World's first breathalyser toothbrush | Product design for Direct Line
3D render of the Direct Line toothbrush breathalyser for case study header
Direct Line logo - client of West Midlands product design agency, Simple Design Works

We love impactful, behaviour changing ideas. We love corporate social responsibility activities too!

This is why we were immediately intrigued when Weber Shandwick contacted us with their concept of a breathalyser toothbrush for Direct Line.

According to research produced by Direct Line, as many as one in four adults admit to driving in the morning, after consuming alcohol the night before, despite still feeling under the influence. The numbers rise to a staggering 50% for younger adults (aged 18 to 34 or under) according to a survey with 2,000 participants.

We were sold – this was a problem that needed to be solved.

Behaviour changing invention

The concept research revealed further findings from Dr Joeran Koechling. Dr Koechling recently led a University of Cambridge study investigating the reasons behind drink driving, and how accurately drivers can estimate their levels of intoxication after drinking alcohol. He says:

“Our own study specifically showed drivers are strongly misjudging their alcohol levels, meaning people consider themselves fit to drive when in fact they have dangerous levels of alcohol in their blood.”

Removing the technology adoption barriers

Following the initial discussions with Direct Line and the preliminary review of the research data, we focused on the experience that needed to be achieved; the design should allow the product to fit into everyone’s morning routine for the ultimate convenience. This objective formed a key part of the design brief.

The prototype worked quite simply – the user brushes their teeth and blows into the toothbrush. It then quickly produces an indication on whether they are within the legal limit. This allows them to make an informed decision on whether they should be driving or not.

3D render of the toothbrush breathalyser concept by Simple Design Works for Weber Shandwick on behalf of Direct Line

The development process

Our engineering and industrial design teams quickly began exploring ergonomics and anthropometrics data, researching the best technological solutions, and working on product styling.

Different versions of the initial concept were produced to test the principle and refine user experience. After a couple of iterations, we produced a design that worked really well, looked great and everyone was delighted with.

The product campaign is backed by Dr Joeran Koechling, who said: “This invention is incredibly smart. It embeds breath testing into a drivers’ morning routines seamlessly, even the visual reminder of seeing the breathalyser section on the back while you’re brushing your teeth acts as a prompt to take stock and test your alcohol levels”.

Close up of digital panel of the toothbrush breathalyser concept being held by a person over a sink

Testing before product launch

We produced a small batch of working prototypes and carried out initial testing with a focus group representing different user profiles.

The results confirmed that the product worked consistently so that the team could then focus on producing the final design for manufacture ahead of mass production.

Person using the toothbrush breathalyser invention designed by Simple Design Works for Direct Line

Improving lives

We feel very passionate about making a real difference to people’s lives, and our input into products that contribute towards this.

We’re hugely grateful for the opportunity to work on this project with Weber Shandwick UK and Direct Line; their passion to make the roads safer for everyone is inspiring and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed working alongside their team.

Click here to find out more about the breathalyser toothbrush launch.

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