Case Study

How we designed three award-winning products that can save lives and change the world

Case Study

How we designed three award-winning products that can save lives and change the world

/ Draper: Intro


Draper is a leading research and development organization, headquartered in Cambridge. With over 1,600 engineers and scientists, Draper specializes in advanced technology solutions for problems in space exploration, healthcare, energy, and national security.

/ Draper: The Challenge

Using technologies to solve global challenges

With a plethora of innovative technology and research in their back pocket, Draper engaged Sprout to solve the challenge of making new technologies useful and accessible in the real world: a sensor that could detect microplastics; thermoelectric cooling technology; an acoustic and transductive bioprocessing for CAR-T cell therapy used to attack cancer; As a collaborative team, we asked, “how can these technologies solve complicated problems?”

Draper labs
/ Draper: The Approach

Cohesive elements

After establishing the basic product roadmap for our three products — an autonomous microplastic-sensing underwater drone, a thermoelectric mobile fridge, and an immunotherapy bioprocessing device.— Sprout took the ideas and ran with them, kicking off the initial research phase. 

Looking to unify Draper’s visual brand language, the team looked for cohesive components: form, details, lighting, graphics, color, material, and finish. Our first phase led us to design for signature elements that are intentional, innovative, dynamic, and unobtrusive.

Taking shape

Sprout quickly moved to sketching, fusing together the core ingredients from our research and immersion phase. We approached the form and features with a holistic perspective of the products’ environments: the microplastic-sensing AUV needed to include thrusters rather than rudders due to the possible harmful effect it could have on animals;  the fridge needed to withstand rugged use, and the bioprocessing device needed to be user-friendly for lab techs.

Design concept generation of the microplastic sensing UAV by Draper and Sprout Studios
/ Draper: The Approach

Putting the user first

In the final phases of design, we worked closely with the Draper team in order to design intentionally, being mindful of the aesthetics and sustainability throughout the product lifespans.

A visual brand language
for the future

The products were launched and announced publicly at Draper’s Engineering Possibilities event in September 2018. All of the products were selected as finalists or honorable mentions for Fast Company’s World-Changing Ideas, the IDSA IDEA Awards, and most recently Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2019 Award.

Because of the immediate success, what started as three projects has now burgeoned into a long-term strategic partnership with Draper, where Sprout works to define and refine their Visual Brand Language.

Microplastic sensing underwater drone by Draper and Sprout Studios
Immunotherapy Bioprocessing Device by Draper and Sprout Studios
Draper mobile electric refrigerator at EP18
/ Draper: The Outcome


Our studio’s final deliverable was to create and educate Draper’s 1,600+ employees on the Visual Brand Language we created. The final VBL was rolled out company-wide with multiple in-person workshops explaining how to use and scale the VBL.

/ Draper: The Outcome


As a non-profit, Draper relies on partnerships and external funding. These exploratory technologies were sponsored primarily by organizations like the Gates Foundation, providing Draper the opportunity to engineer and refine their technologies. Having a strong VBL, physical prototypes, and increased awareness has helped Draper secure millions in investment funding, won numerous prestigious awards cartelizing public interest, leading to further development.

/ Draper: Recognition

“Each project aims to make a specific task easier and more streamlined, and they collectively offer a sneak peek into the future of technology.”

Emily Engle

Core77 Editor

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