Lately, it seems that product designers are hellbent on overhauling the drugstore aisle. Nearly every inch of the fluorescently lit and over-packaged experience that we’re used to is being revamped—from shaving products to pill-taking apparatuses to condoms to eyewear.
Next up: the toothbrush.
Simon Enever, cofounder of New York-based design firm Default, decided to redesign the toothbrush after his dentist suggested he start using an electronic one. "I put it in my bathroom—and I have a clean, simple white bathroom—and it was this clunky thing down on the counter," Enever tells Co.Design.
Besides the lame aesthetics in the bathroom, Enever also noticed that when buying a toothbrush at the store, consumers are confronted with brashly colored, rubber-gripped behemoths. "It all looks like a sports product," he says.
For his Toothbrush by Default, Enever stripped away all that fuss and created a straight, sleek, cylindrical product instead. He also chose to power his model with AAA batteries, nixing the need for a plastic charger that sits around collecting grime.
The simple design of the handle wasn't just about aesthetics. Enever asked people to test the mass market brands and found that those tapered handles and rubber grips, touted for their ergonomics, really only offered manual comfort for part of the brushing session: "It doesn't matter what the shape was, most users went through several different grips while brushing their teeth," he says. "So there is often no advantage to having a specifically curvy shape."
Enever is a designer by trade—he, ahem, cut his teeth at fuseproject, designing consumer electronics and products for brands like GE—so when it came down to choosing bristle sizes and texture, he and his team needed a medical opinion. It turns out, though, that most dentists have contracts with manufacturers preventing them from consulting with a design upstart. "They’re very sneaky people, dentists!" he says. So he and his designers became equally stealth and conducted research during their own dental appointments. "They wondered why we were going so much," Enever says. (Fear not: they also did by-the-book research with engineers at mass market manufacturers in the United States to ensure that sizes, proportions, and bristles were up to snuff).
When finalizing the look of the brush, Enever was inspired by something else he has noticed in the current climate of consumer tastes: color can upgrade a ubiquitous product and give it new life. Consider the iPhone. "Now we’re on the other side where, with the iPhone 5c and Moto, you can build your colors and there’s a trend towards personalization, but still keeping that premium feel," Enever says.
With that in mind, Enever decided to issue the toothbrush in various colors—not just a crisp, Apple-y white—as well as in more luxe materials like wood and aluminum.
The basic brush is $19; an electric motor is another $20; a custom 3-D printed handle or a premium metal handle are yet another $20. Default will also offer a subscription service for brush heads, for $16 a year. Build your own brush, here.