Cooperative Project - Water for Free

Inspiring Change in Water Consumption Habits

Founded in 2013, Water for Free is a non-profit Hong Kong based organisation that aims to reduce plastic waste and challenge existing approaches to recycling. In recent years, Water for Free has installed 70 water dispensers in schools to provide free water and stop people from buying single-use water bottles. 

Although the Water for Free app covers over 1,500 water dispenser locations, the organisation realises that this is still insufficient to serve the more than 7 million people in Hong Kong. Thus, students were commissioned to develop design and campaign strategies to promote changes in consumption habits and start a movement towards developing a society that has less impact on landfills and marine life.

Over nine weeks, the student team conducted research on the consumption behaviour and drinking habits of Hong Kong people and their understanding of the plastic waste problem in the region. The team identified a number of advertising opportunities and developed several design campaigns based on their insights.

An important finding from the students’ research interviews was that people tend to forget to bring their refillable bottles, and hence make less use of the water dispensers. In light of this, the students devised an advertising strategy called ‘Essential 4’ to remind people to take essential items, such as their phone, wallet, keys and water bottle, when they leave home. The students designed four cartoon characters with unique personalities, appearances and storylines, which they then incorporated into animations, social media posts and app stickers. The advertising strategy aims to motivate the target users to cultivate a habit of carrying refillable water bottles in their daily lives, and hence to reduce the need to purchase bottled water.


Other design and awareness campaigns include new signage designs for the water dispenser locations, updates to Water for Free’s mobile app, a bottle bag upcycling workshop, exhibitions on plastic waste and a logo rebrand for Water for Free.

The rebranded logo and several other design applications were licensed to Water for Free in 2020.

Participating students include —

Advertising Design Year 4 students

CHEUNG King Ting, CHIU Yuen Sim, DE COSTER Lola Nicole M, FREITAS FERNANDES Luana Valeria, TANG Hoi Ling, YIU Yee Tung and YU On Lam

Communication Design Year 4 students

AGARWAL Anoushka, CHAN Yin Lam, MOK Ka Ki and YAN Jing Tian

Environment & Interior Design Year 4 students

CHAN Hiu Ching, CHOU Yu-hsuan and CHUNG Man Yu

Social Design Year 4 students

LEE Kin Wai Ken and LI Sin Yan

Project Tutor —

Stefan Sonntag, Senior Teaching Fellow
School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Work-integrated Education in PolyU brings students together with real-world clients both inside and outside the classroom. Students’ fresh ideas, energy and passion lead to exciting opportunities for clients and collaborators. 
The Cooperative Project is undertaken as a compulsory subject in the first semester of students’ final year of study. Collaborators ranging from commercial enterprises to government departments and non-profit organisations work together with tutors to come up with design briefs that meet the needs of their target audiences.