What's the Square Root of Sustainability? This Coke Bottle

coke bottles

It's pretty ballsy to redesign one of the planet's most iconic shapes and completely blow it out of the water. Last we checked, Coke's bottles were some of the most recognizable objects on earth, and so powerful when it came to branding that in 2008, Coke transformed the capsule-like two-liter bottle into the same sexy curves. But dare we say design student Andrew Kim has created a concept that's equally powerful, all in the name of sustainability.

Coke green bottle

Kim has taken inspiration from companies like Fiji, whose squared-off bottles use shipping space more efficiently, but he also creates the ability for these bottles to be nested, saving space both horizontally and vertically. He also proposes a collapsible, accordion-like action for the bottles after they're used, saving space when being transported to the recycling center. He does have a point: Those curvy bottles don't flatten so well, adding bulk in the blue bin.

Coke green bottle

Although we probably won't ever say goodbye to Coke's cute little waist-and-hips of its traditional package design, this isn't a bad idea for any of Coke's other brands, especially something like its bottled water. And seeing as Coke has placed sustainability at the top of its agenda...David Butler, are you listening?

[Andrew Kim]

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  • Chamblis

    On a deeper level, it is dispiriting to see the lack understanding of the form versus function. As a previous comment noted, you can't physically package pressurized (carbonated) products in square packages. It is like saying you want to blow up a square rubber balloon. It is not just basic science, it is basic common sense, and an everyday observation.

    The popularity of this design is discouraging to the sustainable design community who try to apply basic science with great design.

  • Scoopy

    It's looks interesting, and is a cool concept, but it won't catch on. Besides being completely different from everything everyone is used to, (And making cup holders weird to use,) it looks really awkward to hold. With a curricular shape, you can grip your hand around it. Not so with squares- the edges are too sharp: Plus, the moisture it's stored in will make it slippery. One slippery, long plastic rectangle = annoying and accident prone. People like convenience for themselves, not for the stores.

  • Mark Skalla

    It's an interesting challenge; to redesign something as well known as Coke's bottle. I would equate it to a marketing accomplishment equal to climbing Mt. Everest. It's not impossible, but it will take more than what most would put into it, and I think that this design has some good merits. I'm not totally pleased with the aesthetics of the bottle, but that might grow over time. All in all, great attempt I think. I really like the stacking feature.

  • John Cannon

    I am wondering of the effects of a square bottle on the liquid inside -- will it slosh around more in transport and therefore create a problem when the cap is released? A curved edge swirls more, less friction. Any fluidity engineers with some insight?

  • Payne McDaniel

    What a dumbass, every cup-holder in the world would be obsolete. Major Flaw.

  • Amy

    This is a two liter bottle design, read it. Nobody needs a two liter bottle cup holder. Looks like you're the dumbass. As if Coke didn't already think about that. 

  • Dis

    Its not obviously not a 2 liter design, they just mentioned the redesign coke did on their 2 liter. The first picture shows it side by side with a 24 oz bottle.

  • Ali

    Great idea but considering the shape of the bottle is one of the most core foundations of the coca cola brand, they aren't going to shift..

    Also... has any body else mentioned ergonomics?

  • JC Wes

    Calm down, Fast Company; real sustainability does not involve plastic, high fructose corn syrup, or the global distribution of empty calories. The biggest step Coke could take toward sustainability is to purchase recycled plastic.

  • Yael Miller

    I thought this was interesting from a packaging design standpoint. At first glance, it doesn't seem all that innovative. But, there was a fair amount of thought that went into this design (see links above). You also have to realize that in packaging, it's often very small changes that make a very big difference. Even a few grams less plastic can have a wide-scale effect on packaging waste stream issues.

    You need to think 'out of the box' to create true innovation, or as David Butler puts it, "designing on purpose". Manufacturing limitations aside, the concept forces you to look at the whole picture from another point of view. This is a good thing.

    Coca Cola has the singular ability to make a profound difference in packaging waste challenges due to its sheer size. We need more large companies like this that embrace innovation and positive change. I wish more companies had this attitude.

