Behind the Brand: Product Designers Talk with KBB
January 22, 2024
Welcome to the January edition of Behind the Brand, where KBB seeks to illuminate – somewhat! – the creative process from the perspective of top product designers in the kitchen and bath fields. Being able to look at everyday objects in a radically different way is the [un]common denominator of these talented individuals.
This month, we hear from:
- Meghan Howell, North American design and creative director, Formica
- Stephanie Pierce, director of design and trends, MasterBrand Cabinets
- Sally Edenfield, product development team lead, Ruvati
As a product designer, my greatest responsibility is…
Howell: First and foremost to people. When it comes to customers, I have a responsibility to provide thoughtful, creative solutions for their projects. For my team and the companies we work with, we have a mutual responsibility to challenge each other, build each other up and learn from each other. A close second is a responsibility to the work. Design is about solving a problem or challenge, and simply making something pretty isn’t enough. As designers, we’re some of the lucky few with the privilege to get to creatively solve these problems, so we have a responsibility to do it right. Be collaborative, ask questions, have humility, be on time, make sense of the problem and deliver genius.
Pierce: To educate people on trends, features and benefits. Design is not “one size fits all” and it certainly should not be viewed as rules. Inspiration should be looked at as a conceptual direction, and personal relationships and individual considerations should always be in the forefront of a designer’s advice. Designers should know the codes and apply them when needed, acting as a guide in educating a customer or client on what additional benefits can be provided around the trends that inspire.
Edenfield: Staying up-to-date on trends and listening to consumers while remaining consistent within the Ruvati brand. It’s important that every product we develop brings something new to the customer: whether it is a unique design or an innovative functionality. Our product design is purposeful and creative and over the years we have brought some of the most novel innovations to the kitchen sink space.
One of my creative touchstones is…
Howell: Matisse. Lin Manuel Miranda. Jon Bellion. Seymour Chwast. The food I eat. The music I hear. I have an incessant urge to create, and the inspiring work of makers in other fields fuels me. I thrive off the idea of creating something that sparks an emotion for someone else.
Pierce: My creative touchstone is knowledge of what is happening in consumer behavior trends. This is an ever-changing North Star, but it provides almost all the answers to “why is this the new thing” or “where did this idea come from”. Lifestyle and behavioral trends are independent of any industry or product, and they are the foundation for evolution of all design trends.
Edenfield: Listening. Our product development team is focused on collecting input from not only what we’re seeing in the industry but what we’re hearing from our customers. Making time for this type of collaboration has been essential for Ruvati’s success and translates into how we’ve been able to consistently develop innovative and unique products.
An industry trend that I’m watching is…
Howell: …largely tied to sustainability. As resource abundance continues to be a strain for both materials and energy, designers and manufacturers are innovating products and processes to adapt to this reality. Pressure makes diamonds, and there is certainly pressure right now to evolve in order to thrive.
Pierce: Curves. Minimalism and streamlined design have been dominant for so long, and we’ve seen that curves in architecture and furniture are starting to rise again over the last two years. I am watching them closely for when or if they shift into kitchens more significantly than just a dabble.
Edenfield: Texture! We’re seeing it pop up more and more in the home space, and it’s been interesting and fun to see how it works for kitchen and bathroom sinks. Some of our newest products, like our scratch-resistant HexBottom sinks, incorporate texture not only for looks, but also for protection. Our gold Sinatra tub is an example of how texture can change the feel of a product in addition to the look. The satin texture of the gold finish makes it look modern and feel soft to the touch.
The best part of my job is…
Howell: The joy of making stuff, solving problems and staying fresh with industry trends.
Pierce: Color trends. More so than any other design element I work with or talk about, color is the most ever-changing, personal and engaging part of my job, and it brings me the most joy to work with no matter the shade or hue.
Edenfield: The obvious first choice is our team. Our product development team is made up of members with diverse backgrounds that deliver fresh ideas that are novel and creative. Some of our team members have been with us since the beginning, so they have a keen sense of our direction and brand identity. Secondly, I would have to say the city we’re in. Being outside of Austin, Texas provides unique opportunities and a great company culture.
If I had a week off from the studio, I would…
Howell: Catch up on my hopelessly neglected passion projects, like my mugstagram (check out my collection at @meg.likes.mugs) or my native species garden. Of course, I also always like to use time off to enjoy the simple things, like taking my dog on hikes or spending time with my kids.
Pierce: Travel or read. You have to step away from design once in a while to appreciate and reinvigorate the desire to come back and start anew.
Edenfield: Make sure my dog had the best week of his life.
—By Leslie Clagett, KBB managing editor
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