Sometimes great ideas — like a fully recyclable bassinet —are simply old ideas elevated to the next level. Literally.
The Juno Bassinet developed by Seattle dad Herman Chan and his business partner Thomas Duester is a case in point. As industrial designers, these Seattle-based creator-solvers set out to fix a problem: the dearth of durable, affordable, sustainable made in the U.S. baby beds.
They found inspiration for their elegantly simple solution in a nearly century-old Finnish tradition.
Function over whistles
The Juno Bassinet is a lightweight, paperboard infant bed that folds down flat, travels easily, is built “like a hammer” and designed to last through at least a few siblings, all at a cost of less than $150.
It’s the polar opposite of the popular but decidedly non-recyclable Snoo Smart Sleeper Bassinet and similar multi-function high-priced baby sleepers (some retailing at upwards of $1,500).
“What was evident when we started this was that most products were designed like phones – for the features,” says Chan. They designed Juno for functionality, a light footprint and safety, rather than bells and whistles. Juno doesn’t rock your baby, play music or shush her to sleep. It’s a bed made of all natural materials – good for baby health, good for the environment, good for parents who want a bassinet that easily moves around the house and can be carried along on trips to see the grandparents.
Natural materials are what make this bed
Finding the right materials was a critical part of the design effort, Duester says. Most baby bassinets are made of environmentally toxic synthetic materials that will live in landfills countless years after families are done using them..
The Juno is made of paperboard, “just pulp and starch, ” Duester points out. The paperboard is, however, custom made. It took Duester and Chan three years to design a paperboard thick enough for strength and durability but also certified sustainable.
But back to that foundational idea on which Juno builds. Since 1938, every baby born in Finland has received a special box (or its cash equivalent) from the government. The national baby box comes packed with items that parents need to care for an infant — things like clothes, blankets, hats, thermometer, diapers.
Following in Finnish footsteps
Perhaps most important when it comes to the high costs of a new baby and the country’s extremely low infant mortality rate is the box itself. For generations, the Finns have used their baby boxes as a baby’s first sleep spot. Small and portable a Finnish baby box comfortably holds an infant for the first four to five months after birth. Cardboard versions of baby boxes can be recycled. And that’s what sparked with Chan and Duester.
Unlike its Finnish sister, the Juno is a full, average adult bed height bassinet. It includes an elevated sleeping surface, renewable and non-toxic materials, a breathable interior, and an organic mattress. It’s a pop-up sleeper. Given their industrial design backgrounds in a fast-paced industry (Chan and Duester helped create the first Amazon Go cashierless stores), it’s no surprise that the bassinet takes only 30 seconds to set-up or take down.
Chan’s son Otis didn’t get to experience his dad’s innovation. He’s now 7 years old, but it was his birth that launched the Juno journey. Chan says he and his wife started looking for beds before their son arrived but what they found on the market didn’t shore up with their values.
“We wanted the best for our child and meant natural, soft, easy to use,” Chan says. “Nothing fit. Everything was synthetic, nothing was sustainable and everything was wrapped in plastic.” Otis ended up sleeping in his parents’ bed and on the couch through his early infancy.
“We were so tired,” he says.
Fatigue sparks an idea
Somewhere in those sleepless nights, the wheels started turning for Chan. He reached out to Duester, who was an Amazon colleague at the time, to noodle the problem of how to make the most sustainable baby bed and soon the two set up formfuture, their own invention studio. Juno was the studio’s first product when it launched last year..
The development of the bassinet included input from the Seattle parents. Duester and Chan worked with a local doula trainer, Amity Kramer, as well as yoga studios to connect with parents and gather input.
“As designers, we always start with a customer,” says Duester. “We wanted to get product validation and feedback. [Parents] were brutally honest and that really helped us to make a lot of improvements.”
Winning innovations awards
One they felt Juno was ready to roll into bedrooms and living spaces across the country, they sent it to the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, whose stamp of approval says a product meets the highest industry safety standards. Duester says they asked the association to test the bassinet until it broke – which it took more than 250 pounds of weight to accomplish. It received the JPMA certificate.
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