1 2 Paint Back in 2001, when Jeroen Verbrugge, principal in the Delft design firm Flex/the InnovationLab, was painting around his house, he had a revelation. Rolling on the color, he realized, was actually sort of fun. But slopping the paint into the roller tray, and then cleaning the tray when he was done, was one huge mess. He resolved to find a better way. In 2002, after months of research and experimentation at his firm, Verbrugge took out a patent on a revolutionary new container that did away with a separate roller tray by building the tray into the lid. He took the idea to Netherlands-based Akzo Nobel Coatings, and 1 2 Paint was born. “Usually the client comes to us to design new packaging,” Verbrugge said. “In this case it happened the other way around.”
Made entirely of polypropylene (in Europe paint is commonly packaged in plastic), the design consists of a squared paint bucket topped by a two-part lid. The hinged part, whose underside has the textured surface of a paint tray, opens up and locks into the fixed part at a 20-degree angle. You dip your roller into the tub and then run it across the lid; excess paint drips back into the container. After painting is over, there’s no cleanup—you just close the lid until your next fit of home improvement.
“By eliminating steps and waste, this fundamentally changes behavior,” Millman praised, explaining why the design ultimately triumphed over the Clinique compacts. “It has that I-wish-I’d-thought-of-that factor. And in terms of aesthetics, this represents a greater leap forward in the paint field.” Grossman agreed, adding, “There’s so much market pressure to come up with a beautiful compact, while there’s no pressure to come up with a great can of paint.” He also admired the package graphics, by the British firm IP Global, calling the instructional icons “clear and direct” and the dynamic swoop “sexy.”
As for Verbrugge, he’s pleased that the lid uses only 6 percent more plastic (and is only slightly more expensive to manufacture) than a standard lid. Moreover, the lid stands up to stacking as well as to the intensive shaking from mechanical paint-mixing machines. He recently put 1 2 Paint to the test when he redecorated his kids’ rooms. “It really works very well,” he said with satisfaction.
Design Flex/the InnovationLab (Delft, Netherlands): Jeroen Verbrugge, principal; Abke Geels, senior designer/project manager Client Akzo Nobel (Sassenheim, Netherlands) Materials Polypropylene Software Ensys; SolidWorks
Q+A with Jeroen Verbrugge Flex/the InnovationLab
You cooked up the idea for a new paint bucket yourself. What was it like to be your own client? At the time I was painting my house I had to buy more and more separate trays, and I had to clean them several times. At one point I tipped over a tray that was filled with paint—you can guess what the result was. My mind started spinning and in my head I sketched the first idea. The final result is in fact not much different from that original idea.
Before approaching Akzo you did sketches, functional analysis, and a 3-D CAD model, then registered a patent.
How did the design evolve after the company signed on to manufacture and distribute the product? With Akzo we dealt with specific logistical demands, like maximizing the pallet load and stacking height and creating a design that was more or less self-explanatory. Besides that, we had to minimize the amount of materials by reducing the container’s wall thickness.
Mark van Heffen at Akzo was particularly enthusiastic.
Have you had this experience before, where one individual serves as cheerleader for your design? An innovation needs an advocate. There are always many people in any company who can show you the risks and disadvantages. To compensate, you really do need a product champion, preferably either high enough in the organization or someone with a lot of energy and power.
How’s the paint selling? Sales are rated between 120 percent and 140 percent depending on the type of paint. With a score of 120 percent Akzo will have a 100-percent return on investment within one year.
You’ve said if there were one thing you could improve in the design it would be making the lid easier to unseal.
How might that be accomplished? Actually we’ve already improved it. By changing the inner undercut, we achieved the same closure but made the lid easier to open.