Behind the Product with James Murfitt
Director of Innovation and Design | Tan.Easy
1. James, you design all the Tan.Easy equipment, tell us how did you come up with the Tan Handy Unit idea and what were the challenging factors in its design?
The Tan.Handy is truly a one of a kind and has gone places other manufacturers have been unable to. Whilst I’d love to take credit for coming up with the idea, it was actually my colleague Cameron when he was using a hairdryer. He thought – if a device this small can produce so much airflow, why can’t we make a spray tan machine that small? – thank God he came up with the idea three years ago when he actually had hair – now he has no need for a hairdryer 😉
When given the brief to design the spray tan machine, we knew that it would be a complex project. Spray tan machines require more airflow than a hairdryer and a perfect flow of air with no fluctuations. The biggest challenge was getting the motor small and light enough to handle and getting the balance of the unit perfect for ease of use. After a lot of hard work and different versions we finally have a unique spray tan machine that has created it’s own sub-category within spray tanning machines and the success worldwide has been astounding to see.
2. Is the Tan.Handy simply a retail tool?
Absolutely not, the great thing about the Tan.Handy unit is that it’s so versatile. It was designed to bring spray tanning to everybody and anybody. There is no doubt that it’s a great tool for home users whether it’s to spray themselves before a night out, or having spray tan parties with friends. However, it’s also perfect for bringing flexibility to salons. It’s very lightweight, easy to manoeuvre and you don’t have a long hose to trip over! We have lots of salon customers who purchase the Tan.Handy to use all day every day, whilst others purchase it to add mobile spray tanning to their business portfolio.
3. You currently have four spray tan systems in your range, tell us a little bit about all of them and which one you enjoyed the design experience of the most…
We currently have the Tan.Handy, Tan.Lite, Tan.Expert Tower and the All-in-One Booth. All of them have provided challenges and difficulties during development. Whilst it’s frustrating when things go wrong, I think it’s a very important part of the development process. If we don’t have failures then we aren’t innovating. It’s a necessary part of manufacturing new products and revolutionising the market.
The Tan.Lite was our original spray tan machine; its design is very simple and sleek. It’s a no-nonsense, robust machine that won’t let you down. Some of the spray tanning machines on the market are over-complicated and contain unnecessary features, which ultimately adds to the price and provides more areas for things to go wrong. Our philosophy is to not over-complicate things; work out what the customer needs and produce exactly that.
The Tan.Expert Tower is an evolution of the Tan.Lite, it provides a slightly stronger motor for the heavy users, a user friendly height and handy storage basin to create a small work station.
The All-in-One booth is exactly what it says in the name. It provides extraction, lighting, and spray tan machine all in one, affordable system and has probably been my favourite to design. A couple of years ago we saw a huge gap in addressing the limitations of the extraction tanning screens on the market. Our All-in-one Booth offers so much more than these screens and makes the salons that use them look a lot more professional. The brief was to make the booth easy to ship, super-simple to assemble, and operated using one switch to turn on the extraction, lighting and spray tan machine. I think we had 4 versions before we even went to market, I only launch a product that I’m 110% happy with and know we’ve nailed the brief. I think the most exciting part of developing this product was because I knew we were creating something special – something that not only looks and performs so much better than other systems on the market, but also so affordable and user friendly.
4. Extraction seems to becoming standard in most professional environments, do you think this will continue and why?
Yes extraction has become a very important part of the salon setup. I think customer expectations have significantly grown over recent years. Spray tanning has become an experience rather than simply offering a service; and having sufficient extraction is a vital part of making it a fun and relaxing experience for the customer. There’s nothing worse for the customer than having a spray tan with poor extraction which results in breathing in unpleasant overspray and most likely the customer going elsewhere for their spray tan. If you’re not offering a great experience, someone else is. This is why a big part of our product development has been to manufacture the best extraction at affordable prices. People think that simply buying the most powerful and expensive fan will solve their problem. Whilst having a strong fan motor is important there are so many other factors to consider. Our focus for Tan.Easy is to develop state-of-the-art ergonomics to ensure the extraction fan is working at its most efficient. You could have the most powerful fan motor in the world, but the outer casing this is placed in, filtration material, trajectory of airflow and air funnelling will all affect the extraction output. Our extraction products are tested using complex measurement devices under lab conditions to make sure they are extracting airflow at the optimum level. As the spray tanning market continues to grow, extraction will most certainly become a standard in all successful salons.
5. When you’re designing Tan.Easy spray tanning and extraction systems, what are the key elements of design that are always taken into consideration with every product?
The fundamental element is functionality. Does it function in a way to make the customer experience better? This includes both the technician performing the spray tan and the customer receiving the spray tan. We have a motto at our factory that we always go back to when designing new products – Tan.EASY! Does it make it easy for the user, if not – we go back to the drawing board.
The whole purpose of Tan.Easy is to revolutionise spray tanning. We aren’t growing the spray tanning equipment market, we’re inventing it. Before Tan.Easy the only available spray tanning equipment was spray-paint guns. This results in a huge amount of over-spray and vast wastage of solution, which ultimately reduces the profit margin for the salon. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that paint and spray tan solutions are very different viscosities, hence the need to have different equipment for spraying them! Therefore the main purpose when we invented Tan.Easy was to create a super-fine mist which results in a high transfer efficiency of solution, minimal overspray and a superior results on the skin. A key element of this is the advanced motor. Marketing would refer to is as ‘micro-whirlwind technology’, but they are simply referring to the state-of-the-art motor that creates a constant stream of air to atomise the spray tanning solution like no other motor on the market.
6. What’s next for Tan.Easy, can you tell us a bit about any NPD or design ideas you are currently working on?
Well, I don’t want to give too much away, but there are a lot of exciting new projects underway at Tan.Easy. The market is constantly changing and demanding more, my job is to ensure we are driving the market and getting products to market before the customer even realizes there’s a need for it. Also, if there are no new products then I’m out of the job!
We are constantly improving our existing products from both a design and functionality point of view, so you will be seeing upgrades to our current products over the coming months. We’ve just launched an upgrade to the All-in-One Booth with enhanced design features and LED lighting and there will be further updates on the way soon. There are lots of other new products in development to be launched this year, but these are top secret so you’ll have to wait and see.