Have you ever been in the shower and reached for the shampoo, but accidentally grabbed your conditioner instead? Too often manufacturers create bottles that look and feel the same, making it difficult for the visually impaired to differentiate between products without getting a little creative. For years, I’ve personally used a combination of bump dots and rubber bands to help me discern what hair products I’m actually grabbing. That’s all going to change now that P&G-owned hair care brand Herbal Essences is producing the first-ever mass hair care bottle design in North America! This new initiative will make it easier for vision impaired consumers to distinguish its shampoo and conditioner products through the sense of touch. Want to know the best part? A blind woman, who works for the company, is behind this hair care product revolution!
Meet Sumaira AKA “Sam”:
Sumaira “Sam” Latif, is P&G’s Special Consultant for Inclusive Design, who has been with the Company for over 18 years and is herself blind. Latif’s unique perspective lit the spark for the idea, which was refined by working with other individuals who are also visually impaired. In fact, they represent some of the 253 million people worldwide or 23 million people in the US today who face the challenges associated with vision impairment every day.
“Imagine the daily challenges, like choosing matching clothes in the morning or simply taking a shower after a long day. As a blind person, you must do these things using touch rather than sight. You don’t really know which bottle the shampoo, conditioner, or soap is…you have to get creative. I used to put an elastic band around shampoo or sellotape on conditioner to remind me,” says Latif speaking from personal experience. And as it relates to the bottle design, she says the intention was clear: “It was important that we invent a feature, universally recognizable tactile feature, which would work for people who haven’t had the opportunity to learn braille.”
The production to create the new bottle feature was not a seamless one, according to Latif. “While the solution might sound relatively simple, we process hundreds of bottles a minute, so changing a manufacturing process is complicated when you’re dealing with those kinds of quantities.”
Herbal Essences Gets Behind The Initiative:
Shane Mays, Herbal Essences Packaging Engineer, and Latif became instant friends working on this project together. “In my 15 years working at P&G, I have never worked on a project with as much personal passion as this one. I am so incredibly proud of what we are doing and the impact we will have. This pride and passion was contagious across the entire manufacturing team who worked together to make this possible on the fast manufacturing lines,” expresses Mays.
Despite the technical solves needed, the Company’s collective passion for the initiative is what pushed it through. Herbal Essences North America Brand Manager, Lynn Hicks, states that not only did she feel it was “the right thing to do,” but explains that there was a solid business case behind this decision. “Making our products more accessible can improve the experience for everyone. We want to be sure everyone can experience the positive power of nature through Herbal Essences every day. While we designed this tactile feature specifically for the visually impaired, others, like seniors or kids, will also benefit from this feature.”
Latif is excited to see how consumers respond saying, “Every time I pick up this new bottle in the shower I smile. Knowing for the first time in my life I can be so sure that its shampoo, that feels great, and I hope others experience this same feeling.”
Bottle & Marking Design:
The shampoo bottles have four tactile vertical lines on the bottom of the back label and the conditioner has two rows of dots on the bottom of the back label. The features were purposely kept very simple and easy to differentiate by touch. The brand hopes that once people learn about the new tactile features, they will easily be able to tell their shampoo and conditioner apart by touch.
Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, shares, “We are pleased to see an industry leader like P&G and its Herbal Essences brand incorporate accessibility into the design of packaging. This new tactile feature enhances our independence and shows that the brand wants to truly serve all consumers. We hope other manufacturers will take note of this effort and work with blind people to find solutions that allow us to identify their products quickly and independently.”
Does It Work For Blind Motherhood?
You bet it does! As a Level II Braille student, I am still attempting to grasp many of the concepts of labeling. While I am an OrCam user, I cannot wash my hair while wearing my unit in the shower. Additionally, water often causes bump dots to fall off over time and have frequently clogged my shower drain. I also find myself replacing rubber bands around my bottles quite often.
I personally love how Herbal Essences has created this simplistic labeling method. It allows me to branch out and use a different hair care products as a blind woman and mother. My two daughters have gorgeous hair! It’s nice to be able to give them an option of trying different scents of shampoo when I am confident I will always grab the right bottle thanks to this new labeling system.
The new Herbal Essences packaging will be available on Herbal Essences bio:renew shampoo and conditioner bottles beginning January 2019 everywhere that the brand’s hair care products are currently sold.