synthesis: ‘streamlining your personalized hair & skin care experience’

by Marisa Trapani

a re-vamp of the chemistry-based hair care brand: formulate

the formulated appeal

As far as hair care products go, formulate is doing a lot of things right: their unique chemistry-based approach strengthens the ethos of their brand while their chemist-customer pairings powerfully challenge the traditional, depersonalized experience of buying generic brand beauty and wellness products at the drugstore. Connecting customers directly with scientists who are committed to improving the health of their hair takes product customization to phenomenal new heights and serves to engage customers through hedonistic pleasure. More specifically, customers feel their egos gratified in that another person, a highly intelligent and trained person, is attending to their physical wellbeing. Further, by enlisting the guidance of this person, customers are implicitly reaffirming to themselves their commitment to self-enhancement. 

The scientific flair of the formulate purchase path also evokes a sense of ideo-pleasure within the customer. As alluded to earlier, the explicit incorporation of science allows the brand to assume all of the social capital which scientific research has amassed in the modern world; we, as a society, immensely value carefully developed methodology, data-driven conclusions, and the general systematization of knowledge. By borrowing this capital, formulate has constructed a nearly failproof brand ethos. Further, by deploying a scientific approach within the realm of beauty and wellness products, formulate insinuates to customers that their bodies and their health are deserving of scientific consideration. This approach marries the ideo-pleasure of having one’s pro-science beliefs infused into their hair care experience and the related but distinct ideo-pleasure of having one’s hair health be a subject worthy of scientific applications. 

the pain point & our solution

Despite its singular appeals, however, our group identified one major pain point within the formulate customer experience: their use of multiple, non-reusable bottles to hold their shampoo and conditioners. Not only is this strategy misaligned with sustainable production practices, but the multi-bottle approach makes the task of showering at the gym or elsewhere cumbersome while also cluttering one’s home shower unnecessarily. Our group endeavored to alleviate this pain point by designing multi-compartment dispensers which hold up to four care products (ie. shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body wash). We titled our re-vamped version of the formulate line ‘synthesis’ to retain the scientific tone of the brand and draw attention to the novel multi-compartment dispenser as a central feature of the line. It bears note that the incorporation of this multi-compartment container into the synthesis business model implies that this re-vamped brand would sell care products beyond just haircare. Importantly, we maintained the use of customer quizzes across all hair & skin products to ensure that synthesis, like its predessor, offered hair & body products which fit individual needs, goals, and preferences. In fact, to maximally preserve the customizability so fundamental to the formulate line, we included five options for dispenser color for a customer to choose from as well as the option to have 2, 3, or 4 compartments in one’s dispenser.

meeting Norman’s trifecta: the visceral, behavioral, and reflective appeal of synthesis

Our new product captures and sustains the user’s attention viscerally, behaviourally, and reflectively. By sheer physical design, we stimulate the user with the novelty of several nozzles on a classic bottle shape. Also, the website is aesthetically appealing, drawing the user in and creating an easy path for purchase. We address behavioral aspects of the user experience with the usability of our product. Furthermore, when the user runs out of or wants to tweak one of their products, they can easily order a refill online. Why bring several bottles of soap back and forth to the bathroom when you could simply bring one? The actual use of the product is satisfying and helpful. When reflecting, the user can feel good about being eco friendly via refillable bottle, treating themselves to personalized hair, face, and bodycare, and having a novel product to show off to friends.

User Journey Map:

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Donagh Mahon February 19, 2020 - 5:20 pm

When it comes to shampoo buying, I think people fall on a spectrum between two extremes. You have your two-in-one shampoo in conditioner people who buy the cheapest thing that’ll get the job done. These people care more about practicality and ease of use than anything else. On the other hand you have people who put a lot of thought into what they put on their skin and place a lot of value on being able to find the optimal cosmetic fit for their skin. These people are willing to pay the cost of owning and carrying truck-loads of bottles around with them so that they can have this versatility. Your product is desirable to both camps of people and everything in between. The pragmatic washer will love the simplicity of the container and not having to go out and look through shelves of bottles to get what they want every month while the artisan washer will be overjoyed with the customizability of the soap options.

Gabe Ziaukas February 19, 2020 - 5:50 pm

First off, this is a sick idea. Not only does it engage the consumer in an exciting and highly personalized way, the prototype is highly practical. I think the product itself would benefit from specified labels, but also perhaps different sizing options. For instance, one for just shampoo and conditioner. That way the consumer has even more choices with their own practical needs. The biodegradable model, specific bottle, and the beauty products themselves can offer even more room for customization.

Wendy Yu February 19, 2020 - 5:55 pm

I love and would absolutely use this!! I do think that a lot of people are attached to their own skin/hair care brands though, so you might consider partnering with major brands (Dove, Pantene, etc.) to pull in their customers!

Wanxi Yang February 19, 2020 - 6:59 pm

I think this product is trying to solve a real pain point for a lot of people. Personalized item/service definitely has its market, and your design seems like a product that you can sell right away when ready. One potential problem is that in providing the service of providing shampoo and conditioner, you have to be committed to becoming a toiletry company. While the service is desirable, the actual shampoo, condition, and body wash have to be good too. These concerns make the business more complicated.

