Christina Mallon, head of inclusive design and accessibility at Wunderman Thompson Global, digs into the design process behind an ingenious solution for Unilever brand, Degree
When Unilever brand Degree (known as Sure in some markets) launched a complete redesign of the deodorant pack that was accessible to people with disabilities the response was overwhelming. It won admiration from not only the usual design and brand press, but mainstream consumer platforms like Dazed, Wired and ELLE. A Google search reveals that the campaign got over 989,000 mentions since the end of April. The response to this clever new package reveals a widespread hunger for inclusive design. Everyday items have been thoughtlessly built around able-bodied people – and when one considers that one in four people in the US have a disability, it means those items are pro-actively marginalising a huge chunk of society.
Degree Inclusive is a project that has been several years in the making. The idea of making an accessible deodorant has been occupying Christina Mallon and her colleagues at Wunderman Thompson. They joined forces with design studio SOUR, occupational therapist Michael Tranquilli to develop a prototype in collaboration with people from the disabled community. Christina was also able to draw from her own experiences as her arms are paralyzed.
Key features of the packaging design include: a hooked design for one-handed usage; magnetic closures that make it easier to take the cap off and put it back on for users with limited grip and/or vision impairment; enhanced grip placement for easier application for users with limited grip or no arms; a braille label with instructions for users with vision impairment; and a larger roll-on applicator to reach more surface area per swipe.
Now that the prototype is out there, Degree is working with a range of organisations to test and further refine the design ahead of a commercial launch. Christina spoke to LBB about the journey behind Degree Inclusive.
My colleagues and I from Wunderman Thompson have been thinking about creating an Accessible Deodorant for a few years now. Wunderman Thompson believes that myself and the other 22 million Americans with permanent disabilities affecting their arms and/or vision need to be able to take care of our grooming needs independently. Wunderman Thompson and Unilever share this same belief. So, we decided to develop the deodorant ourselves and then pitch the concept to Degree (also called Sure, Shield and Rexona) which is the world’s #1 anti-perspirant. We partnered with the award-winning design studio SOUR to co-create an accessible deodorant prototype -working with my team and consultants with disabilities.
Our goal was to make deodorant application accessible; the features of the design were defined by the co-creation panel sessions with people with diverse disabilities. The sessions, which we facilitated with SOUR team and occupational therapist Michael Tranquilli were imperative to gather insights on everyday challenges around deodorant application. The major issues were identified to be on grasping, opening and closing, motion in application and tactile perceptibility. These insights then informed the design.
The co-creation sessions with the disabled community helped us build an incredible foundation for this design challenge. So, when we actually jumped into creating the design solution, the process was super fast: we had three rounds of revisions to get to a final design. We worked in an agile way, SOUR 3D modelled the design iterations and printed in-house for rapid feedback from the disabled community, so we were able to lock a satisfactory product design in around two months.
In initial design explorations we had three prototype ideas. I have no use of my arms and was having difficulty using one of the prototypes, so we decided to only send two versions to the co-creation panels for feedback. One was a hack solution for existing bottles and the other was a complete redesign. And while the feedback was very positive for both, the complete redesign incorporating the hook, bottom grip and magnetic cap was a winner. As we continued to explore the features further, we discovered more opportunities like a water drop form enabling a secure feel in grasp, the magnetic cap allowing for auditory confirmation for visually impaired users and a larger rollerball to cover more surface area without additional movement.
The challenges that the community is experiencing are loud and clear. So, we knew we had to address all of them. So, the design responded to those needs.
PROTOTYPE & DESIGN
The most interesting and inspiring aspect of the process was witnessing this international, diverse and multi-disciplinary team working so much in sync to reach the end goal: inclusion.
We brought in SOUR, as they are a design studio already experienced in integrating inclusive design process in typologies from architecture to product design. We also brought in a very experienced occupational therapist Michael Tranquilli to guide the design process and help us connect the disability implications to insights for the design.
In fast iteration of prototyping, it is not easy to achieve a quality outcome, especially when we are talking about a personal care product packaging, something that sits in your hand, touches your body. Also, when creating a complete redesign of a packaging that has been the same for many years, there is a risk that the end-look to be perceived out of place, or even exclusive. Working with the experts in their domains and the disability community throughout the process allowed us to mitigate those risks.