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Ask any woman, and you will likely hear a different story about how she describes and manages her hair. In fact, her actual behavior might vary from what she tells you, making it even more important to set-up a familiar context to observe her actions.


A technology-driven brand known for innovation teamed-up with C+R for a human-centered design to assist in developing ground-breaking hair tools for a well-saturated, multi-billion-dollar beauty industry.

Of the brand’s two products, the first was already available in the market and needed refinement; the second was a highly confidential working prototype that was still being engineered (it couldn’t leave the engineers’ sights). This was a case where C+R Research’s expertise in working with product and positioning concepts at all stages, including prototypes, for some of the world’s biggest brands, helped us to reassure the client that we would be great partners.

The company’s stakeholders wanted to evaluate consumer experiences with each product’s interactive system, as well as the relevance of introducing this brand into an established category. Everything from the relevance, functional, emotional and social benefits to product usability, aesthetics, packaging, and pricing needed to be tested qualitatively.


Getting started, we visited our client’s offices for a team kick-off meeting to align key stakeholders across the strategy and merits of each phase. Engineers unveiled a working prototype for us, providing valuable context and allowing us to discuss internal hypotheses. It was a memorable “extended” meeting, as a few of our multicultural moderators took the opportunity to use this prototype on their own hair! This early exposure reflected in stronger discussion guides, and ultimately provided a more dynamic foundational structure across our moderation and deliverables.

Across a series of qualitative projects, our client team engaged in a journey to empathize with consumers in a series of usability testing sessions and online video journaling.

For the online video journals, in true IHUT fashion, we shipped the current product (i.e., already on the market) to participants’ homes, asking them to share all their hair-styling experiences. They initially filmed their personal hair care products and tools for a week, followed by a usage journal about the on-the-market product that we provided, within the context of their existing routines. Participants filmed videos and shared a plethora of pictures to show us where and how each stored and used this product during the test. Any surprises or notes of dissatisfaction were recorded for possible product refinement.

Since confidentiality was a primary concern for the working prototype, C+R conducted in-person usability testing in a bathroom environment (e.g., sink, counter space, two-way mirror, spacious backroom, etc.). Each woman walked in with a bag of her personal hair styling products and tools, and by the end, she had also used the working prototype on her hair, sharing her contrasting perceptions, behavior, and needs from the experience.


It became apparent that video would play a large role for the stakeholders to:

  1. Bring the products to life internally,
  2. Identify gaps/needs with the existing product and optimize the prototype, and
  3. Eventually, contour how they would package and market these products externally.

Thanks to C+R’s In-house Production team, our deliverable was a video report with multiple video story reels. The videos pinpointed women’s authentic reactions and need states from the usability testing and in-home journaling that the brand could address to improve the user experience. The videos supported key insights from the research to build deeper empathy around women’s hair styling processes, rituals, and breadth of desired results for their hair among target segments.

This hybrid qualitative methodology with our HX design, topped off with compelling video reporting, was the solution our client needed to quickly substantiate user errors, expose what was working, and optimize its products.

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