Born during the 2020 lockdowns, Sprig reimagines the art of cocktail making, fusing mixology with the current trend of houseplant ownership. A holistic system, Sprig is a brand experience that provides its users with everything needed to craft exceptional cocktails from home. The design includes a bar cart, bar tools, and a hydroponic garden system for growing fresh herbs to be used as ingredients and garnishes in cocktail recipes. These products can be with an optional subscription service that provides samples from local distilleries, new herb starts, plant nutrients, and recipe cards. When used in conjunction with each other, these elements embolden the user to discover exciting new spirits, become involved with cultivating their own fresh ingredients, and learn how to achieve professional quality cocktails. By providing the tools and education needed to create fresh and delicious craft cocktails, Sprig elevates the experience of making drinks and entertaining at home.
Initial Research & Opportunity Discovery
We began the project with the simple goal of designing a hydroponic garden. From there, we researched tangential products and services and discovered that while there are many at-home vegetable and herb gardening systems, there were no products that tapped into the craft of cocktail making. During this initial research stage, bars and restaurants worldwide were closing their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting a need for improved education in home cooking and beverage preparation. People reached to cooking and gardening for at-home entertainment, and bars were providing takeout cocktail kits so customers could make their own drinks at home. Our team recognized an opportunity to combine these interests, tapping into the cultural interest in houseplants, the need for creative outlets for time spent at home, and the opportunity to empower consumers to learn new skills.
We met with expert hydroponic gardeners, bartenders, and amateur mixologists. We investigated different hydroponic gardening methods and subscription models. This research provided insights into potential systems for growing herbs, the requirements for an at-home cocktail system, and the desires of potential users. This informed a series of requirements for our system.
1. It needs to be simple. The moment things become complicated or break in a hydroponics system, people won't use it.
2. The system needs to be easy to clean.
3. The system should make cocktail mixing accessible to a range of users, from novices to home mixologists.
4. The system should give the user room to grow and personalize the experience to their needs and lifestyle.
Our initial concepts included bar cabinets with hydroponics systems built into them. These concepts were large, architectural, and complicated systems, but ultimately inaccessible for most users. These concepts helped us outline our problem while providing a jumping off point to develop a more customizable system. As a result, we designed the cart to be used with or without the herb planter, grow light, tools, and subscription service, and vice versa. It was important to us to design elements that complimented each other, but could be purchased and enjoyed independently.
Having agreed to prioritize customization and accessibility, we began sketching and modeling up rough concepts of bar carts, hydroponic planters, and grow lights that could be used together. We worked between sketching on paper and in Illustrator, building dozens of rudimentary CAD models, and ultimately building physical prototypes of the products and services. We used the model subscription boxes, planters, and carts to test the full user experience and adjust elements of the design. Through user testing, we simulated receiving a subscription box, unpacking its contents, and using the model cart to prepare beverages from the provided recipe cards. This practice allowed us to identify pain points in the experience, finalize the dimensions of the cart, to conceptualize which tools are necessary for cocktail making, to determine ideal contents of the subscription boxes, and otherwise design to the user flow.
With minimal styling, the bar cart combines a traditional work surface with a recessed storage surface for housing up to 2 hydroponic garden systems, or providing storage space for tools and bottles. A lower shelf provides extra storage space for more planters, bottles, and supplies. A bar wraps around both top and bottom surfaces, providing security for the contents of the cart and offering surfaces for draping towels or hanging tools. Equipped with a sturdy handle and front wheels, the cart is easy to move through the user's home.
The aesthetics of the cart—its unique profile and durable CMF—directly relate to its function as a workstation, a gardening surface, and place to store cocktail supplies. The construction of the form allows it to be flat-packed, which improves ease and affordability of delivery to the user's door.
Herb Garden System
The hydroponic gardening system consists of a simple, passive hydroponic planter and grow light. The planter features a removable lid, transparent water reservoir, and perforated plant pots. The lid suspends the reusable pots over the water in the reservoir, allowing the plants, whose roots grow through the plant pots to stay watered and allow for necessary capillary action. While the water level decreases due to evaporation and transpiration, the roots are exposed to air and oxygenate the plant. This system, a well-known hydroponic growing method called the Kratky method, was chosen for its simplicity and reliability.
The planter is transparent glass to enable easy water level monitoring. The reservoir is smooth, lending to easy cleaning, and can be refilled by removing a plant and pouring more water into the reservoir. The removable lid enables easy replacement of old plants for new ones. The optional grow light, designed to clamp onto the frame of the bar cart, pivots to illuminate either the herbs or workspace of the bar cart.
The optional subscription services provide the user with plant starts packed in a biodegradable coconut coir grow medium. These plant starts are easily inserted into the hydroponic planter, and can replace the herbs from last month that have been used up. Each subscription box also includes nutrient packets, sample sized bottles of liquor samples, and recipe cards that suggest recipes to compliment the herbs and alcohol included.
The cart frame is made from powder coated bent steel tubing, which would be easy and affordable to manufacture. The shelves are bent steel, providing rigid structure to the prep surfaces. These materials were chosen for durability, manufacturability, and ease of cleaning. The planter reservoir is glass, with a polycarbonate lid and grow baskets. The housing for the grow light is powder coated steel. The glass of the planter enables easy monitoring of water level, while the polycarbonate lid provides a durable and cleanable barrier between the reservoir and the other contents of the bar cart.