Moen: Looking beyond
the faucet

Dear Reader,

Hi, there. Thanks for stopping by.
tl;dr? Vision / Discovery / Define / Recommendation / Conclusion


Objective

Following in Moen's tradition of providing innovative products to meet consumer needs, our team was asked to examine issues related to cleaning and washing in the kitchen.

The Challenge

Improve the emotional experience of kitchen cleaning for daily users.

Early hominids discovered the communal campfire meal (probably). The ancient Babylonians began using water to clean utensils, preserving their functional integrity and our health. Fast forward a few thousand years and, aside from the convenience of technological advances, not much has changed.

Cleaning has become a laborious task that is ritualistically completed by assigned members of our tribes, whether through social/cultural “roles” or familial duty.

Today, the sink is the epicenter of kitchen activity, but the fixed, long-term nature of interior design decisions mean that sink setups often do not match cleaning needs. Additionally, kitchen users have strong preferences about methods used for cleaning, which can lead to conflict and stress when deviated from.

It was crucial for our team to explore solutions that would improve the emotional experience of cleaning for primary kitchen users.

My role

Lead Researcher & Workshop Facilitator


The Vision

Alright, let's get started!
/ Discovery / Define / Recommendation / Conclusion


The Problem

The mismatch between fixed kitchen design decisions and primary kitchen user needs leads to household tension.

The Solution

The research recommendations aimed to solve this through:

More Space

Alleviating the feeling of a lack space associated with the area immediately surrounding the sink

More Flexibility

Flexible configurations of dish pods eliminates tension by standardizing dishwasher loading

Better Balance

A modular sink setup better balances design preferences with user's functional needs

modular sink

Figure 1: Flex-Sink & Dish-Pod Concepts
CAD Designs by Kevin Payne

Discovery: Research & Planning

Thoughts so far?
Vision / / Define / Recommendation / Conclusion


Ethnographic Research

User Interviews & Observations

Our exploration of the kitchen experience began where you might expect it... the kitchen. In order to get a better understanding of the inner workings of our user's daily rituals, we observed various homemakers in action.

  • 6 in-home interviews around the east side of Cleveland.
  • Interviewees were upper-middle-class women and the primary cleaners of their households.
  • All six were married and had children.

Some people can handle things scattered all over… I’m not that kind of person.

Extreme Users & Observations

To round out our observations, we chose to unpack traditional kitchen usage and explore how space, community living, and the burden of business affect cleaning.

  • Students living in a group home to compare how cooperative living affects the use of the kitchen as well as its upkeep.
  • The owner/operator of Cleveland restaurant, Banter Beer & Wine.
    • To meet its higher capacity needs, the restaurant uses unique artifacts such as:
      • Tri-sink
      • 3 Brushes
      • Belgian Rinse
  • The owner/operator of The Chef Greywolf Food Truck, a mobile kitchen, and his assistant
    • To meet health code requirements, they use a full 3-sink setup with hot-water heater
    • Concerned with visible cleanliness

Customers poke their heads in all the time. It must be clean.


Initial Insights & Pain Points

Fixed-Decisions conflict with User Needs

Through our interviews, we found that the most common complaints about the cleaning experience centered around the sink and dishwasher.

Sink

  • 5 out 6 interviewees felt that some aspect of their kitchen no longer fit their needs leading to regret over a kitchen design decision (e.g. choosing a divided sink)
  • If an extra sink is added away from the main one, it tends to go unused.
  • Smaller side of a split sink felt awkward to use.

Dishwasher

  • Half of interviewees mentioned that other people load the dishwasher incorrectly.
  • 2 out of 3 interviewees said that finding other people’s dirty dishes in the sink, often unrinsed, irritates & annoys them.
  • When cleaning responsibilities fall to one person, the dishwasher goes unemptied in their absence which leads to dirty dishes stacking up in the sink, further exacerbating the conflicts around the sink.

I know my husband helps, but sometimes it feels like I am the only one who cleans.


For a full list of pain points & problem statements, please see my Moen Report.



Figure 1: Ethnography in Action

Define: What & For Whom?

Thirsty? Grab some tea and I'll see you in a sec.
Vision / Discovery / / Recommendation / Conclusion


Understanding our Audience

It is ALL about Perspective

Early on, it was important for our team to understand the different factors that influence the emotional experience of our kitchen users.

To better empathize with our target audience and synthesize the information gained from the research phase, our team created archetypes of our users.

In developing our persona, we examined user goals, motivations, attitudes, & demographics to then synthesize this data and uncover patterns of behavior. Doing so provided a deeper perspective and a better understanding of our target users.



The Answer is always Empathy

Our solution was to map the entire experience and visualize the process that a user goes through, both functionally and emotionally.

With this, potential touch points & opportunities for improvement began to appear from behind the miasma of uncertainty.

persona
empathy map
journey map

Figure 2: Personas, Empathy Map, Journey Map


Insights & Key Takeaways

Preference v. Support: A Lose-Lose Scenario

Mother's felt a sense of pride in relation to their cleaning rituals and demonstrated strong individual preferences on the right way of cleaning, particularly when it came to dishwasher loading. Deviation from the standard was met with condemnation.


Do you load the dishwasher & risk condemnation...

