The beauty of cross-category product design

The beauty of cross-category product design

To further explore the topic of my last article, which discussed the innovation of merging products within categories to create multifunctional products, this article explores the innovation of cross-category product design – a movement which is set to disrupt some longstanding product categories, I’m sure!

Something that I’ve seen in droves this year, in response to finding ways to navigate our new normal, is the creativity of pivoting or looking outside the box. Re-inventing or re-imagining products that once had their own category is emerging as a trend which aims to provide innovation and efficiencies for both consumers and manufacturers.

The great thing is… anything goes. Product design inspiration can come from anywhere. Who’s to say we can’t blur the lines that have been in place for goodness knows how long? In these examples below, we’re seeing amazingly interesting conceptions that traverse technology, personal care, beverage, lifestyle and food.

Here are some of my favourite examples:

Saint Jane’s Luxury Lip Shine is a lip gloss with skincare benefits. In other words, a hybrid product; infusing colour cosmetics with ingredients that enhance and benefit the skin such as hyaluronic acid, plant extracts, vitamins and the infusion of the new trend, super-ingredient, CBD oil.

Best-selling full-coverage CC cream by It Cosmetics comes with the benefits of a primer, anti-ageing serum, moisturiser, and colour corrector all rolled into one for a single-step base makeup routine. The collagen, peptides, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and other antioxidants and vitamins give it its skin-loving properties. If this product works for your skin, why have a shelf of bottles instead?

We all know about the rise of beauty drinks, from collagen shots to beauty elixirs. Start-up brand The New Zealand Distillery launched Adorn Beauty Gin in this same direction. Inspired by botanicals found in luxury New Zealand skincare, The National Distillery Company’s limited release, Adorn Gin, celebrates nature’s power to beautify.


The latest buzz of cross-category product designing is “skinification” of hair. For a long time designing hair care products was all about the hair shaft; making it soft, shiny, manageable, but this move is towards the scalp and looking at what it needs to be healthy and in turn, create healthy hair growth. In this trend we see the transfer of skincare ingredients and products moving to scalp care.  Serums, masks, exfoliants, clays, AHA’s. It makes complete sense to use clinically-proven actives for the skin of the scalp, which is thick and hair-bearing and contains numerous sebaceous glands.


Collagen has also become a buzzword of the beauty-wellbeing industry.

We now see collagen across all categories from skincare to beverages (coffee, cocktails), food (everything from bliss balls to entire meals) and – of course – supplements.

Evonik has achieved a major biotech breakthrough with a new animal-free and fermentation-based collagen platform. This is an advanced collagen platform that is made via fermentation-based processes and devoid of animal- or human-derived materials.

Repurposed ingredients

Another wonderful thing about the rise in the trend for seeking efficiencies is that food waste is becoming more widely accepted and sought after to repurpose into everything from hand soap – made using bars’ leftover citrus peels – to body scrub – made using coffee shops’ leftover coffee grounds. These are two examples that have been around a while now. But what about other by-products and waste? There’s bound to be plenty of opportunities here for efficiency and re-purposing.

The other amazing thing about encouraging efficiency is that products can become something for everyone. Everybody. Regardless of gender, skin-type or preference. Check out NOTO Botanics for innovation in skincare tied to bigger issues that our world is facing.

Speaking of multifunctional (again), this New Zealand brand that I was fortunate enough to work with, Good Cube, created a next-level multi-functional product: cleanser, moisturiser, body wash, shampoo and shaving bar all in one. This one belongs in everyone’s toiletry bag for a summer getaway!

Edible Products

Something else that has really piqued my interest is the collaboration of products that can be used externally but taken internally, too. Adaptogens, the buzzy wellness supplements everybody is talking about right now (think mushrooms). Mushroom Face Mask and Tonic is the first purifying face mask that doubles as an adaptogen tonic. Made with a mixture of mushroom extracts, cacao, herbal gotu kola, and activated charcoal (among other powders), this is a product that is just plain cool.

A face mask so pure you can eat it?!

What about taking it to the next level with completely edible skincare? No fillers, no plastics, no water, no non-food ingredients. Mix with water for a face mask that smells like chocolate cake 2-3 times a week. Yes, you can lick your fingers, or even make a mug of this brownie batter treat. Yum!

So next time you’re designing a product, take some time to look at what’s happening in other categories and in other industries to see how these could potentially cross-over into your product designs to discover and disrupt crossover into new categories. And let’s have fun while we do it.

Enjoyed this? Take a look at Stacey’s previous article about how sustainability is not just about packaging

Tagged , , .

In my role as a Design Practice Teaching Fellow at the University of Canterbury's School of Product Design, I leverage my extensive background in entrepreneurial ventures and industry experience spanning cosmetic chemistry, marketing, design, and brand management. My mission is to empower and guide the upcoming generation of product designers. With over three years in this position, I have supported numerous students in honing their abilities, fostering their creativity, and building their confidence to craft innovative and impactful personal care products and brands. My dedication lies in bridging innovation, curiosity, and creative expression to produce formulations, products, and brands that truly differentiate themselves. Holding a Diploma of Personal Care Formulation from the Institute of Personal Care Science, my involvement has stretched across various initiatives and bodies within the cosmetic sector, including Cosmetics New Zealand and NZSCC New Zealand. I am perpetually in pursuit of fresh challenges and avenues for personal and professional development, finding my deepest fulfillment in witnessing the achievements of others.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *