Interview: Paul Flowers, GROHE design team

GROHE, a sanitary fittings manufacturer, won its fourth “red dot: best of the best” award, as well as the “design team of the year 2011” award.

The GROHE design team, consisting of 17 people, led by Paul Flowers was officially named the “red dot: design team of the year” .

Being the first sanitary manufacturer to be named “red dot: design team of the year”, GROHE joins the ranks of previous winners as Bose, BMW, adidas, Apple, Audi, Sony and Philips.

Commercial Interior Design catches up with Paul Flowers for a quick Q&A session:

Why do you think the GROHE design team won the red dot: design team of the year award?

The GROHE design team is quite unique in our industry in the way that we are an in-house team and create products in the GROHE Design Studio, located within the GROHE headquarters in Germany.

We set out to create experiences which go beyond the product. Quality, technology and sustainability are fundamental pillars of our company, which are genuinely acknowledged by consumers. However, our ambition is to take this relationship to a higher level by converting their acknowledgement and respect for our brand into a feeling of love for our products. Through our designs we have been able to achieve this.

We draw inspiration from a vast array of sources, from nature to the many creative exhibitions and events we attend throughout the world.  We aim to produce products offering intuitive and comfortable operation in a range of styles and typologies to match the diverse desires and demands of the people who use our products. Our designs have subsequently won major awards at a large number of international design competitions, such as the red dot product design award, the iF design award and the Good Design Award, to name a few.

Can you give me a few examples of what the design team has worked on, that it is especially proud of?

One of the trends we have driven was the use of colour in the bathroom. While stylish GROHE faucets and fittings in Velvet black and Moon white have sent a clear design message, the hand showers of the GROHE Rainshower WaterColours Collection have been setting trends in six hues. With this collection, we have taken a new direction to more natural colours, inspired by materials one might find in interior design. We have also introduced natural materials such as stone and real woods: from bamboo to oak, which can be seen in our new offering of flush plates.

GROHE Ondus Digital is another collection which we are particularly proud of. It is very simple to use, provides a great water experience and reduces water consumption. A smart digital controller allows you to program your favourite water temperature and preferred water pressure, which at the press of a button can be memorised for the next time you use it. The system also has a pause setting to temporarily stop the water flow. The play setting reactivates the water flow without having to reset the preferred optimum temperature and flow. These simple features save both time and water. It was the winner of the red dot design award (best of the best 2007)

Grotherm 3000 cosmopolitan with TurboStat, a technology which enables our thermostats to reach the correct temperature in a fraction of a second – wasting less time and water trying to find your ideal temperature.

For how long have you led GROHE’s design team?

I was appointed senior vice president of design for GROHE in November 2005. I report directly to the CEO David Haines, which affords my team and myself the creative support and freedom to design award winning products and experiences.

Throughout the last six years, we have been able to build a strong in-house team which creates products that consistently personify our brand values. We have defined three signature elements which can clearly be found in each and every one of our new products. They resonate the GROHE DNA and ensure each product has a distinctive aesthetic. We introduced the worlds first complete digital bathroom in 2007  (GROHE Ondus collection), which was the catalyst of the digital revolution in the bathroom area.

What’s a typical day like for the design team?

Very varied; we have many projects running concurrently at various positions in our design process. We work on some conceptual projects in the studio which are looking 3-5 years ahead, utilising potential production techniques and technologies which in some cases have not even been defined yet. This mix of projects makes the studio a really exciting and creative space to work.

Why did you enter the world of design? Are there any designers who inspire you, and if so, whom?

My interest in design began as a child, I loved to draw and paint and make things. I had a vivid imagination and always liked the thrill of evolving an idea into a real object or a design.  I was drawn to product design in particular as it was a very diverse area. A product designer must be very creative, have an understanding of science, engineering, marketing, branding and research. It is the diversity which makes the role ever evolving and always interesting.

I admire designers such as Sam Hecht, Jasper Morrison, Jonathan Ive – Head of Design at Apple, Dieter Rams and Japanese product designer Naoto Fukasawa. The thing I admire about the work of these designers is that their designs are simple, intuitive and honest. They remove the unnecessary elements of design.

What’s next for GROHE? Is there anything you’re working on currently that you’d like to share with us?

We have recently launched GroheSPA, which is a concept for providing a complete sensorial experience and ultimately a spa in your home. We have introduced several new elements to our current portfolio to help stimulate all the five senses. From dedicated ranges of organic candles and body care products, to lighting and sound modules, the new additions enhance the bathroom experience.

We will be further enhancing our digital leadership through bath collections with lighting, steam, sound and advanced head and body showers; all controlled by simple and easy to use one touch technologies.

Can you tell us more about the Digital collection that won the best of the best award.

The wireless controller has been thoughtfully created with a hybrid interface to aid the transition from mechanical to digital. Simply turn the product on, twist the outer ring to increase water flow and press the plus or minus button to increase or decrease the temperature. For enhanced safety and comfort, an LED ring gives instant visual feedback on the water temperature. The outer ring of the controller features GROHE ProGrip,a textured surface which emphasizes the point of interaction and acts as a reassuring grip for wet hands. The simple aesthetic is based on a series of concentric circles, which frame the areas of interaction and guide the user intuitively.

GROHE Digital comprises two compact wireless digital modules; the controller and the diverter. The three-way diverter allows you to effortlessly switch between a variety of draw-off points. For example in the shower; the head shower, hand shower or body sprays can be selected at the touch of a button.

The wireless controller for the basin, bidet, bath and shower can be placed in any position and on any surface for maximum user comfort, creating greater design freedom. For convenience and performance, energy-efficient electronics and product features result in a battery lifetime of three years. The flexible digital control module can also be used in conjunction with our kitchen lines such as the new K7 collection.

Reducing the gap between mechanical and digital ensures more people have access to this amazing technology. Digital technology will both enhance the experience in the bathroom and save an immense amount of water.

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