9 Companies Doing Things Differently

From food to fire hydrants, these innovators are up to everything except business as usual

Design9
8 
June 11, 2014
  Global Soap Project DesignGoodPin it
  Osborn DesignGoodPin it
  Design  Sigelock Systems DesignGoodPin it
  Design  Burts Bees DesignGoodPin it
  Design  Plated DesignGoodPin it
  Design  Good Fucking Design Advice DesignGoodPin it
  Design  Smile Squared DesignGoodPin it
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We come across some pretty amazing things all the time at DesignGood: from inspiring design-trepreneurs to nonprofits and Kickstarter campaigns with world-changing dreams. We’re lucky that part of our job is to find those people, companies and organizations and bring them to you.

 
Because of this, we’re starting Design9 – a new series that will highlight nine of the most awesome people, brands and organizations of the week.

We’re kicking off with 9 Companies Doing Things Differently – and we mean really differently. Whether they created a game-changing design or a “why didn’t I think of that?” idea about social contribution, these are brands after our own originality-loving hearts. Keep your eye on these guys!

1. Global Soap Project

 
Hotels discard about 2.6 million soap bars every day – and that’s only in the United States. What if there was a way to recycle that unused soap and distribute the new bars to places like Sierra Leone, Uzbekistan, and even back to communities in need in the United States? Thanks to Global Soap Project, now there is.

Since 2009 this Atlanta-based nonprofit, founded by a former refugee-turned-CARE lobbyist, has distributed over two million recycled bars into 32 countries. That helps save lives by preventing the spread of illness. Who knew those little bars of hotel soap could be so powerful?

2. Osborn

 
A few years ago, sustainable fashion was anything but fashionable. Now, thanks to companies like Osborn, that “granola” stigma is gone. Founded by a husband-and-wife team with impressive credentials (she has a master’s in art from the Tyler School of Art; he studied painting and printmaking at RISD before teaching art programs in Guatemala) Osborn makes stylish shoes that are also socially savvy. It brings sustainable design to the masses while impressing the fickle fashion crowd.

All Osborn shoes are handmade in Guatemala using fabrics sourced from thrift stores and traditional materials found in Latin America. Now that’s fashionable.

3. Sigelock Systems

 
You probably take fire hydrants for granted. But George Sigelakis, founder of Sigelock Systems, gave them a lot of thought in his 15-year career as a New York City firefighter. He saw hydrants’ maintenance problems, outdated design and security issues and decided they needed a massive redesign – the first in 50 years.

Made of stainless steel and ductile iron, the Sigelock SPARTAN Hydrant is, according to George, maintenance free for up to 200 years. The “Security Model” is also nearly impossible to break into, since only users with Sigelock tools can open it. That vastly decreases leaks and wasted water.

4. Burt’s Bees

 
You know Burt’s Bees – the natural-beauty mainstay that’s been fueling your lip balm habit for years – but do you know the buzz behind this brand?
Turns out, there really is a Burt and he really does have bees. The new documentary, Burt’s Buzz, tells the story of the mega-brand’s start after a chance meeting in the Maine backwoods and explores its focus on natural practices. You’ll also learn what happened to Burt and the company when it was sold in 2007.

Burt’s Bees was producing natural beauty and personal care products long before it was trendy and continues to do so today from its North Carolina headquarters. And we think that’s something to buzz about.

5. Plated

 
Before Plated, the very idea of cooking dinner was stressful. Just when were we supposed to find great recipes and take time for grocery shopping?

Plated to the rescue. This food service delivers fresh ingredients and chef-designed recipes to customers every night. So you can now have your food and cook it, too, without having to stay up past your bedtime just to eat.

Plated is doing things differently by offering a modern and innovative way of eating. Delicious!

6. Good Fucking Design Advice

 
It’s no secret how much DesignGood loves these guys. In our feature with founders Jason Bacher and Brian Buirge, we learned about the company’s meager beginnings and their interesting business model (50 percent content, 50 percent retail, choice word usage).

But the most interesting thing about GFDA is that two dudes in an Ohio basement created a wildly successful company through sheer creativity and innovation. Today, the guys behind Good Fucking Design Advice still say taking a risk is what got them to where they are today. “Comfort and security is the anti-creation. Whenever we feel that we’re getting comfortable, we open up the door to possibility and try to find ourselves a solution to shaking up our environment or changing the way we’re doing something in order to stay fresh and agile,” Jason told us.

7. Smile Squared

 
Smile Squared is a toothbrush company that donates a brush for every one purchased. Founded in 2010, Smile Squared produces all of its products — many of which are made of eco-friendly bamboo — in the U.S. These toothbrushes are then distributed in over 20 countries in addition to all 50 states – which is key, as need is sometimes overlooked closest to home. And for that, we’re all smiles.

8. Monocle

 
Monocle is one of those companies that are difficult to describe. It’s a publication and a radio station. It produces mini-documentaries and is an international force.

With a large international distribution as well as bricks-and-mortar coffee shops in both London and Tokyo, Monocle isn’t just wowing readers and coffee drinkers with its easy-on-the-eyes branding and design. It’s also changing the game when it comes to politics, culture, business, design and how they all intersect. We’re fascinated by companies that turn old models on their heads, and Monocle is definitely doing something different.

9. Soylent

 
What if you had the option to give up food and instead could drink a beverage that would satisfy your nutritional needs and keep you full? This isn’t The Jetsons – this is 2014, and Soylent is here to pose that question.

Created by the former owner of a San Francisco tech startup, Soylent is a powder with the 35 nutrients needed for survival. The recipe for Soylent is open-source and has sparked fans around the globe to create thousands of offshoot recipes.

We’re not so sure we could give up food – it’s just too good. (See: Plated.) But the idea is beyond original and could eventually make a real difference in malnourished areas thanks the founder’s dream of Soylent-producing algae.

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  1. Pingback: From soap recycling to daily food delivery, these companies are rethinking the way they do business, and it’s a recipe for success « The Optimist Daily

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  3. Andre says:

    Great list of companies and missions. You should check
    out the good work prAna is doing to change the apparel industry which is one of the most polluting industries on the planet. http://www.prana.com/life/sustainability/

    16.06.14 AT 11:32 PM
    • Robin Reetz says:

      Thanks Andre – we’ll definitely take a look. Appreciate your feedback!

      18.09.14 AT 09:24 AM
  4. G says:

    Clean the World based out of Orlando also takes partially used soaps and redistributes them around the country and the world!

    17.06.14 AT 08:42 PM
    • Robin Reetz says:

      Amazing! We’ll have to take a look. Thanks for reading!

      18.09.14 AT 09:26 AM
  5. Michelle says:

    I always donate my hotel soaps and shampoos to a local food shelf or shelter.

    17.06.14 AT 09:43 PM
    • Robin Reetz says:

      Awesome, Michelle. If only we could get everyone to do the same! Thanks for reading!

      18.09.14 AT 09:26 AM