Shaving startup Harry's was founded on a simple principle: Shopping for razors shouldn't be painful. 

One of the ways the New York City-based company has claimed a piece of the men's shaving market is by designing a product that goes against the grain of the traditional retail experience for razors. Rather than charging an arm and a leg for a simple, low-tech product, Harry's sells its blades for less than $2 a pop, roughly half the price of many shaving brands.

Harry's isn't the only startup going after this market. Dollar Shave Club was the first to introduce an e-commerce subscription service for razors when it launched in 2011, two years before Harry's. But unlike Dollar Shave Club, Harry's takes a more one-size-fits-all approach that embraces simplicity. It sells only five-blade cartridges, while Dollar Shave Club offers twin-blade, four-blade, and six-blade options. Both companies have made impressive strides in a relatively short period of time. Dollar Shave Club was valued at $615 million in June. Harry's fetched a $750 million valuation in July.

Though Harry's co-founder Jeff Raider is known for having previously co-founded glasses startup Warby Parker, the shaving startup is no Warby offshoot.  Here's how Harry's director of product design Scott Newlin went about redesigning the razor-shopping experience. 

1. Design for convenience. 

Shopping for razors in stores typically requires asking a sales associate to unlock a plastic case, and even after you get home, most razors require a sharp object to open the packaging. "There are all of these barriers that we felt like were between the company that's supplying the product and the customer," Newlin says. For this reason, Harry's aimed to create a seamless e-commerce experience that presents customers with an unsealed box, revealing all of the shaving products and a note about the brand and its mission. "That unboxing moment is really crucial," Newlin says. "We've taken a lot of time to make sure that even the cardboard looks good and feels good."

2. Strike a balance between features and style.

For the look of the handle, blades, and accessories, Harry's avoided the futuristic, high-tech design that characterizes the leading brands from the drugstore. Newlin says those products can often look they were designed by NASA. Instead, Harry's products and packaging have more of a craftsman-style look, while still adhering to the principle that men want their razors to be simple in appearance. "They want something that looks approachable, warm, and nice, but at the same time they want the performance on the NASA end of the spectrum," Newlin says.

3. Design with a sense of humor.

For a logo, Harry's chose a cartoon Wooly Mammoth--a decision that reflects the whimsical, fun tone of the company. The Wooly Mammoth also echoes the somewhat ironic choice of calling a shaving company Harry's, according to Newlin. "It's a way for us to speak to guys and not feel like we're super serious," he says.

While Dollar Shave club is also known for its sense of humor, having produced a hilarious online video that went viral, Harry's may have a slight edge when it comes to transparency. A video on the company's website shows how Harry's grinds out its own high-grade steel blades at the factory it recently bought in Germany. Dollar Shave Club simply states that its blades are made "overseas."

"We're really just simple, direct, and honest," Newlin says. "We take that approach to every design task we do."

Published on: Nov 16, 2015