The future of Rx?
April 27, 2005 9:23 PM   Subscribe

Target introduces first new Rx bottles in almost 50 years. But they might be the only one for some time to do so. I have a couple in my bathroom already and as a designer I have to say they are brilliant example of thoughtful, careful design that can be extremely usable. If you are a design geek, or a wannabe, this other article is a great read about that explains the design and thought processes, as well as some prototypes, they went through with the NYC School of Visual Arts to get this new design. On page two you can see the new bottle with a detailed features list. I personally like that it wont roll off a table, better readability, and the color coded rings for each family member. One more way design makes your life easier.
posted by Dome-O-Rama (28 comments total)
But if I switch to those bottles, what will I use to store all my nails and loose screws and tweezers and thumbtacks and other little odds-and-ends that fit so nicely into pill-bottles? I mean, it's like she designed the bottle specifically to hold pills.

That's hot.

The cap looks hollow. Does it have a barrier between it and the actual bottle to keep it from filling with pills?
posted by schroedinger at 9:35 PM on April 27, 2005

Great link! I love seeing thought put into redesigns instead of redesigns for the sake of redesigns. Target always has such great design work, I almost want to not hate them.
posted by Robot Johnny at 9:36 PM on April 27, 2005

Target made out like bandits on this deal. I know the SVA student who designed the bottle, and they only paid her $200,000 for the patent.

That being said, however, I believe Target's creative director made some pretty substantial changes/improvements to her design, including the color-coded rings.
posted by pruner at 9:41 PM on April 27, 2005

I saw this on the Target web site yesterday and went "Hmmm, how freakin cool".
posted by yodelingisfun at 9:46 PM on April 27, 2005

I know the SVA student who designed the bottle, and they only paid her $200,000 for the patent.

And how much would you think she should get paid for designing a neat bottle? I mean, that's a pretty significant chunk of cash...
posted by odinsdream at 9:52 PM on April 27, 2005

That being said, however, I believe Target's creative director made some pretty substantial changes/improvements to her design, including the color-coded rings.

I doubt it was the creative director who actually did the work.

Call me bitter!
posted by jimmycurN at 9:57 PM on April 27, 2005

And how much would you think she should get paid for designing a neat bottle? I mean, that's a pretty significant chunk of cash...

I don't have an exact figure in mind, but I'd think she deserves more than $200k... Target is certain to make millions off her design.
posted by pruner at 10:00 PM on April 27, 2005

Am I in the minority here, in that I love Target??? It's the only store of its type that I will set foot in. Yay Target!
posted by shoppingforsanity at 10:01 PM on April 27, 2005

I doubt it was the creative director who actually did the work.

I'm sure you're right.
posted by pruner at 10:02 PM on April 27, 2005

"Code red" is placing brand identity above the paradigm. Even if I redesigned the bottle, I would likely keep the color.

Prescription bottle designs are funny, because you theoretically want an alternate aesthetic to dominate, so it doesn't end up looking like the new Jolly Rancher M&M bottle.

Her awareness of language makes me believe she understands the paramount importance of "use" in all medical items that end up in the home. Yet the colored bands have to be changed to function, and if they aren't changed, are in fact counterproductive, and potentially deadly.

On preview: I see that the creative director may have created the rings.

I met a guy who worked on the Home Access HIV test, and he gave me a little insight into their development process. Their #1 goal throughout the entire project was accurate use, and they conducted testing until nearly 100% of test users completed the test properly. This type of design deserves respect, and I'm glad that target has stirred dialog, but the result is amateur at best. IMHO.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 10:37 PM on April 27, 2005

Core77 has some good discussion (by designers who are also users) of the design. Seems like some iteration on this buzzworthy effort is needed.
posted by stevil at 10:40 PM on April 27, 2005

Who cares if pills collect in the cap, you just flip it, open it, get out your pill(s), and put the cap back on.

The colored bands presumably are just an additional cue. I'd imagine the patient name and medication name are still on the label.

