SmartLid Systems recently unveiled a new disposable coffee cup lid which changes from a dark color to a light color when introduced to heat. The lid is supposed to make it easier on consumers to know when their coffee is hot without the hassle of reading warning labels. A novel idea, to be sure.
While we all like to rely on color changing plastic, we here at Abnormal Use question whether the lid is superior to those pesky warning labels they are designed to replace. According to the company’s website, the “color changing lid works in a universal languge, COLOR!” SmartLid may want to rethink this “unversal” strategy. First, not all people distinguish between the full rainbow of colors we have come to know. For example, how can the lid account for colorblindness? After all, a common symptom of colorblindness is the inability to distinguish between different shades of the same color. Maybe these people don’t fit within SmartLid’s definition of universal.
Second, SmartLid does not even succumb to its own “universal” business model. If heat has a universal color, we imagine it would be “red.” Water faucets differentiate between hot and cold with the colors red and blue, respectively, almost anywhere you go. SmartLid, however, has not adhered solely to the “red is hot” philosophy. SmartLid advertises that it can create the lid in a variety of color options to incorporate a company’s existing brand colors so long as the hot color is lighter than the cold color. How is the customer to know which color means hot?
To alleviate this problem, the rim of the SmartLid remains its cold-state color even after the lid transitions. If customers are not fully informed about the functioning of the SmartLid, we doubt they would be able to recognize this distinction. Of course, SmartLid can always place a label on the lid to explain the transitions. And we thought these lids were supposed us to keep us from having to read.
As is the case with many gimmicks, the producers haven’t thought through all the perils of real life. According to SmartLid, coffee is to be brewed at 190 degrees, but shouldn’t be consumed until the temperature decreases. We assume the lids will change color at this temperature. As the coffee cools, the lid color transitions back to its original state – room temperature – without stopping to tell us when coffee is “safe” to drink. And how could it? Personal preference will always dictate what temperature you want to drink your coffee. Despite the lid, people will still test coffee the old-fashioned way – by sipping it.
There is nothing necessarily “wrong” with the SmartLid. Rather, the lid does little, if anything, to protect from the hazards allegedly associated with drinking a hot beverage. Whether it is a color changing lid or a warning label, the determination of whether to consume hot coffee rests with the consumer.