in its introduction to the new product. It stresses that the Source is an environmentally friendly option for lovers of soda water because it eliminates the bottles one would purchase from the store. That much is true, but the same is true of other soda makers. (Also, consumers who want flavor get right back into the waste issue, because the flavor concentrates are sold in single-use packaging.)

In short, the Source is a (good-looking) design answer that is looking for a problem that doesn't exist. The iPod, however, changed the digital media player category because it was a good-looking design answer to a real and the real and vexing problem of poor user interface.

"The design of Source was a process of elimination. Starting with the larger volume, we chiseled off the functional areas and sculpted transitions," says fuseproject. Okay, more countertop space. Admittedly, it's better looking than some of the garish home soda makers on the market. But is it worth the upgrade, especially at a time when we're all drowning in all the stuff we have and could use a good edit? Negatory.

A real innovation would be an integrated appliance, like a soda water option built into a refrigerator. That would allow for a larger carbonation tank, which would mean less refills, a more efficient delivery model and less hassle for the consumer. Or, better yet, go the DIY Instructables route.

Image: fuseproject

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Mary Catherine O'Connor

Contributing Writer

Mary Catherine O'Connor has written for Outside, Fast Company, Wired.com, Smithsonian.com, Entrepreneur, Earth2Tech.com, Earth Island Journal and The Magazine. She is based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure