Dominant Design

Water filter is not a new innovation.  Commercially available water filters have a wide range of design options. These products are designed differently according to the different types of users and environments they cater to, such as industrial-environment users, community-office users, home-family users, and outdoor-personal users.

LifeStraw’s most prominent category of users is outdoor-personal users. Vestergaard was  not the first company to target this market, but it was the first to introduce  the “straw-like” design. Previously, most of outdoor-personal water filter applied “pumping-style” technology as dominant design. Other ways to filter water in nature is by using hanging-pouch model or chemical tablet. LifeStraw came up with original idea of using ‘straw’ as tool of accessing filtered water with the filter resting inside the tube.

Example of 'pump' style water filter model from Katadyn brand
Example of ‘pump’ style water filter model from Katadyn brand
Pouch design from HTI brand

LifeStraw was initially created as a plastic pipe filter to strain out Guinea worm larva in Africa at 1996. However, the design was further developed and released as personal water filter at 2005.  Since then, LifeStraw has been expanding its humanitarian business of providing water filters for those in developing areas with limited or no access to purified drinking water.

Initial model of LifeStraw® Guinea Worm
Initial model of LifeStraw® Guinea Worm

The straw design innovation has gained positive market response due its enhanced ease of use. Many other competitors released product with similar design, including some major players in personal water filter and outdoor appliances market. Some other new brands have also emerged in this market, adapting LifeStraw slim-light design of water filter.

Sawyer new product: 'straw-like' water filter. Sawyer is one of dominant player in outdoor & survival gear market since 1984.
Sawyer new product: ‘straw-like’ water filter. Sawyer is one of dominant player in outdoor & survival gear market since 1984.

pristinepioneer2   diercon1 aquamira2

Example of other products adopting ‘straw-like’ design

This fact shows that LifeStraw has somehow become the new ‘dominant design’ in personal water filter industry. Its simple, light-weight, and flexible design has attracted consumers. It does not chemicals for filtration (such as the usual water tablet) which is a major benefit. This customer review simply illustrated why LifeStraw design can surpass other previous designs.

“My hiking partners were using traditional pump-style water filters, and while they were busily pumping away, I was already drinking the cold stream water with no effort at all. I tend to drink water every hour or so, so I kept the LifeStraw in my pocket as I hiked, and when thirsty I’d pull my water bottle out of my pack, insert the LifeStraw, and sip directly from the bottle, as the LifeStraw is thin enough to fit through the bottle opening.” (Ben Seaman, mountain hiker)

dominant design curve
The personal water filter market is in the begininning of transition phase, where LifeStraw somehow indicated to be dominant design.

However, the old-style pumping water filter (and other designs) have not completely disappeared. They still exist in market and still manage to catch considerable demand. It shows that LifeStraw design has not fully substituted previous designs. It may be at the beginining of ‘domination process’, but we still can’t judge whether the trend will continue and stay as ‘fix dominant design’. Moreover, personal water filter market has its own charasteristics. There may not be one-single-dominant-design exist in this niche market, since customers have extremely varied preferences and conditions.

Realising this Vestergaard has come up with improved version of its straw: bottled-straw called LifeStraw Go. It addresses the original version’s inability of not being able to carry filtered water. There have also been other bottle-style personal water filters in the market which use different filtering system than LifeStraw.

LifeStraw embedded in a bottle

The conclusion is, LifeStraw shows strong indication to be dominant design in personal water filter industry. However, the market is still in the beginning of transition phase. There is also possibility of no single dominant design in the market.



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