When Irena Samoilova’s grandmother was ill and confined to her bed, Samoilova couldn’t find a device to wash her besides the usual disinfectant wipes or rags. She wanted something more efficient and convenient, so she designed her own inspired by the best self-cleaners out there: cats. Called Lick, her design was recently declared a finalist for the 2020 Lexus Design Awards.
Cats are such efficient self-groomers because of their barb-covered tongues. These barbs or spines on a cat’s tongue are called papillae. Made of keratin (the same material that makes up hair and nails), they act as hooks that detangle knots in a cat’s fur, remove parasites, and redistribute oils. In Lick, the filiform papillae are more cone-like, with a U-shaped cavity. When the surface of Lick gets wet—it can be used with no-rinse body washes, often used in hospital settings for bedridden patients—the liquid fills that cavity, and then hair slides through it to get cleaned.
The papillae tips can also penetrate through hair to reach and clean skin, and for less hairy areas on your body, Samoilova explains over email, she plans to develop another kind of Lick surface with fewer papillae. These different surfaces will be interchangeable within the device, which is a circular shell meant to be easily held and carried, and can be removed to be washed as they become dirty. Samoilova plans to install an ultraviolet light into the case, as well, to disinfect those surfaces.
The mobility and ease of Lick was crucial to its design. “If we make it portable, we can carry this device in a bag, take it on a trip, use it in hot weather. It can be used everywhere,” Samoilova says. “It is like an innovative mini bathroom at your fingertips. It is very convenient in certain situations when there is no opportunity to take an ordinary shower.” Outside of hospital or home-care settings, she sees this device helping anyone who doesn’t have the opportunity to wash in an ordinary bath or shower.
Lick is a fit for the Lexus Design Award finalists because it encapsulates that guiding principle of “design for a better tomorrow,” by anticipating, innovating, and captivating, says Simon Humphries, Head of Toyota & Lexus Global Design and one of the award judges, in an email. “Irina Samoilova’s Lick is not only immensely creative, but also really embodies those principles: Lick anticipates a distinct need, applies an innovative solution, and is certainly a captivating concept.”
Right now, Samoilova is working with Lexus Design mentors on turning Lick from a concept to a working prototype, which will be shown at Milan Design Week 2020, along with the five other finalists’s designs. A winner will be selected in Milan, but Samoilova is already thinking beyond the awards, to mass production. “Now I feel a great responsibility for the execution of my idea,” she says.