I think the bottles are pretty damn cool, even if the Core77 guy bitched about spillage when the cap is not on. Hell, if the caps not on on a regular bottle you'll probably pick it up by the cap and spill pills all over anyway (been there, done that, my wife has chronic not-put-cap-back-on-tightly-itis). The pills wedging into the bottom part does suck however.

Too bad I had so many bad experiences with poor quality products from Target in the 80s. I like their new design emphasis. Should I give them another chance?
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:16 PM on April 27, 2005

Aw man... Over here, we have just blister packs for all our medication, and it really takes a lot out of the...well, not fun, but feeling? experience? of taking pills.

Rather than going "Look, see, prescription! I'm sick!" you might as well be just taking aspirin...
posted by Katemonkey at 11:29 PM on April 27, 2005

The problem with usability design is that no one among us can really fathom the depths (and prevalence!) of human stupidity.

The reason the color coding is potentially dangerous is because it encourages lack of vigilance. People are lazy, so if Grandpa can't see very good, and he always just grabs for the blue bottles for his daily pills. Brother doesn't care or know about the labels, so when he gets a wayward prescription for penicillin and a blue ring, he throws it in the drawer. Oops, it turns out that Grandpa's allergic to penicillin. Or maybe Grandpa used color coding to separate his pills from Grandma's, but when Grandma died, he moved in with his daughter who lives alone and uses color coding for her own different prescriptions.

The point isn't that there's a possibility for miscommunication, since there was always a possibility for miscommunication with regular old bottles. The point is that the design encourages miscommunication, by making the users assume that everybody understands the system.

Will it make things better or worse? I don't think anybody could really say without some field testing.

Besides, isn't the #1 complaint about pill bottles the difficulty of the child-proof cap? The article makes it sound like they just blew over that concern because they would have had to wait to get government certification.
posted by Skwirl at 11:52 PM on April 27, 2005

Katemonkey, when I was a child and adolescent, growing up in the UK, there were two kinds of containers for medicines. One was a brown bottle with a label saying "the mixture", and the other was a small round box labeled "the pills". The chemist squiggled the dosage on, and that was it. I remember my astonishment when I arrived in France and discovered that doctors actually considered it a patient's right to know what s/he was swallowing.
I like blister packs. You can keep count.
posted by TimothyMason at 12:11 AM on April 28, 2005

The design is pretty swell, but I'm not sure how you're supposed to actually take the pills, since the bottle won't stand up without its cap on. Tap out a pill, put it on the table, then close the bottle and pick up the pill again? Sounds a bit awkward to me. I imagine they're awkward for the techs to fill, too.

Re: child-proof caps - Walgreens solves that issue by making the caps reversible. Put it on upside-down and it's suddenly an easy-to-open (but non-child-resistant) screw cap.
posted by neckro23 at 12:16 AM on April 28, 2005

The problem Skwirl mentions reminds me of a problem manufacturers of climbing harnesses had a few years back. When you pull the two ends of a climbing harness together, you need to hold them tight while simultaneously pulling one side through a buckle twice. Sometimes it was a pain.

Somebody got the really cool idea to put velcro on the two sides of the belt. That way, you didn't have to hold the belt together, just double-pass the buckle. I had one of these harnesses, it was great to use.

However, hardly any company makes one any more. Why? Because the velcro, while super convenient, makes in less than obvious if you have forgotten to buckle the belt: the harness will still seem to be on, until you weight it, in which case you die.

There was great debate about this. It WAS a really nice feature, and a lot of folks felt that the user should know what they are doing. But ultimately climbing companies erred on the side of caution and removed a very useful feature that had a big (but rare) potential downside.

This issue with the colored rings strikes me as exactly the same. I still don't know where I stand on the issue.
posted by teece at 12:17 AM on April 28, 2005

Target has a pharmacy?
posted by TangerineGurl at 12:37 AM on April 28, 2005

TangerineGurl, that was my first thought, too.

