The "Comfy Curve" Toothbrush
How might we make oral hygiene easier and more accessible to adults with developmental disabilities?
That was the question posed to my team and I for our very first freshman design project. Over 12 weeks, we conducted user interviews and testing to develop a system to clean teeth faster and more completely, while also being more motivating to use.
On our team of four mechanical engineering students, I built early mockups and conducted user testing. I also developed a manufacturing plan for scaling up production of our final product.
Almost everyone was taught at an early age to brush for two minutes, twice a day. Few people, however, ever reach that mark, as user testing quickly showed.
Rather than the uphill struggle of convincing anyone to change their habits, we focused on designing a toothbrush that required less than two minutes. This led to a double-headed brush design.
This wasn't a new idea, and indeed after experimenting with custom-made brushes, we decided to use a commercially available double-headed brush. However, these existing heads were only ever used on electric toothbrushes - there existed a market opening for manual brushes of this style .
Designing for Everyday Use
A toothbrush is a ubiquitous consumer product. Because the user interacts with it every day, even small annoyances can become a dealbreaker. Details, then, were selected with user needs in mind:
The angle and length of the neck was determined by user testing of several concept mockups.
The grip of the brush was constructed of hard plastic coated in a softer grip material to balance the needs of comfort and durability.
Awarded Best Design
My team's design was judged the best of the four design teams that were given this problem by a panel of industry and academic experts. We were awarded Professor Dan Brown's Bionic Wrench, a product for which four years later I would design a manufacturing system (here).