The Soma water filter was born out of an embarrassing moment. Founder Mike Del Ponte was hosting a dinner party at his San Francisco home for some design industry types. When he reached for the filtered water in his refrigerator, he stopped short. "All I had was a cheap plastic pitcher with those black flakes floating in the water," he told Fast Company. "I couldn't bring it out in front of everyone."
Fast forward, and the Soma team translated that white space in the market into a Kickstarter product hit. After crowdfunding success to the tune of $147,444, and seed investments for $3.7 million, Soma officially launches today as its own brand and company.
The Soma concept has changed very little from when Del Ponte originally realized its need. The glass carafe is far more beautiful than a standard plastic Brita, and it has a smarter, more environmentally conscious approach to its filters, which are compostable. Perfecting both took months of prototypes, during which the design team—Joe Tan, founder of Incase and Markus Diebel, former design director at Incase and Ideo—conceived a specific, Soma-specific design language.
"We decided on a form solution that embodies what water filtration really is and does," Tan tells Co.Design. "If you translate the filtering process into a shape that describes a reducing function and its direction of movement you will arrive at the funnel." Thus, the hourglass shape: "We inverted the conical filter funnel at the top to emphasize the transformational process and opposite nature of unpure and pure water."
The rest of the design process was a balancing act: The carafe needed to be large enough to serve a family, slender enough to fit inside a refrigerator, and be "as ergonomic as possible for holding, lifting, and pouring." The filters needed to be large enough to have power but small enough to filter water evenly, at the right speed.
Soma’s greatest design triumph might be less in the sleek carafe’s waistline, or the compostable filters (made from vegan silk, Malaysian coconut, and PLA food-based plastic), but more in its stress-free user experience. Through their own frustrations and surveys with Kickstarter backers, the Soma founders targeted a specific user pain point: buying and replacing the actual filters. Most users forget to toss out used filters after the recommended two months. Soma’s solution is to deliver the new filters to users' doorsteps six times a year.
Soma costs $49, with fresh filters delivered every 60 days for $12.99. Get your Soma here.