KBB

KBB

News: 

Behind the Products We Know: Plumbing


November 26, 2017

From left to right: Kurt Merki Jr., Duravit; Erica Moir,  Jacuzzi Luxury Bath; Jean-Jacques L’Henaff, LIXIL Americas; Tim Rundle, Victoria + Albert Baths; Jessica Birchfield, Moen

Water is not only an essential part of life; it is also the key to a comfortable and enjoyable home. Faucets, showerheads and tubs are part of a family of fixtures that clean, massage and rejuvenate, but they can also serve as a focal point and a piece of art.

KBB spoke with five individuals who specialize in this field and discovered the thinking, artistry and passion behind plumbing design.

The J-O-B
“As a product designer, you are always looking for what is happening in the world of design and technology. Product designers translate all kinds of trends and data for internal cross-functional teams. You have to see what doesn’t exist yet in the market and what the possibilities are for your company to innovate and lead.”

-Erica Moir, vice president of new product development, Jacuzzi Luxury Bath

“My role is to take inspiration from the world around us and transform these ideas into tangible products that people will want to surround themselves with and that will make their lives better and more enjoyable.”

-Jean-Jacques L’Henaff, vice president of design, LIXIL Americas

“I have the privilege of designing products people interact with every day. I am deeply involved in our product development process from the initial inspiration and brainstorm sketching, to providing final CAD surfaces for manufacturing and even approving catalog imagery.

Jessica Birchfield, senior industrial designer, Moen

“I am one of Duravit’s design partners, and I have my own practice. For my job, I do not see myself as a designer. I see myself more as a person who creates new things and transforms dreams into reality.”

-Kurt Merki Jr., Duravit Design Partner

“My main task is to make the most of mass production to create useful and beautiful products that contribute to peoples’ everyday lives. More specifically, my practice is mostly involved with products that have a strong connection with the spaces people inhabit.”

Tim Rundle, industrial designer, Victoria + Albert Baths

The Beale Touchless Kitchen Faucet from American Standard helps reduce the risk of cross-contamination in food preparation because of its wave-on, wave-off functionality. The faucet is available in a choice of polished chrome and stainless steel finishes.

Everyday Challenges

“Challenges really come from integrating new materials or ideas into our product offering. This means pulling in engineering and manufacturing teams to work with you on solving challenges as a group, rather than just saying it can’t be done.”

Moir, VP New Product Development, Jacuzzi Luxury Bath

“One of the biggest issues revolves around communicating that sometimes the smallest detail can make the biggest difference. Building up a brand is about building up trust. It is a painstakingly slow process, especially in the plumbing industry, that takes time and dedication, and it needs to start with the product.”

L’Henaff, vice president of design, LIXIL Americas

“I enjoy the challenge of creating products that break the mold of what is expected and identifying trends that will stand the test of time. Since we are in the business of designing long-lasting, high-quality products, it’s crucial to identify the enduring macro-cultural trends to decipher them from fleeting fads.”

Birchfield, senior industrial designer, Moen

“The biggest challenge lies in finding solutions for all manner of lifestyles in the form of versatile products. This is why I always try to find the right balance, where the best of various worlds are brought together.”

-Merki, Duravit Design Partner

“One of the main challenges is also a key driver in our work; how to take an idea and make it feasible for mass manufacture. This requires an understanding of engineering and production so that we don’t see this as a negative constraint but more of an opportunity.

Rundle, industrial designer, Victoria + Albert Baths


The Bianca Freestanding Bathtub from Jacuzzi boasts a generous 18.5-in. soaking depth and is now available in the Whirlpool, Heated Soak and Soaking experiences. The tub also features Whisper+ Technology, which reduces whirlpool noise and vibration, as well as a slip-resistant bottom.

Inspirations
“Most often my inspiration comes from travel, art or product experiences. I love to attend global product shows and see what is happening in different industries with materials, finishes and colors. Before becoming a product designer, my first degree was in fine art, majoring in sculpture, and this is where my passion for great forms and surfaces comes in.”

Moir, VP New Product Development, Jacuzzi Luxury Bath

“We spend a fair amount of time observing and talking to people to find new inspiration. Carefully listening to our customers and end users and developing a deep understanding of their needs and desires is at the core of our process. We also attend more than 20 trade shows and major design events around the world every year to keep our finger on the pulse of the design trends.”

