From Prototypes to Production

There were some bugs in my bird and I wanted to wipe them out.  So, I gave some insanely expensive Hummingbird prototypes to an hardy, spirited group of testers to use again and again over the course several months of applications. The objective? To share the good, the bad and the ugly feedback ahead of the Hummingbirds final design, and costly manufacture. Getting to this point, I had already spent years tweaking and improving the design, experience and function, so you can imagine I was ready for some applause. At the same I didn't want to bring to market a flawed product and wanted to see if others had the same, or different experiences than myself and my close testing group of friends and hairdressers.

What I Expected: Testors 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 so well. A few told me they were actually die-hard bowl and brush devotees, and they would NEVER use a bottle, EVER.

The unanticipated surprises, this was the GOLD.

  1.  There was some intense concern with the potential for color splashing out from the application beak during vigorous mixing. My testers really wanted a dedicated mixing cap, and that didn't exist at the time.
  2. On thicker color formulations, the pressure of squeezing caused a leak that oozed color out from the base of the beak.
  3.  A little cleaning brush was asked for, 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.

  • 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 they sure would if there was a leak, and I didn't want any upsets over a ruined favorite shirt.
  • Measurements: Embossed into the bottle so they won’t wash off. Meanwhile we had now named The Hummingbird, so I took the opportunity when adding the measurements to etch a cute Hummingbird icon into the steel mold at the same time.
  • Cleaning brush: Custom made to fit into our tube and valve, and irresistible to source it in a contrasting shade of yellow.
  • Assembly: An 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. It's tiny enough to fit inside the beak of a Hummingbird, if not the smallest. 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 another opportunity to engineer the best-ever Hummingbird, a powerful tool and a pleasure to use.

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

(Notice this early design of the Hummingbird doesn't have eyes yet?)


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There are many chapters from a concept to holding a Hummingbird in hand. Here's how my prototype testers of the Hummingbird hair color applicator found some problems and what it took to solve them.