safe2o: Water Filter + Data Visualizer

Transition Design / Design Research / Branding / Packaging 

A wicked problem like "Access to Clean Water in Pittsburgh" seems unsolvable. Our prompt was to design an intervention that could be a step in the right direction.  

As visual designer, I helped establish our filter's form of visual communication. I additionally collaborated with my team on all areas of the research. 

My teammates were Maggie Banks and Tina Jiwoo Park. We were focused on creating the product. We worked with Sara Remi Fields, Jesse Klein, and Steven Ji, whose focus was on the data visualizer.

The project lasted one semester, and was part of my Senior Design Research Studio course. 

We designed safe2o, a hypothetical company set in the year 2025, that has created an affordable water filter + data visualizer for the people of Pittsburgh. 



Final Pieces

Welcome to safe2o:

"It's the year 2025. We are a startup using the power of community and shared resources to bring an innovative solution to the clean water crises around the country. We started in Pittsburgh, PA and have already made great improvements to the quality of water in the area. Join us today by learning more about our product and investing in a safe2o filter. Install a safe2o filter and it will both sense and filter out carcinogenic contaminants from your drinking water, while also alerting the government of which pipes in the water infrastructure need to be replaced."


The Water Filter

A smart water filter that senses and filters out contaminants in your pipes. It locates which pipes the government should fix.

Packaging of the filter.


Water Filter Interface


Instruction Booklet



The website acts as a data visualizer, collecting all of the data from the water filters in the city to give a clearer picture of water quality.


Government Tool Storybook

Historically, poorer communities have a harder time accessing clean water because they cannot afford to replace their pipes. In this Futures scenario, the government's law restricting fixing pipes on private property had been revoked. A pittsburgh water committee forms to monitor which pipes need to be fixed.


AR Stickers

AR codes explain the quality of the water and link to the website.


This Project Is a Futures Scenario Set in the Year 2025

An explanation of how safe2o came to be.



The Process

My full process documentation of the project and the course can be seen here.


Understanding the Water Domain

We were assigned the wicked problem, "Access to Clean Water." Before trying to dive in and create a solution, we spent a long time compiling research.

We also mapped out smaller problems and the stakeholders involved. We used string in our diagram to make connections.


Understanding the Stakeholders

We identified three key stakeholders: PWSA, Clean Water, and Pittsburgh Residents. We wrote out what their hopes and aspirations were. Then we mapped alignment/misalignment of views. The reason we could do this was so that we could reframe the problem into something that everyone wanted to solve together.


Three Horizons: Present, Transition, and Future

We created a three horizons chart, which combines the present, transition, and future. It allowed us to visualize how we could get to the futures scenario we wanted, plus possible roadblocks we might encounter along the way. This was helpful since our intervention was something that would happen long into the future.


Figuring Out the Intervention

We brainstormed many potential interventions. We used Max Neef's List of Needs in order to create on that was a "synergistic satisfier," meaning it satisfies many needs. We also wanted to make sure we weren't inhibiting any needs. 

After that we fleshed out our 5 favorites. In the end, we determined that the intervention we wanted to pursue was the IOT Water Filter because of the way that it makes clean water more accessible, especially to poorer communities.


Getting Started on Creating an IOT Water Filter

With Maggie and Tina, we created a mood board of forms for the filter and its interface. We printed out images from our collaborative pinterest and annotated them.

Then, we whiteboarded how the filter and interface graphics could work together.


Adoption Timeline

Since our startup was set in the year 2025, we created an adoption timeline to figure out how it could come to be, as well as understand what the motivations of safe2o might be. By 2025, we figured they would have restored safe2o from the epidemic status that it was in. Then, they would want to expand to help other cities. Defining this intention helped us craft our presentation of our research in the end.


Filter Form Modeling

CAD Modelling of the Water Filter by Tina and Maggie.


Visual Design Inspiration

I was inspired by the shapes and colors found when inspecting water and bacteria under a microscope. This allowed me to discover that this could be a way to visualize the contaminants in the water that normally cannot be seen. We thought that if people could see the problem in the water, then that might help them understand how serious of a problem it is.


Visualizing the Contaminants

Explorations in how to express the sensing and filtering out of contaminants.  The main challenges were:

  1. Making it seem like water is flowing out of it into the sink.
  2. Showing that the contaminants are being sensed, but also making the user feel assured that the filtered water is safe to drink. What is the right balance of fear and security?
  3. Making it not too distracting or illustrative.

Finalizing Brand Assets

I was in charge of creating the logo, as well as creating the shapes that would represent the different contaminants. In the process, I discovered that the "o" in safe2o could be utilized as a water droplet in the filter design. 



I illustrated pipes that are totally connected, to add emphasis to why we must fix the pipes. For example, if a home has contaminated pipes, it will contaminate the water of nearby facilities, as well. safe2o is leading the way to clean pipes for everyone. 

I also illustrated assets for the instruction booklet, based off of the line-drawing style Sara Remi established for the website.