Kaleidoscope Earns Gold

We are thrilled to share the exciting news that Kaleidoscope Innovation has achieved a Gold EcoVadis rating for 2023. This marks a major milestone in our journey to being a leader in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) excellence.​

EcoVadis, a globally recognized platform, evaluates companies based on their policies, training initiatives, and reporting mechanisms related to ESG practices. This comprehensive assessment provides a holistic view of our organization's sustainability performance, positioning us as a standout in our commitment to environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and corporate governance.​

Our latest EcoVadis assessment resulted in a remarkable increase of 15 points, propelling us to the 97th percentile among companies of similar size. This accomplishment not only highlights our dedication to sustainability but also underscores our team’s ability to outperform industry benchmarks.​

This achievement is a testament to the collective efforts of every member of the Kaleidoscope Innovation family, and it reflects our shared values and determination to make a positive impact on the world. Our success in this area wouldn't be possible without the dedication and hard work of each team member who has contributed to our sustainability initiatives.​

"We are grateful to every one of our dedicated team members for their contributions to this achievement," said Pam Ridgley, Associate Director of Business Planning. "Together, we are shaping a brighter and more sustainable future for Kaleidoscope Innovation and the communities we serve."​

Here is just a sample of how we achieved our goals in each of the three ESG categories.


  • We created a Design for Environment (DfE) Guide to help our team members ensure we use sustainable practices not just in our everyday work environment but also in the products we design and develop.
  • We reduced facility energy consumption by nearly 18% by resealing windows and creating an energy conservation culture
  • Our action team tested and implemented recommendations for sustainable 3D printing as they related to energy consumption, filament usage, and more eco-friendly materials
  • Our K-Cup recycling program diverted over 13,000 pods from the landfill and converted 479 lbsof material to compost and 160 lbs of material to recycled products.


  • Community outreach including May We Help, Adopt-a-Class, IDSA Cincinnati, Ronald McDonald House, Habitat for Humanity, and more.
  • Expanded employee engagement & wellness teams and programs including the Employee Engagement Group, DEI Committee, Sustainability Committee, Employee Lunch & Learns, Women in Product Development Monthly Lunch, and more.


  • Added numerous policies regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion, particularly with a focus on labor and human rights to our employee handbook
  • Created our own Institutional Review Board to ensure the ethical and safe development of healthcare products.

Our journey doesn't end here. This accomplishment serves as a stepping-stone toward even higher standards that continuously improve our ESG practices. The world is evolving, and so are the expectations placed upon businesses to operate sustainably. Kaleidoscope will remain agile and proactive in our approach to ensure we remain at the forefront of responsible corporate citizenship.​

“We are incredibly proud of our EcoVadis achievement,” said Kaleidoscope CEO Ben Ko. “And we’re not stopping there. Our DfE program sets a new standard for ensuring that all products Kaleidoscope creates are more sustainable than they have been in the past, thereby amplifying the impact we can have on the world through good design principles.”

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The Power of Creativity, Innovation and Community

The 2023 International Design Conference hosted by the Industrial Designers Society of America and held in the bustling city of New York was a true testament to the power of creativity, innovation and community. Co-created with the NYC design community and powered by NYC Chapter Chair Vincent Lin, this event served as a melting pot of the brightest minds in design, converging to discuss the future of design and its potential to address global challenges. It was as much a vibrant celebration of innovation and camaraderie as it was a stage for essential conversations about design's pivotal role in sculpting a resilient and sustainable future.



The conference itself got off to an invigorating start with an insightful talk by Cormac Ó Conaire from PA Consulting. He explored the concept of staying in the 'flow', underscoring its potential to boost creative prowess. Cormac argued the value of pushing oneself to face challenges, which he outlined as key components in achieving a flow state. While he acknowledged that tools aren't indispensable to achieving flow, he suggested that they could enhance and sustain it. "Team flow is a unique state of mind," he noted - and the shared experience of the IDC, much like team flow, created a unique state of mind, fostering a heightened sense of engagement, collaboration, and innovation.

The conversation segued into a fascinating discussion led by Juliette Laroche and Ziyuan Zhu from IDEO about the potential of generative AI in product design. They envisioned a future where AI is applied to everyday objects, imbuing them with personality and interactivity. They explored how AI could be harnessed for material exploration, promising unexpected but beneficial outcomes. Afsin Mehnin from Card79 built on the intangible power of designers to harness these new tools, discussing the role of intuition in industrial design. He spoke about how intuition could be honed through experience and pattern recognition, and how physical creation was a unique form of learning and intuition.



The theme of sustainability was powerfully reinforced by Jarred Evans from PDR Consulting. Tackling the formidable challenge of achieving net zero in product design, he emphasized the crucial significance of material selection, lifecycle consideration, and financial sustainability. A case study on stroller design offered a practical example of how sustainability goals could be met through mindful design and material choices. "Product design has changed, and not everyone is ready. It's about picking the best worst solution. Better now is an improvement on perfect never," he advised the audience of designers and industry leaders from across the country and the globe.




