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No Coffee Lid Required (The Compleat)

Redesigned shape of the paper coffee cup requires no lid.

Photo of James McBennett
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Video is from Creative Mornings.

How does this research relate to our Use Cases?

Use Case #3 Straws and takeaway coffee lids

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Is a straw or a lid really needed? Can the rest of the product be extended to eliminate the need for a straw/lid while still providing the equal experience?

Tell us about yourself

I studied architecture and I'm currently taking a micro-masters in UX design. I love CNC machines and robots.


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Hi James! There are 2 days left in the ideas phase of the circular design challenge! It would be great to see your ideas there, submit your idea via -

Photo of Liz

Hi @jamesmcbennett your research submission to @circular-designchallenge is an excellent solution. My favorite due to the multiplicity of benefits that extend far beyond the challenge goal of reducing small plastics. Will you be moving this to the Ideas phase of the challenge? To second @laurenito comment? I see you're clear in your comments that you did not invent this. Maybe you can contact the inventors and suggest they submit to the next phase of this challenge. This idea deserves to move forward.

Photo of Lauren Ito

This research has inspired a breadth of valuable feedback and engagement from the OpenIDEO community! I wanted to remind you that the ideas phase of our challenge is now open.

Would love to see the insights you've gathered channeled into a contribution in the next phase. Please repost here Looking forward to seeing your idea!

Photo of Giles

Well done in finding an example of trying to solve the coffee cup problem with a single material, the designers here seem to have come up with some neat geometry. I'd been thinking along the lines of the paper water bombs you'd make at school as shown here:

My recollection is that these worked pretty well with standard copier paper for the duration you might want to hold the water (before throwing!) which might be about equivalent to how long you'd need to contain a single coffee, but the thermal insulation would need some thought...

Photo of Chinanu Nwaohangwa

Hi James,

Nice idea to have paper cups. Perhaps, we could think further of patronizing paper lids for people taking longer walk with their coffee........ See you in ID Phase.

Photo of Allard Schmidt

Cool cup design this needs to be developed further and created as an product so that companies like Starbucks could use it!

Photo of Balint Katona

Nice one you got there James McBennett
off topic: How do you think the edX/UMichigan micro-masters will impact your career?

Photo of Michael David

Awesome product design. It's amazing how product redesign can impact brand experiences and the effects towards the environment and humanity. Kindly share more on process for using the design cutout patent.

Photo of James McBennett

Stating the obvious: This isn't my product.

The patent drawing was found on google image search while searching for 'Compleat Cup',

Photo of Michael David

Thanks James. Definitely borrowing this..

Photo of Matt Jones

This is a really good idea.

I'm interested in seeing how the Compleat deals with the heat and moisture of hot drinks - paper does tend to soften with hot liquids (nothing worse that a cup that caves as you try to pick it up). I find the plastic cap helps keep the cup's shape.

I would assume it would also benefit from a sleeve, which is added waste, but at least easily made from recyclable card.

Lastly, how easy are cardboard containers to clean ready for recycling. In reference to the list of poorly recyclable products - food contamination is an issue.

For now, I have to get my hands on one of these cups to try it out. Great find James!

Photo of James McBennett

For me, nothing worse than picking up an extremely hot cup. The sleeve is essential for a good customer experience. This challenge is about maintaining or improving the experience while lowering the environmental impact, but must keep the experience. 'Future Systems' designed a ceramic cup that looked cool but was impossible to pick up when hot. I bought two of these for my parents one year and they never used them correctly pointing out designers who don't take user needs into account. While I liked it at the time, this is now in my crappy design folder as a result of being unfit for use. Similar to the Coca-Cola case study for the ring pull, the sleeve could be changed while maintaining or improving the experience.

I would make the cup if you wanted to try it rather than trying to find it. Their patent drawing reveals their design cutout

On the cleaning/recycling question, would be good to go into a coffee shop when they aren't too busy with a camera and ask staff recording answers and upload video to youtube and to this challenge.

Photo of Matt Jones

Hey James. Thanks for posting the patent drawing. I have all the kit to be able to mock-up one.

I follow this thought process in my design thinking: "People don't respond well to change - at least initially. Give them what they want - but in a way that makes it easier for them to do the right thing. Change will follow."

Overlay on this the act of 'nudges'. I feel an effective nudge drives the most change. Surprisingly nudges don't take long to change a cultural norm - some being instant. When thinking of takeaway coffee, what is the one small nudge that could change a culture? It might be as simple as writing on top of coffee cup lids the statement "Plastic lids go into Plastic Recycling Bins", and on the cups "Cardboard cups go into Paper Recycling Bins". Job done (if it were so easy)!

Photo of James McBennett

I get confused knowing which bin to put things in. The bins at Wholefoods are nice in that you get your food from them using their packaging and then the bins have photos of which items go into which bin. Better communication could increase circular economy as it would avoid people putting items in the general bin due to confusion. How many people are willing to admit they are confused?

On your small changes, writing on lid. "Don't take a lid unless you really need it." could reduce how many people use them by a great amount and would save costs for coffee shops. I have never been asked whether I really need the lid and get them more out of habit than a necessity on certain occasions. 

Or maybe they should be different type of lids. The plastic lid is for drinking on the go. It is useful for people drinking their coffee while driving or walking. But if someone is buying coffee and bringing it back to the office, maybe a different more environmentally friendly lid could be used that doesn't need to allow people to sip it, no need for an opening and therefore can be cardboard or paper. Or if coffee shops sold jugs of coffee for an office worker to purchase a jug for four rather than four individual coffees, would that save on packaging and be useful for both coffee shop and consumer.