L’Henaff, vice president of design, LIXIL Americas

“Beyond attending shows, I love walking the streets to observe details in street lights, door knobs, cathedrals and modern architecture. I am always inspired by the juxtaposition of old and new styles living in perfect harmony.  We even picked the restaurants during NYC Design Week primarily based on their level of inspiring interior design.”

-Birchfield, senior industrial designer, Moen

“When I undertake a project, there are three approaches that are particularly important for me: culture, purpose and life. Depending on the type of project, each of these approaches can supply different answers. It is in this phase, where one moves between reality and euphoria, that the most creative ideas arise.”

-Merki, Duravit Design Partner

“First and foremost, our inspiration comes from imagining the people who will use our products and the spaces they will inhabit. We never design a piece of furniture or interior product without imaging it in context. Equally, we are inspired by the pragmatism of engineering. We’ll often borrow a very practical detail from something like civil engineering and refine it just enough so that it can live on a domestic object without losing its character.”

Rundle, industrial designer, Victoria + Albert Baths

 

Offering a dramatic flair with clean lines, the Sleek Kitchen Pulldown Faucet from Moen has a high arc that provides height and reach when filling or cleaning large pots. The faucet features Power Clean Technology, which provides 50 percent more spray power than most pulldown and pullout faucets.

Improving

“We collect a great deal of feedback from our customers that we then incorporate into products. Users and installers can really open your eyes to something you may have not thought about before – they are a great resource to have access to when working on new products.”

Moir, VP New Product Development, Jacuzzi Luxury Bath

“We simply go back to people. It is incredibly easy to add a feature that is gimmicky rather than useful or to go one step too far in simplifying the manufacturing of our products. By understanding what makes people love using our products and always improving on this, we ensure that our products stay relevant.”

L’Henaff, vice president of design, LIXIL Americas

“We must always remember we are designing products for real people. Moen conducts extensive consumer research to gain a deep understanding of exactly what elements will benefit the appropriate stakeholders, versus designing new technology for technology’s sake. Our challenge is to decipher the real core needs of consumers to create products that will improve their daily experiences.”

Birchfield, senior industrial designer, Moen

“The friendly collaboration with Duravit is something that inspires me each and every time we work together to create design solutions. Even though Duravit is a 200-year-old company, we always adapt to the constantly changing requirements in the marketplace.”

-Merki, Duravit Design Partner

“We always try to visit the factories or workshops where our products will be produced as early as possible in the process and talk to the production experts. This is important to understand where you can really push a material or process and where you need to respect the way it naturally wants to behave. We also always question the material selection and assembly methods to make sure that a product is as sustainable as it can be.”

Rundle, industrial designer, Victoria + Albert Baths

Created by Conran + Partners for Victoria + Albert, the contemporary back-to-wall design of the Eldon includes the curvaceous lines of a freestanding bath. The pipework is hidden beneath a fullwidth plumbing deck, while a molded stand allows tiles to be easily installed around the rim to create a watertight seal.

The Best Part of the Job
“I love the research aspect. Reading, researching and presenting ideas to our team is really fun. Having people get excited about something I have proposed and working as a team to achieve the goal together is really amazing. Getting your bathing suit on and sitting deep in warm water in the first prototype bath is pretty cool too!”

Moir, VP New Product Development, Jacuzzi Luxury Bath

“I am surrounded by a group of incredibly talented designers who relentlessly challenge the status quo every day. I tend to travel often, but I always look forward to spending time back in our design studio.”

-L’Henaff, vice president of design, LIXIL Americas

“I am designing the products people will touch first thing in the morning and one of the last items they interact with at night. My work becomes part of their daily ritual. With that comes the responsibility to create a piece that resonates not just with their desired aesthetic but also functions in a way that benefits their unique lifestyle.”

Birchfield, senior industrial designer, Moen

“I am an optimizer and a problem solver, and I love to think outside the box. As a result, I do not start off thinking about the end product but rather about the creation process as a whole and try to determine the materials and technologies that will allow me to achieve the best result.”

-Merki, Duravit Design Partner

“I think I’m lucky that my favorite part is also the most challenging: taking an idea and making it suitable for mass production and therefore accessible to more people.  You also can’t beat the feeling you get the first time you see someone else using your product out in the real world, though I’m not sure how that’s going to happen with the Eldon bathtub!”

Rundle, industrial designer, Victoria + Albert Baths

Stemming from the word for “truth,” Vero from Duravit represents pure design and geometric shapes. Designed by Kurt Merki Jr., Vero is a Duravit classic with a universally recognized shape.