Housewares Design Awards

2004 Best in Category: Home Organization, Laundry Care & Non-Electric Cleaning Products


Butterfly Step Can

Simplehuman has built a corporate culture around the concept of creating well-designed products that improve people’s lives.

Three years ago, Simplehuman looked at the housewares industry and saw that price was by far the dominant force in a product’s fate, and there were a lot of “me too” products devoid of innovation, according to Frank Yang, founder/CEO at Simplehuman.

The company’s goal was to create products that exceed expectations for performance, aesthetics and durability. Formerly known as CanWorks, the company changed its name to Simplehuman last year to reflect its commitment to simplifying life.

The company’s Butterfly Step Can was a recent recipient of the Best in Category honor for home organization at the Housewares Design Awards.

“It feels great to be recognized for designing a product that we feel is a true example of efficient living design,“ Yang said. “We started with a huge challenge— to create a trash can that broke the mold, and we developed genuine innovation with the butterfly.”

The Butterfly Step Can features an extra wide split door design for low clearance, a “whisper-close” lid with unique rotary damping mechanism, a “teeter-totter” style pedal mechanism, and a narrow footprint designed to fit in narrow spaces. The lid mechanism slows the close of the lid so that it shuts with a barely audible sound, as opposed to a loud clanking. The Butterfly Step Can is constructed of stainless steel and high-impact ABS plastic with brushed steel, polished steel, white or black finish.

Simplehuman’s goal is to challenge common perceptions about what a product should look like and how it should work.

“We want to change people’s relationships with our products; we want to create products that make people’s lives easier, more efficient,” Yang said.

Good design is what gives Simplehuman’s products value and differentiates it in the marketplace, according to Yang. He said the company is aware that consumers are price-conscious, so the company keeps an eye on commodity goods and the pricing of materials.

Yang stressed that good design is not only a higher-end concept.

The company is a “champion of democratizing design into a mass endeavor,” he said. “Sometimes the most superb solution is actually quite simple, which allows you to offer everyday pricing. If you develop a product that truly makes life easier, people will buy it.”

The internal structure and culture of the company is set up to nurture good design by encouraging open interaction. The company as a whole has breakfast together every Friday. Often, employees are presented product being testing and asked to try it at home. The goal is to gauge how the product is used and how good design can improve every-day use items.

The butterfly can and a new upright grocery bag holder are among items Yang feels exemplify the company’s objective.

“These are both examples of genuine innovation in a category that was previously quite stale,” Yang said.

The grocery bag holder is used to store plastic supermarket bags so they can be reused.

Other items for the kitchen include a set of three stainless steel canisters with side windows and a new System Dish Rack, made of 18/10 stainless steel and clear ABS resin. The dish rack has a modular design and comes with a range of accessories that work with the individual user’s lifestyle. Extra cup holders can be added or removed to create more drying area; a wine glass holder can be added when needed; and a knife block that holds fine cutlery while it is drying can be flipped when not in use to serve as a small item holder.

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