It seems like it would be difficult to read the directions with the bottle open. Sounds minor but it'll be a problem for whatever subset of people open their bottles and then read the instructions. Maybe you could hold it with the mouth at the heel of your hand, and then tilt your hand over, thumb-down, and lean over the bottle to read it. But plenty of people already have trouble with childproof caps, and it isn't super easy to open one that you're holding that way.
posted by coelecanth at 4:17 AM on April 28, 2005

You need government approval for a new cap, but not for a new bottle design? Seems the two would go hand-in-hand to me, and I doubt I'd endeavor to redesign a familiar and relied upon medical-related design without the level of dilligence Jack Karaoke mentions.
posted by VulcanMike at 4:53 AM on April 28, 2005

The point of blister packs and lower numbers of pills per pack in the UK is to make it harder to overdose on impulse...
posted by brettski at 5:53 AM on April 28, 2005

since the bottle won't stand up without its cap on. Tap out a pill, put it on the table, then close the bottle and pick up the pill again?

This is really a problem? With most pills, I just put it in my mouth. Even the scenario you describe isn't exactly strenuous.
posted by agregoli at 7:04 AM on April 28, 2005

VulcanMike, they probably had to test the plastic of the bottles for chemical composition and...degradability, or somesuch, but I'm sure there are a bunch of pain in the ass laws in place enforcing child-proof caps. And you probably need FDA approval, so unless you're a sex drug, you can expect that to take a good 5-10 years.

I've heard they are working on perfecting plastics that chance color at a specific decay rate. (Like, turn blue in 30 days) I think that's planned for knowing at a glance which of your medications are current, which, if it works, would be cool.
posted by graventy at 7:08 AM on April 28, 2005

Ok, as one who actually made the post, and one who has the bottle - it works pretty much as before.

You pour the pill out in your hand with the lid, replace lid with fingers, pop pill. Or open, sit lid on sink, extract pill, replace lid, take pill. It's not brain surgery. Your finger doesn't fit inside the current ones either really unless you get 100 horse pills, you do the same thing you did, you can actually lay the open bottle on it's flat sides as well.

There IS the name on the paitent on the label, it's on the picture, just called "Target Guest" on the photo, it's abvove the Rx name. The Dr's name is "Dr Target" as well on that pic. They just filled in all the blanks.

I see the design as being very aged-friendly. The longated wedge shape is actully I imgaine going to be more comfortable for arthritics to hold. The BIG name on the top, the larger name on the label all help. The lid is liek the child safety lids you have now, a raised air cushion type plastic thing - only the lid is a clear red now. The pull out card is brilliant. AS a country who'se society is aging rapidly we need this change. Kudos for Target forbeing above average as usual. I hope to see this carry on elsewhere.

I wish all stores could adopt the Target shopping experience as well, no overhead announcements, no music, actaully helpful peopel - it's serene.

Anyway, when I saw my hubbys' new bottles in the medicine cabinet the first time I went "OOOH COOL!" and proceeded to give it a BIG once over. After I spent 15 minutes playing with it, becasue I'm a huge design geek, he took it away, ;-(

It's useful and it's beautiful. I can't wait for MY refills!
posted by Dome-O-Rama at 10:03 AM on April 28, 2005

Next thing you know we'll have kids faking illness so they can get fancy pill bottles to play with and arguing over who gets the blue rubber ring.
posted by ddf at 11:49 AM on April 28, 2005

They had a really cool syringe-slash-bottle too. The bottle had a plug that allowed you to insert the syringe, turn the bottle upside down, and draw out the meds (to orally dispense the meds).
posted by rzklkng at 11:56 AM on April 28, 2005

These bottles look really top-heavy and tippy. Walgreens bottles with those giant reversible caps are bad enough. Perhaps the designers have never lived in earthquake country.
posted by oats at 1:37 PM on April 28, 2005

Yeah I just got back from getting my refills, and I saw the liquids one - it's cool.

There also, I wanted to mention, is a non-child cap for the pills bottle. Looks the same, just not as deep. Just screws on. It doesn't quite touch the ring so if you dont have kids and find the ring gives the kid cap problems, get the no kid cap.

And, they were out of my color, orange - poop.
posted by Dome-O-Rama at 1:38 PM on April 28, 2005

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