Like many indie beauty brands, the genesis of Victorialand Beauty started with founder Victoria Watts’ quest to solve her own skincare concerns, but the mission has become much bigger. The brand just relaunched with a System of Raised Universal Symbols called CyR.U.S., inspired by navigating the world through her visually impaired son’s experience.
Packaging that takes into consideration the 1.3 billion visually impaired is a rarity in the beauty industry. While some brands have addressed the issue through the incorporation of braille, many of the visually challenged cannot read braille, and it is very difficult to execute braille packaging. Victoria took a simplified approach in an attempt to gain broader adoption, proving talking a big problem is sometimes best done simply.
Can you share the story behind how you conceived the CyR.U.S. System?
Victorialand Beauty is an independently owned all-natural skincare company. I started the company first to service my own skin needs and condition. I suffered from severe hyperpigmentation and nothing out on the market worked to help me achieve my skincare goals. If I couldn’t find the solution, I was going to make one. And so, I did. I developed Victorialand Beauty skincare products first in my kitchen, and then soon after in a lab.
Shortly after I launched Victorialand Beauty, we discovered that my fourth and youngest child, Cyrus, was born with a rare genetic disease known as Familial Exudative Vitreoretinopathy (FEVR), a hereditary disorder that affects the retina with symptoms that include vision loss or blindness, retinal detachment, and strabismus. Impacted by these impairments, Cyrus is one of an estimated 2 million children in the world affected by visual impairment, according to the World Health Organization.
Soon after discovering Cyrus’ condition, I started to experience the world through my son and realized this world could be a more inclusive place for the visually impaired. People who are visually impaired crave independence just like everyone else, and with today’s technology and resources, it should be a standard norm that goods are packaged in a way that makes shopping as easy as possible for them. After a couple of years of research, I conceived of the Cyrus System of Raised Universal Symbols (CyR.U.S.), a proprietary tactile recognition system comprised of a universal set of raised symbols placed on packaging to facilitate product identification and usage. This touch system is a key component to the entire Victorialand Beauty skincare range.
Watching Cyrus navigate his unsighted world every day, I am in awe of the mind-body connection and its ability to transform his other senses into “superpowers,” particularly his sense of touch. This was the inspiration that led to the creation of the CyR.U.S. System, which I hope will help raise awareness and demonstrate the need to become more inclusive for those who are visually impaired. The CyR.U.S. System will allow everyone to see the world through the power of touch in a way that has never been done before.
There are a handful of beauty brands that incorporate braille in their packaging. What was the reason for creating a new universal touch system?
Braille is a beautiful and amazing language. My son Cyrus, who will be 4 in May, is learning how to read braille. I am learning how to read it and so is his father. It’s a wonderful communication tool and we are grateful that it exists. Having said that, only 10% of the visually impaired community read braille. Combined with the fact that there are space restrictions on packaging, braille is not the best solution when it comes to communicating to the visually impaired on packaged goods. After years of research and conducting several focus groups, what I have discovered is that combining a simple-to-use raised symbol system with technology is the most effective method to sharing product identification and product usage. My goal is for my symbol system to be universal so that companies across all industries adopt this same system. For us to achieve maximum impact, this system needs to become universal.
What did the creative process look like in developing the CyR.U.S. System? What was the biggest challenge?
The development of CyR.U.S. took years of research and several focus groups. I also worked very closely with the Lighthouse Foundation, where a blind gentleman was instrumental in providing me with incredible insights on what the visually impaired community needs to achieve independence. It was through his guidance that I realized how invaluable QR codes are, and the importance of embossing them so they can be easily identified. I’m very proud of the system we developed and I know it will make a difference.
Currently, there are four symbols: night cream, face oil, eye/lip cream, and facial moisturizer. Will the system expand?
Currently, the system contains 11 raised symbols. We will continue to develop additional symbols as the line continues to expand.
Are there any other design elements of the packaging design that take visual impairment into consideration?
The CyR.U.S. System is comprised of 11 unique raised symbols that are on the bottle or jar caps of each product. Additionally, the carton packaging contains an embossed QR code that users can scan using a screen-reader app on their smartphones, which will provide auditory product descriptions and instructions. The entire Victorialand Beauty skincare range has been repackaged to include the CyR.U.S. System.
What is your strategy for adoption of the new system?
Victorialand Beauty is serving as a blueprint for other companies to adopt this simple-to-use raised universal symbol system. The technology exists, so the only question to ask ourselves is “Why wouldn’t we use this system?” My mission is for all consumer packaged goods and all companies across all industries to adopt the Cy.R.U.S. System. The Cy.R.U.S. System is in the process of obtaining its 501(c)3 status so that any licensing fees paid to the Cy.R.U.S System will be utilized to provide grants to assist with the funding of research to find cures for blindness and degenerative eye diseases and to assist with the development and implementation of symbols relevant to different industries.
Victorialand Beauty’s commitment to the visually impaired community can also be seen in its giveback program, a partnership with Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH). A portion of all product sales are designated to support BCH’s Pediatric Ophthalmology Department, the largest in the country, and its life-changing efforts to identify new diagnostic paradigms and treatment modalities for visually impaired children.
Photo: via Victorialand Beauty