Feminine pads continue to involve awkward, unsanitary experiences. My team’s mission was simple and open ended: to improve the process of changing and disposing of Always pads. This was a class project sponsored by Proctor and Gamble.
The first thing my team of four men did was conduct interviews across demographics in search of habits, features, sensory experiences, and emotional aspirations. All awkwardness about this topic aside, feelings about pads and periods in general are fascinating. I found women were much more open to discussion about this traditionally taboo topic than I would have thought. For most, it was the first time they had discussed the topic at all since they got their first pads from their mothers. Women are generally mildly embarrassed if people find out they are on their period. However, since it is a fact of life, it is immature to be embarrassed at all. It was because of these feelings that we toyed with concepts around making pads more playful so that a pad was something cute or something to joke about. One concept was a package that looks like a cute envelope. Though we ultimately went in another direction, it was this quiet desire to be unnoticed but mature that underlies all future decisions.
It’s when you delve into the nuts and bolts of the changing process that the most opportunity is found. It’s a three handed operation to say the least. Women need a worry-free, fast and clean way to change their pads that does not insult their maturity or femininity.
We zeroed in on a concept around using a drawstring in a pad. We sketch, we debate, we use 3M products, we prototype. At first we modified existing pads but by the end we were fabricating pads layer by layer using raw materials provided by P&G.
The many prototypes showed that the exact size, pattern and material of the draw string was very important. It defines the things like final shape of the pad, the force required to pull, the travel necessary, manufacturability and other things.
In the ultimate design, the drawstring was placed in a figure 8 configuration so the pad would roll in a very precise way way. The wings fold in first, followed by the upper and lower edges, just as our research indicated. Pull-tabs were added as an affordance and made out of the same material as trash bag draw strings for their tactile properties and to use user’s existing knowledge.