REPORT

Universal Bottle by Felix de Pass

London

18 December 2015

“I suppose when you see the final bottle, it is such a simple object that it is easy to see it as the first design,” says designer Felix de Pass. “But here you get a little insight into the very minute changes: the form, the feeling of it. It is minor to the untrained eye but to my eye there are quite major things going on.”

De Pass is standing in front of his exhibit at The Aram Gallery’s current exhibition Prototypes and Experiments. Seven bottles at various stages of development are lined up on a shelf under a hand-drawn sketch and a computer-generated image, a display that reveals the design stages behind a liqueur bottle that de Pass designed earlier in the year for London-based distillers Sweetdram. “They look almost the same when they are at a distance,” says de Pass picking up one of the prototypes, “but you see this one is a bit higher and this has a narrower neck, this one feels a little chunkier.”

De Pass’s final design for the bottle is simple and driven by functionality. The bottle is made from amber-coloured glass due to its UV filtering properties, while its angular neck has been designed to enable smooth pouring of the aperitif that the bottle holds. “You can pour very precise amounts and see the volume coming out quite clearly,” explains de Pass. “The angular bottle neck has the advantage of letting air in quite well so when you are pouring it, it doesn’t glug.”

The display at The Aram Gallery in London contains six prototypes alongside the final design for the bottle. The prototypes reveal how de Pass’s concept evolved over the six-month period he worked on the project for. De Pass experimented with a series of horizontal ridges positioned on the sides of the bottle, as well as placing the Sweetdram logo directly on the bottle. Both concepts were dropped at later stages of the project because of practical reasons: the logo proved to be not consistently accurate and “we had to reduce the depth of the ridges for production to such an extent,” explains de Pass, “that it ended up being a bit of a compromise.”

De Pass’s design for the bottle was driven by the need to comply with precise specifications dictated by the industrial bottle manufacturing process. “Naturally we had to work with the production,” says de Pass. “In this case it is not a bespoke object but it is a volume piece so lots of things come into play. Once you start having to work with those constraints, the design starts steering itself.” In order to work with the automated bottling production the bottle has to adhere to standard stopper and closure diameters. The bottle also had to display the volume and include a stamped makers mark.

De Pass describes his design for the bottle as “a straightforward product design job.” It was this straightforwardness, coupled with the clarity of the design brief, that first appealed to him. “As a designer I am always interested in answering a brief and Sweetdram had a very clear brief,” says de Pass. “It wasn’t a speculative project where somebody said ‘we are thinking about doing this.' They had a deadline, they had the alcohol and they needed a service. That is always exciting.”