Ranee Lee from OCAD University continued the narrative on sustainability and rejuvenation. She detailed the inspiring journey of DESIGNwith, a community-based creative collective from Toronto. The social and environmental lab collaborated with middle-aged women from economically disadvantaged urban areas to rejuvenate their communities through design. This successful co-design project demonstrated the enormous potential of design as a tool for socio-economic upliftment and the passion for a more caring world is evident in the work created by the team at DESIGNwith.

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"We are seeking a caring design practice in a post-pandemic world."

Ranee Lee from OCAD University



One of the most emotionally resonant talks was presented by Joey Zeledon, who shared their journey as a trans nonbinary person in the design industry, highlighting the importance of authenticity and self-acceptance. They spoke about the intersection of cultural and personal narratives, suggesting that designers often wear a 'costume' that represents their professional identity. Zeledon emphasized the importance of challenging traditional design norms and questioned whether designers consider their own identities in the same way we consider product transformations. They proposed viewing product design as a means of helping products find their identities, thus creating new narratives around identity and design.


Shawn Williams expanded upon the role of one's personal journey and lived experience in design, focusing on the impact of mentorship and community in shaping your career and impact in the industry. He credited his mentors, particularly Ms. Johnson who bought him his first notebook, for fostering his talent. Williams emphasized that possessing a tool as simple as a #2 pencil can grow to symbolize power in design. As the youngest member of Diversify by Design (DxD), he shared how senior designers within the organization embraced and nurtured the next generation, fostering a sense of community. We too have the opportunity to support the next generation of designers, creating an industry that is more welcoming to all.


In conclusion, the 2023 International Design Conference was a vibrant celebration of design thinking, innovation, and community, showcasing the transformative potency of design in sculpting a resilient and sustainable future. The event was not merely a discourse on the future of design but also an inspiring testament to the power of community and mentorship in the industry. It left attendees inspired, enlightened, and looking forward to what design's future holds. We are thrilled to announce that the flame of creativity will continue to burn bright in Austin, Texas, the chosen location for the next year's International Design Conference in 2024. The design community worldwide eagerly anticipates the innovation, collaboration, and inspiration that the vibrant city of Austin promises to offer.

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  • Caterina Rizzoni

    Caterina Rizzoni

    Lead Industrial Designer | [email protected]

    Caterina Rizzoni is a lead industrial designer at Kaleidoscope Innovation and is the Director-at-Large of Conferences for IDSA.

Breaking the Mold: Alternative Materials for Sustainable Product Development

Over the past year, Kaleidoscope has begun to identify areas of opportunity for sustainability improvements within our culture and the products we design. One area we have been exploring is the potential of alternative materials within our product development process. Through a vendor partnership with 3D Color and RyPax, the team has been able to perform a preliminary evaluation of a molded fiber tray through small batch prototyping.

What is Molded Fiber?

Molded fiber or molded pulp is a material used for making molded forms from a variety of natural fibrous materials and/or recycled paper pulp. It is commonly used for a variety of packaging applications, from clamshell containers to consumer electronics packaging. The Kaleidoscope team was eager to evaluate potential packaging and product designs utilizing this technology.  To do so, we teamed up with 3D Color to produce a small batch of 100 trays, which were originally designed for thermoformed plastic sheet.

Process and Environmental Impact Considerations

The mixed material used to make these trays contained bamboo fibers and bagasse, a by-product of sugarcane processing. There are a variety of other types of natural materials that can make up the base mixture, resulting in different physical properties.

The team also learned that there are two different methods that can be used in the molding process: dry press and wet press. The trays that were evaluated were generated via the dry-press method, where the material is formed in a tool, dried, and cured. These trays have a 1.2mm wall thickness and ~5° draft angle. The maximum wall thickness that can be achieved with this method is ~2.0mm. The minimum draft angle that can be achieved is ~5°.

The wet-press, or “heated-press” method, differs in that the mold is formed using a heated tool. With this method, the maximum wall thickness is ~1.2mm and minimum draft angle of 1° draft can be achieved. Wet press can produce a higher fidelity finish, though the heated tool requires more energy than the dry press method.

Preliminary Performance Evaluation

Upon receiving the batch of dry-press trays, some qualitative observations were able to be made:

  • Features and edges were surprisingly sharp and visually on par with what’s expected from plastic thermoforming.
  • Structural strength was similar to an egg carton, even with a significantly thinner wall thickness.
  • A uniform off-white color was achieved. Fibers that make up the tray were visible upon close inspection.
  • The material released particulate when stressed, with the particulate being very small pieces of the fiber.
  • The underside of the trays had a slightly rougher surface due to the screen used in the molding process for moisture evacuation.

To understand the trays’ performance over time, we also performed simulated accelerated aging. We stored the trays at 60degC for 30 days, which is approximately equal to one year of aging, per the Arrhenius equation. The team noted several observations after removing the trays from the aging chamber:

  • Slight warping was present in some samples.
  • Accompanying creases seemed to occur in areas that were not stiffened by curved/bent geometry.