Kate Travis February 19, 2020 - 7:04 pm

I think this idea would be really useful to people, especially college students who don’t want to lug all their bottles in and out of the bathroom every night. I also love the customization option — it makes the product seem like luxury shampoo and conditioner, and it offers the reflective pleasure for the customer of feeling like they’re someone that takes good care of their appearance. If you were to go forward with this product, one possible issue you may want to address is the fact that people always seem to run out of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash at different times. If people were to order refills or have the product as a subscription service, would everything come at once? Or is there a way to customize the refills so you get what you need, when you need it?

Kongyun He February 19, 2020 - 7:06 pm

It’s great that this product allows for so much customization to gear towards different needs. The 4-in-1 and refillable design sells to people who need these products on the go. I’m thinking that maybe the container itself can be another shape or divide the compartments into different sizes to allow for different amount of product because some people use certain products more frequently than the others. The shape can also play into how the different products are distinguished. It’ll also be cool to offer name printing or engraving on the container.

YUNING ZHANG February 19, 2020 - 8:15 pm

Amazing customized purchase. When we talk about customizing we always think of a single strategy for either buying or using, but your revamp customizes both. The online quiz and the multiple-compartment design are both highly personalized and I’m sure it will be a success. I would be aware of the potential customers who do not need to carry bottles around for shower. For those people lifting a heavier dispenser instead of single bottles seems to be a new task. Also, some people tend to change their shampoo rapidly. As formulate has their unique chemistry-based approach, I would look for some variation in the refilling subscription plan.

Adam Moqrane February 19, 2020 - 8:35 pm

Love the idea! Was such a wonderful presentation also. A few things which I think could make this really tangible for the potential audience:

Based off the dimensions I can see this really being used with the athletics/gym or travel audiences personally, as if you were showering at home you wouldn’t need to carry all the items around. So perhaps the dispensers (as previously suggested) are refined to ensure liquid might not come out in bags but also the prototype was quite stout in its dimensions, so maybe there could be a slimmer version that could be used for ease of transport? I think also some reassurance to the consumer that the 4 liquids would actually stay separate because at the junction between the screw lid and the four walls in the prototype, there might need to be some sort of airtight lining which ensures that my hypersensitive and custom face wash isn’t mixing with my peppermint body scrub!

Ying Zhang February 20, 2020 - 3:20 am

I like the idea of getting everything in the same container, especially on the occasions of when you going to the gym or hot spring, etc. The customization of different sectors is also pretty intriguing. I have a question about refilling process because even if I could order refill online, I still need to take time to pour the refill in each compartment and given that each compartment is pretty small, I probably need to do this action very often. Also, sometimes the customers have their special preference for certain brands, so it will probably be better if more brands could be included in the refill options.

Danielle Green February 20, 2020 - 4:08 am

Ultimately, this is a solid piece of work. What sells me on this product is the versatility and the practicality itself. It’s such a clever reconceptualization and design. This product is really smart. I also think it can effectively target students or athletes and replace the shower caddy with something all-in-one. Your redesign is more like a one-stop shop. I can envision this as a bestselling product at Target. I also like the refillable aspect of the container which capitalizes on the importance of sustainability. However, one thing I would implement on the prototype itself is a labeling system. That way, you can distinguish between the shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Some of these products have stronger smells and heavier chemicals than others, so I would find that feature personally useful. Overall, that’s just one minor detail to tweak!

Nourhan Shaaban February 20, 2020 - 4:17 am

I really love this idea! I would totally buy it. From a convenience as well as a sustainability point of view, it appeals to me. One question I thought about is “when will I know that I need a refill?” – especially as there is not just one, but 4 things in there that will need to be refilled? will I need to open it and keep checking? Maybe a transparent design could help with that, for users like me who do like to see how much they’ve used and when they may need a refill?

Adam Gordon February 20, 2020 - 4:36 am

Honestly, the worst part of a hallway shower is the journey from my room to the bathroom. I always worry that I’ll drop my things. I do have a way to carry them, but the bottles are too large to fit. This product would solve all of my issues! It’s a fantastic product and the only thing that I would consider revisiting is the aesthetic component. It’s quite large – too large to fit in one hand (imagine you’re holding it like you would hold a cup). This certainly is a subscription service that I would be interested in. Maybe, synthesis could consider brand deals with various hygiene companies to add variability to the customization experience. You’re certainly on the right track!

Rachel Kang February 24, 2020 - 3:37 am

I love the prototype design and I think this new streamlined customization is very in “trend” with the rise of personalized services (shampoo, vitamins, clothes, skincare, etc.) in general. I remember that in class you mentioned this was built off the customizable shampoo brand, “Function of.” You could make the questionnaire more specific and tailored to personal needs by referring to another customizable shampoo brand: “Prose.” This brand asks a lot more questions and even asks for your geographical location (zip code) to analyze the weather (humidity, precipitation, temperature, etc.) that may impact your hair and skin needs.
I was thinking about the target demographic for this product, and I believe my dad would really want to use this! He doesn’t want to invest too much time in picking out the newest, best brand but at the same time also wants high-quality products. Have you considered making the brand possibly appeal to more (older) men?

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