    Like the colorless Coca Cola can concept http://www.behance.net/Gallery... (which isn't practical to make in real life), the innovative points-of-view that spring forth from these ideas have a lot of value. Let's not miss that fact.

  • David Butler

    Alissa, we are listening indeed! It's always amazing to me to see how much people love our brands--especially brand Coke. We're always trying to do the right thing as we face the truly "wicked" challenge of sustainability. When it comes to Andrew's concept development, I love the thinking and especially the way it provides a great example of how we have to think big and leverage systems thinking in designing for our brands.

    We have more than 450 brands in our portfolio and roughly a quarter of the earth's population drinks one of our products every day. Now that's big. For many of our Stills brands (products without carbonation) we actually use a packaging design structure similar to the one that Andrew has designed. This "square" format is great for products where we don't use carbonation. In the US, think of Odwalla as a great example. Outside the US, especially in our Asian markets, many of our water, tea and coffee brands use a similar "square" format.

    When it comes to Coke, we actually need the curves in our packaging to ensure that we serve only the highest quality product and experience that people around the world have been enjoying for nearly 125 years. Simply put, square bottles and CO2 don't work well together. And we have to consider the tremendous brand equity we have in our "contour bottle." It's become iconic in our culture and is part of what people love about Coke.

    Having said all of that, we've designed what we call our "Plant Bottle" as the next step in our focus on packaging sustainability. We're using material innovation to address some very aggressive goals we've set to be the leader in packaging sustainability. This is just one more example of what we call "designing on purpose."

  • Richard Smith

    Hi David,

    When I was getting my start as an adult in life, and was particularly active as a campaign organizer, I was part of a bottle deposit initiative. Study after study had shown that a deposit initiative doesnt really hurt your company so much. That being the case, why does your company participate in every action to prevent what is in essence an economic incentive to recycle?

    Im sorry, but your PR effort here, while nice, is not really in line with the behavior of your company. If you really want to start, impose a nickle deposit on your product. Dont wait for governments to impose on (and dont spend millions to prevent it if they try).

  • s fillippone

    NIce, great, good- one "little " problem though.... how would the new container design keep from bulging. Basic phyisics here, that when there is internal pressure (carbonation) all surfaces are acted on equally; therefor, the sides on the squared packaging bulge, stress collects, unevenly, at the corners and any sharp (dropping?)external trauma results a fractured package and lost product. Furthermore, basic geometry indicates the packaging would also use more material to house the same amount of liquid.
    Looks wise? Yeah sure. Neat. Great thinking inside the box.
    Now for thinking outside and getting a REAL sustainable idea? How about RE-using bottles and creating a vending station? They do it for water at the grocery store and they doit for your soda everywhere there is fast food.
    Why not have a beverage refill station? Shipping, overhead, packaging, shelving space (have you seen how much space is dedicated to Coke and Pepsi drinks?) would all be reduced or eliminated!!
    Now thats more green!

  • David Shaskin

    @Justin Caffier

    Your points are a little off... While you're probably right about the shipping of syrup, even if the more tightly packed squared bottles weigh more, you are still sending more bottles on one truck. The squared bottles can be more densely packed and space matters; it is simply more efficient.

    You're probably right that the round bottle makes it easier to distribute pressure, but that doesn't mean that it would take twice as much material to produce a bottle. If that it the case, you have a valid point, but you don't know that. And this is definitely something that would have to be considered.

    I don't buy your third point. There are SO many products that come in bottles with 90-degree angles. If it was really that much of a problem, they wouldn't do it. But you are right that the production lines would have to be altered significantly.

    And to your last point; Consumers may very well like the change, especially if the bottles sit well inside their refrigerators. Don’t forget how well the reconfiguration of 12-packs were received (from 3 rows of 4 to 2 rows of 6)

  • Earl Wof

    I really get disturbed when art fails physics horribly. Cliche of "what are they teaching in these schools" comes up.

  • Dan Rockwell

    OK...I was in a hurry..

    "Can you put the bottles together to create one long sentence or logo by putting several bottles together."

    I have to slow down!