A glimpse into my design process

After 15 years spent tweaking, improving the design, experience and function of The Hummingbird over dozens of prototypes, I needed to see if others had the same, or different experiences than myself and an intimate testing group of friends, hairdressers and other beauty professionals. So, I created and provided a number of insanely expensive Hummingbird prototypes to an group of complete strangers, so they could use her again and again over several months of home hair color applications. I was excited to learn the good, the bad and the ugly feedback and determine if I had at last reached the Hummingbirds final design, ahead of digging into the savings needed to create the expensive steel molds and manufacturing for real.

What I Expected: Testers often tipped the bottle upside down, exactly as they've done forever with their usual applicator, forgetting The Hummingbird works upright. But they caught onto that quickly. Some filled it with hair color meant only for a bowl and brush, thick as glue. That doesn't work well. A few revealed during post-color surveys they were actually die-hard bowl and brush devotees, and they would NEVER use a bottle, EVER.

Golden unanticipated surprises:

  1.  Intense concern of accidentally splashing color through the application beak during vigorous color mixing. My testers really wanted a dedicated mixing cap, and that didn't exist at the time.
  2. With thick color formulations, the pressure of squeezing caused a leak, which oozed color out around the beak.
  3.  A cleaning brush felt necessary, to make sure the Hummingbird could be returned to pristine condition, post-color.
  4. Backward beaks? Challenges reassembling was an issue that caused all manner of havoc. 
  5. Measurements on the bottle. I really was getting to this, promise.

Back to the drawing board. The next few years were spent addressing every challenge with the help of my engineers. This sounds like a long time, but that's how it goes with creating solutions, more engineering and multiple prototypes to solve each issue.

  •  We created a sculptural mixing cap: a sumptuous shape to hold ones finger in when shaking the heck out of color mixtures. For extra safety, a little rib inside the cap was added to ensure the seal. Most probably won't notice it, but I didn't want any upsets over a ruined favorite shirt.
  • Measurements: Embossed into the bottle so they won’t wash off.
  • Cleaning brush: Custom made to fit into our tube and valve, and irresistible to source it in a contrasting shade of yellow.
  • Assembly: An new part, the adapter was created so the tube now always sits at just the right length.
  • Our patented valve grew little indicators on one side, so it's easy to know what’s up and what’s down. 
  • The worlds smallest o-ring. OK, if not the smallest, it is tiny enough to fit inside the beak of a Hummingbird! No more leaks, and BONUS, because of the improved seal, we are now able to use even thicker hair color formulations than before, including 1.3 bleach formulations, which I personally am happy to use on my hair.

Placing The Hummingbird into the hands of strangers was scary, but gave fabulous opportunities to engineer the best-ever Hummingbird.

So, here's to my intrepid testers, dyeing their precious hair with an applicator provided by a complete stranger. That takes some moxie. I thank you all, with all my heart.

---Kathryn

PS- Notice this pictured early design of the Hummingbird doesn't have eyes yet? That's a whole other story.


You May Also Like

There are many chapters from concept to the creation of a new product, solving the problems of applying hair color. In the final stages of design, home testers were given The Hummingbird to see if I had nailed it, or needed to go back to the drawing board.