Design Considerations

 This exercise just scratched the surface of testing needed to ensure a product made using this technology meets its requirements. However, it allowed for several basic discoveries that will inform how we might use this manufacturing process in the future. Moving forward the team has determined that the following should be considered, depending on the application and the requirements:

  • Material
    • What different natural fiber material sources yield significantly different properties? (e.g., Do corn husks have the same properties as bagasse?)
  • Thickness
    • What is the right thickness for the application?
  • Simulated Environmental/Distribution Testing
    • Whether the recycled paper pulp and/or natural fiber-based material is the product or the packaging, does it survive expected conditions? Shipping, temperature and humidity fluctuations, and shelf life are all variables that need to be considered.
    • For sealed packaging, how well does the material keep water out? How well does it “breathe”?
  • Coatings, including thin sheet PLA.
    • How well does coating remain applied to tray?
    • What properties does the coating give to the tray? Water resistance, decreased particulate shedding?
  • Printing/Marking/Adhesives
    • Can the material receive printing/stamping?
    • Can dyes be added to the material?
    • Do stickers or adhesive remain adhered?
  • Cost
    • What is the order quantity and required fidelity?
    • In general, it was learned from the experience of our partners that the cost of molded fiber parts is approximately 2-3 times that of a plastic vacuum formed part in a production run. What does this mean for trays that are more complex?
  • Sustainability
    • Are the perceived benefits of using the molded fiber material overcome by the accumulation of energy, coatings, markings, etc. that may be used in making this product?

These tray prototypes were high fidelity and can prevent the need for expensive and time-consuming production-quality tooling early in the development process. Fibrous particulate is present on and in this material. If your product is sensitive to foreign material, a coated molded fiber tray is likely a better choice than an uncoated tray. Heat/aging seems to influence the integrity of the part, though this is only a preliminary finding. Due to relatively low structural strength compared to plastic, we recommend designing for strength, and reducing stress concentrations where possible. We are still evaluating this technology, and fortunately, partners like 3D Color make the iterative design and test cycle faster and less costly.

What’s Next?

Leveraging diverse design and manufacturing experience, evaluating new technologies and materials, and cultivating strong vendor relationships is nothing new for Kaleidoscope. Though these are among our strongest skillsets, we recognize that there is significant potential to better drive sustainability within the products we design and provide meaningful material and technology alternatives for the clients we serve.

About the Authors/Companies:

Kaleidoscope Innovation

  • Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, Kaleidoscope Innovationprovides medical, consumer, and industrial clients with full-service insights, design, human factors, and product development. For more than 30 years we have been helping our clients grow their capabilities, gain usable knowledge, and get worthwhile results. As a full-spectrum product design and development firm, we are an expert extension of your product vision. Our teams collaborate across disciplines, providing specialized input to produce the ideal intersection between function and form. To ensure the soundness of our work, Kaleidoscope houses a full range of test labs, and we employ an award-winning team that embraces every challenge, applying their experience, ingenuity, and passion.

3D Color:

  • We help our clients shape first impressions into lasting ones.  At 3D Color, we help the world’s best designers, marketers, brand builders and researchers bring their ideas to life. With industry-leading capabilities in advanced prototyping, exceptional comp production, custom color development, efficient sales sample programs and an innovation incubator, we’re a full-service strategic partner to the visionaries who are shaping the future of packaged goods.

Grant Cothrel

  • Sr Design Engineer
  • Grant enjoys being faced with new challenges and recognizes that well-designed products lead to better experiences and outcomes for users. He loves the design process and has operated primarily in medical device and industrial instrumentation. His passion to understand, innovate, and simplify has been supported and strengthened by the Kaleidoscope team and their talented partners. At home, he always has a fun project in the works (think: wooden bicycle, handheld Theremin, one-string electric guitar)!

Sophie Fain

  • Industrial Designer
  • As a part of the Kaleidoscope team, Sophie has had the opportunity to collaborate with diverse and talented individuals to understand complex problems and provide meaningful human-centered solutions. Sophie is driven by the chance to create a positive emotional connection with users through the experiences she crafts. Prior to joining Kaleidoscope, she has worked for companies like Depuy Synthes of Johnson and Johnson, The Clorox Company, and a physical therapy startup, BAND Connect. When she is not captivated by a design problem, Sophie enjoys getting her creative energy out through activities like pottery and cooking.

Mike Corbett

  • Director of Model Services
  • Mike leads the model shop team at 3D Color and utilizes a wide range of techniques to meet clients’ challenges. With 28 years of experience and a passion for model making, Mike leads by example and teaches his craft to his team and to the company’s clients.  Mike enjoys the “hands-on” nature of our work and the problem-solving thinking needed to complete projects.  In his free time, Mike enjoys his family, travel, and the wicked game of golf.
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