© 2017 by SEAN HUGHES


Pictorial overview of the Scrübber platform


Our client, Joe Short, tasked my design team of 4 with developing a device that makes washing dishes by hand easier.

To address that we've designed a handheld dishwashing platform with interchangeable handles and scrubbing heads, called the Scrübber (it's a working title). 

My contributions consisted primarily of generating and sketching concepts (like the one to the left), developing prototypes for testing and test documentation.

In March 2017, we delivered our client with a "works-like" prototype as well as a basic business model for a product line based around the device's platform. 

Key Design Decisions

Defining the design space

Joe Short, an independent inventor came to us with a desire to design and take to market a product that “disrupts the dishwashing market.”


Market research and expert interviews narrowed our focus to creating a product to aid people wash dishes by hand.

Identifying design drivers

Through observation of people washing dishes, we created a journey map grouping common steps that people performed.

The rinse and scrub step is the most universal, and is seen to be the most "painful" part of the process.

Thus the key design drivers are making the rinse and scrub step easier, while ensuring at least equal performance.

I researched existing dishwashing products, the patent space associated with dishwashing, and I interviewed Rainer Stamminger, a professor for household technology and process engineering at University of Bonn.

I conducted user observations and follow up

Concept generation

We brainstormed and grouped the most feasible concepts into 5 categories and represented 4 of them using sample products (pictured). 

We then created mock-ups for each concept type and ran a dishwashing test to evaluate them.

The testing eliminated the Sprutz concept, but the others showed potential. We brought the remaining four ideas into a design review with professional engineers and designers.

I coordinated mockup and prototyping efforts, ran and documented initial testing, and sketched concepts.

First design review

We presented our ideas to ​Mark Kurth, Ed Israelski, Sean Sanders, and Cindy Weflen, Chicago-area engineering design professionals. Our discussion after the presentation produced the following focus areas: 

  • Gathering more user data to determine pain areas

  • Creating function without sacrificing aesthetics

  • Benchmarking against other products 

We moved forward with more focus on understanding the worst aspects of the rinse and scrub step that a new product could solve. And that meant more research, testing and concept evaluation.

I helped prepare the slide deck, presented current concepts, and also led our discussion following the review.

Narrowing focus

Over the course of several weeks, we observed people washing their dishes (even ours sometimes). Interviews after observations gave us a list of criteria that a desirable product should have, and we used those criteria to help narrow our focus. 

We got down to two concepts:

I coordinated the construction of mockups, and participated in functional testing. I also assisted in documentation and concept evaluation. 

Final product concept

The concept consists of an attachment mechanism platform that integrates interchangeable handles and a suite of interchangeable cartridges with different functions.


This strategy will allow our client to start small with one handle and one cartridge, but allow him to scale with new handle and cartridge designs to target more specific markets. 

A handheld scrubbing device that uses mechanical motion to augment the user's own dishwashing efforts.

It would consist of some handle that houses a power source and motor, a scrubbing head, and a neck that connects the two.

Mechanical Scrubber
All-in-one Sponge

A sponge that incorporates multiple cleaning functionalities in the same profile.  ​

It would consist of some combination of sponge, abrasive, bristles, plastic scraper, or any other cleaning surface.

Refining cartridge designs 

Our research showed that people prefer not to change cartridges while washing dishes. We strove to create two cartridges to address the largest variety of dishwashing needs: a bottle brush for cups and narrow geometries, and a sponge/scrubber for everything else. Two concepts and their prototypes are shown.

Feedback from our second design review showed that it may be ineffectual to create only one cartridge for all non-cup dish types. After several more design iterations, and meeting with Walter Herbst, director of the Segal Design Institute's Masters of Product Development Management, we arrived at our final design concept. 

I refined our functional mockups and created additional cartridges for testing. I also documented our testing and synthesized user feedback. 

Pivoting focus to cartridges (scrubbing heads)

The mechanical scrubber out performed the all-in-one sponge in our testing, so we focused our efforts on developing that concept further. However, rather than design everything, from motor to scrubbing surface, we chose to focus solely on the interchangeable cartridges where we could have more opportunity to create new intellectual property.

The main takeaways from the testing were:

  • Motion can improve scrubbing effectiveness

  • Rotational motion appeared to clean better than vibration

  • Distance from handle to neck should be minimized for leverage

  • A variety or cartridges may be required to adequately clean all dish types

I met with Walter Herbst, created the design concepts, and managed our design team's prototyping efforts.

The focus of this project was developing the bottle brush and sponge cartridge, but their details have been omitted at our client's request while he considers his desire to seek patent protection.

We then develop several different cartridge designs and mockups with which we could test.