A BENEV­O­LENT BLADE

Fast Company - - Innovation By Design - —Katharine Sch­wab

THE PROD­UCT: Gil­lette has been de­sign­ing ra­zors since 1900, but last year the com­pany be­gan test­ing its very first as­sisted-shav­ing ra­zor, cre­ated to help care­givers give a close shave to el­derly or dis­abled men. It’s “a mas­sive part of men’s dig­nity,” says Matt Hodg­son, Gil­lette’s prin­ci­pal de­sign engineer. For non-bar­bers, shav­ing an­other per­son presents unique chal­lenges. Since most as­sisted shav­ing hap­pens out­side the bath­room, Hodg­son and his team de­vised a ra­zor han­dle with a built-in tube that dis­penses a wa­ter-based gel. The team gave the blade a unique guard that re­duces clog­ging (orig­i­nally cre­ated for the In­dian mar­ket, where men tend to shave less and use less wa­ter) and ad­justed the an­gle be­tween the blade and the han­dle so that care­givers can hold the ra­zor like a paint­brush.

THE PROCESS: Hodg­son and his U.k.-based tech­ni­cal de­vel­op­ment team vis­ited a lo­cal nurs­ing home and spoke to care­givers. Work­ers there tested five dif­fer­ent pro­to­types over three months be­fore Hodg­son and his team ar­rived at a fi­nal ver­sion, with the tube han­dle and re­ori­ented blade. The team then mailed 62,000 free ra­zors to 21,000 in­di­vid­u­als and dozens of care­giv­ing fa­cil­i­ties in the United States and U.K. to so­licit feed­back. Now Gil­lette is as­sess­ing the fea­si­bil­ity of a main­stream launch. “This isn’t just a new kind of ra­zor,” Hodg­son says. “It’s a com­pletely new way to shave.”

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