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Airing the laundry.

Recent posts

Does the gender of my mouthwash really matter?

I know my soap is masculine. Because it’s Italian (sapone = masculine noun). Does that affect how I feel about it? Fascinating studies have been done to see how grammatical gender assignments influence judgments. For example, the word “key” is masculine in German and feminine in Spanish. German speakers use words like hard, heavy, jagged, metal, and useful to describe a key while Spanish speakers describe them as golden, intricate, little, lovely, and tiny. I want to explore the decision to incorporate masculine or feminine design aspects into a product. You might think it’s as simple as making a shampoo bottle black with sharp angles to appeal to men, or launching a set of office products in an array of purple colors to appeal to women. But industry has hit some tough lessons on this approach (uhm, remember the pens “for her?”). Knowing when gender-neutral is the right path to follow is a key decision in an environment where blatant gender stereotypes generate backlash

Let's Talk UX (wait, U what?)

Like it or not, if you’re in the product business, you’re in the UX (user experience) business. And if this is something you thought only software companies care about, think again. A recent industry article on P&G’s Agile-esque approach to product innovation had me jumping up and down with ecstatic shouts of "Amen!" the likes of which you’d expect to hear in a Memphis gospel church.  Embracing the speed-to-market tactics of software start-ups is the modern approach to high-impact consumer product development. That is, if you want speed and you’re willing to go all-in and integrate product formulation, marketing, retail execution, consumer insights and packaging. I mean, really integrate them. Remind me what Agile is again: agile | ˈajəl | adjective 1 able to move quickly and easily • able to think and understand quickly. 2 relating to or denoting a method of project management, used especially for software development, that is characterized by the divis

Christmas Consumption: Inspiring Design

I just watched The Grinch with my kiddos. We watch some version of it every year, Mr. Grinch and his considerable disdain for what he sees as the excessive consumptionism of Whoville’s Christmas.  But this year, it fueled a thought: I’m considering my blatant use of the word consumer .  As I dedicate more time to design theory it’s interesting how important language is to the process. Language, our lexicon, shapes our thinking. And our thinking shapes our actions, our processes. And that word, consumer, keeps sticking out like a small, stray cactus spine. What does this word mean?  “A person who purchases goods and services for personal use.”   Yeah, okay, but the root of it is a bit darker. To consume. To eat up, devour, deplete, destroy, waste. In this time of evolving awareness and sensitivity to waste and depletion, this word hits rather painfully on the nose. Consumerism feels like it’s due for a make-over, similar to the one I felt growing up when gasoline w

Elevating the Ordinary Bar

I’m intrigued by the trend of personal care bar products. A bar avoids excess packaging, but there’s also something organic and truthful about a bar. Consumers seeking authenticity are finding it in the humble elegance of a product that nestles comfortably in the palm of their hand. The trend follows a desire to find product solutions that reduce packaging waste. For a bar, maybe it needs to arrive in some sort of outer container, but once it starts to be used, the outer container can be recycled or simply join the compost bin. The bar trend goes far beyond simple soap, however. The big idea right now? Shampoo. Bars are making inroads into hair care in a very high-end way. Lush  and Love Beauty and Planet are established beauty brands with shampoo and conditioner bars. Sans the Suds What about lotion? Semi-solids in propel-repel sticks are common in lip balms and underarm products and enjoy a loyal user base in sunscreen, but face and body moisturizer in a sti

How to Shine in the Beauty Aisle

Beauty is such a fun market to play in, and a smart one to play in too. Lipstick and nail polish, though not considered true economic indicators anymore, are still some of the most stable consumer items, seeing healthy sales even through financial recessions. Beauty is a small-ticket indulgence that can be scaled up or down as consumers flow through lifestyle transitions. Why is beauty so fun? Because it’s full of emotion. It’s vibrant. Moody. Dramatic. Playful. It has personality, because it exists to inspire . Celebrities are often called on to show off the products, serving as aspirational role models for glamour. But strangely, as much fun as this segment is in terms of brand imagery and inspiring, dramatic advertising, the cosmetics retail aisle for these products feels disjointed and definitively uninspiring.  Why is that? Part of the challenge is the nature of the packaging; beauty products come in small sizes that collectively form a busy mosaic in the aisl