...Or do you leave dishes in the sink, occupying high-value space?


A lack of familial support was often cited as a leading cause of frustration in the kitchen. This puts families at odds with one another. Clearly a disconnect was present between the stubborness of correctness and the unheard cry for help.


I don't like how other people load it. I always end up having to reorganize the dishwasher anyways.

Visual v. Hygienic cleaning: Is there a difference?

There are two general schools of thought when it comes to cleaning: visual versus hygienic. Is one more important than the other?

Some user's obsessed over cluttered counters, lone dishes in the sink, and the efficacy (or inefficacy) of the dishwasher. To them, cleaning was incomplete until everything was in its proper place and had been washed thoroughly by person and machine.

Others didn't mind dishes drying on a rack and often relied on their handy dishwasher as the kitchen assistant. As long as the cutlery shone and the plates were void of leftovers, the cleaning was complete.


They [family] don't wash things off or they do it wrong.

Not all space is created equally

The area immediately surrounding the sink was the most used space in the kitchen, across all traditional and "extreme" users.

Despite having an entire kitchen to operate in, most users felt constrained by the many functional-hats worn by the space neighboring the sink.


What happens when design clashes with the need for more space?


Additionally, when the adjacent space is occupied, whether for prep work or dish drying, the sink becomes the stage. But what happens when sink design, basin or partition, clashes with the user's need for more space?


I do all my prep in this space. It’s a little cramped, but I like to continuously flow from counter to sink to dishwasher.

Problem Statements

Our insights coalesced around two main areas of frustration in the kitchen: the sink and the dishwasher. Two primary questions informed our product design recommendations:


How might we allow for a more flexible use of the sink?


How might we reduce conflict & stress around the dishwasher?


Product Recommendation

Ready for some more?
Vision / Discovery / Define / / Conclusion


Introducing Modularity into the Kitchen

The Flex-Sink

The Flex-Sink is a new type of sink basin designed to be installed in a home kitchen. The sink would come with several removable partitions that slide into grooves inset at intervals in the sides of the basin, creating divisions in the basin that can be used for a variety of cooking or cleaning tasks. Ideally these partitions would also create a watertight seal, allowing users to fill smaller sections of the sink with water as needed.

Additionally, the partitions double as a cutting board or counter extension. A small lip around the rim of the sink holds the partition securely to provide additional work space. This helps alleviate the often cited feeling of the lack of prep space.


Creates additional space as needed

&

Balances design preference with functional needs


Introducing modularity into the sink forgives interior design decisions by removing the traditionally fixed nature of kitchen sink design, ultimately reducing the "stuck" feeling cited by users.

The new flexibility offers users the opportunity to adjust sink styles (partitioned versus full basin) to suit their needs and preferences.


Figure 3: The Flex-Sink Concept Images
CAD Designs by Kevin Payne

The Flex-Pod

The Dish-Pod is a set of modular, configurable racks that allow the user to customize their dishwasher to their current dish needs. By introducing modularization to the dishwasher, this solution eliminates the tension created from loading preference.

Since breaking established preferences may prove difficult, The Dish Pod instead introduces flexible configuration to an otherwise fixed setup.

Pods can be swapped out to fit different types of dishes based on individuals’ current cleaning needs. For example:

  • Mom's Wine Wednesdays = Increased glassware pods
  • Dad's "Big Game" = Increased bowl pods

Eliminates tension due to preference through loading standardization

&

Alleviates strain of repeated item-by-item
loading and unloading


In addition to increasing configuration flexibility, The Dish-Pod alleviates the strain of repeated dishwasher loading.

Empty Dish-Pods can be left in the sink and filled with rinsed dishes to preload the dishwasher. Afterwards, each pod can be moved to the counter for easy unloading, further freeing up high-value kitchen space from the drying process.

dish pod
dish pod

Figure 4: The Flex-Pod Concept Images
CAD Designs by Kevin Payne

Intrinsically & Intuitively Bound Together

The Flex-Sink and the Dish-Pod are designed so that they can be used separately or in conjunction with one another. The grooves in the Flex-Sink basin are spaced so that the partition can create a space that perfectly accommodates the Dish-Pod.


Reduces hygienic concerns by encouraging
"double-clean"

&

Rewards placing dishes in the sink


If dishes accumulate during peak usage, they can easily be rinsed and preloaded into the pod before the more thorough second washing.

Dish Pod and Flex Sink

Figure 5: Combined Solution Concept Images
CAD Designs by Kevin Payne

Conclusion: Takeaways

Almost done. Thanks again for hanging out.
Vision / Discovery / Define / Recommendation /


Research Conclusion: What's next?

Positive Feedback & Handoffs

While not quite as transformative as inventing warm water, feedback from the Moen Product Manager, Eric, was overwhelmingly positive. Moen's spirit of innovation means that they are always in search of insights and opportunities to separate from the pack.

During the handoff, we discussed future next steps and tricky edge cases that could come up once engineering got hold of the research results.

Primarily, in creating modular partitions, a watertight seal would be required to prevent leakage from one side to the next. Additionally, drainage would need to be strategically placed to allow for emptying of the sink.

Future Iterations: Unanswered Questions
  • How might we address draining in a modular sink model?
  • How might we seal the partitions to prevent leakage?
Appendix