“Reinventing the Toilet Challenge” Container Design

  • Project done at ODDS in March 2014.
  • After winning the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Reinventing the Toilet Challenge” in 2012, Caltech engineers developed a mobile restroom equipped with a solar-powered water-treatment system that could be used in areas without plumbing infrastructure. Kohler engineers and designers reached out to help the Caltech team and lend expertise in design and user-experience.
    According to Tristan Butterfield, Kohler’s global Creative Director, “He [Kohler’s engineer] started to work with them to specify the right products for project, knowing they’re trying to build sealed toilet solution prototype to be shipped to India on the 17th of December.” The mobile restroom had to be placed inside a container to showcase at the “Reinvent the Toilet Fair” in New Delhi, India. “The fact is that this thing is going to be put into a community in India and someone is going to have to live with that,” explains Butterfield. To make the décor blend within the local community, Butterfield decided to provide a cultural makeover to this solar-powered mobile restroom container. He chose the traditional Indian truck art for the exterior design and contacted ODDS to provide the design concepts.
    Weeks of extensive research and design process resulted in the final exterior designs of the restroom container. Inspired by the truck art of India, the exterior designs established a cultural context to the environment in which these containers were placed. The research process required us to select motifs and messages that would propagate the significance of water conservation and environment sustainability — concepts that formed the essence of the project, while capturing the stylistic quality of the truck art. The exterior design of the restroom container includes images of brightly colored flowers, birds, animals and scenery—all inspired by the truck art of India and chosen for their cultural significance. Illustrations of Sun, girls worshipping the Sun, oils lamps and introduction of solar panels in the village scene were some of the many design decisions we made to highlight the importance of solar energy in the project as well as everyday life.
    Kohler hired local artists in India for application of the final design concept to the exterior walls of the mobile container. In March 2014, the “Reinvent the Toilet Fair: India” was co-hosted by the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
    Scroll below to see images of the design concepts and the application of the design on the containers. To learn more about this Caltech/Kohler collaboration and the science behind this important innovation, read this Fast Company article.
    All photos courtesy of Kohler Co.