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Grohe’s Global Senior Vice President of Design Paul Flowers has played a pivotal role in charting the creative course of the company. Here he shares with us the ways.
When Paul Flowers joined the design team at Grohe in 2005, the German sanitary fittings company was on the brink of change. It was, as Flowers explains, transitioning from a rational brand into an emotional one.
“Our CEO David Haines had a vision. Our brand was very rational, famous all over the world for technology, quality and sustainability… and he wanted to make lots of changes in the company… he really understood the value of creativity,” Flowers recalls. “He employed me and he said, ‘You will have complete freedom’.”
Grohe’s new Allure Brilliant series features hard-edged, masculine lines
Since joining Grohe 7 years ago, Flowers has been inducted into the illustrious ‘40 Under 40’ circle – a title that puts him in the same league as some of Europe’s most important creative minds under the age of 40; he has also led his team to win a string of accolades, including 15 red dot awards. Of note: Grohe is the first company in the industry to receive the red dot award for ‘design team of the year’ (2011/2012).
The Allure Briliant’s cut-out detail, which was inspired by Shanghai’s World Financial Center, gives users a unique view of the cascading flow of water
“There are about 17 people in the team. And it’s quite unusual because we have an in-house design team. It’s really focussed, and because we do everything ourselves, to be honest, we’re quite efficient,” says Flowers. “We have consistency in what we do. We basically learn together… it also means we’ve created almost like a brand persona. We’ve trained all the designers in the team to be very objective, to understand that we’re designing for Grohe, and [that] products from Grohe have a certain DNA.”
The Allure Brilliant is also a recent recipient of the 2012 red dot design award
Flowers says that there are 2 main drivers of the DNA. The first are the signature elements that allow people to recognise the brand even before they read the brand Grohe. These visual cues include a ‘ring’, which is frequently used to highlight an area of importance; ‘7 degrees’, an angle of elevation that’s often featured on control areas such as the lever to help guide users as they interface with the products; and the ‘lozenge shape’ one might find on the showers, which mimics the footprint of the human body as seen from above.
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The second driver in Grohe’s DNA, says Flowers, is the brand value – namely, easy human performance. “The products should be very simple and intuitive. And it’s not just our products, it’s everything we do, from our website to our packaging. And of course, performance – we try to develop relevant technologies that perform to perfection. Our technologies are selected based on consumer insights,” says Flowers.
The new Grohe Blue offers still, medium, fizzy and full sparkling water. It features a separate channel for regular and filtered water
“We tend to do a lot of preliminary research to try and understand how people use products; how they interface with water,” Flowers continues. “These are the simple insights that we come to before we even start designing, and that’s the kind of research that we’re interested in. It’s allowed us to develop many interesting things.
“[But] we never use research to choose what products we develop. I don’t believe in that personally. For me, if you ask consumers what products they like, they will always tell you what they have today. Henry Ford said that if you asked consumers what they wanted, we would still be driving horses and carts… they can’t predict the future.”
On the question of trends, Flowers says that apart from the rise of the home spa, digital technology has been the “biggest transformer” of the bathroom space. “[The] digital [aspect of bathroom design] is very interesting because one of the other trends of course is ecology, and digital will allow consumers to have a better showering experience while reducing water consumption… with Grohe Ondus and digital in general, you can have pause buttons which you can press when shampooing your hair. When you press play again, the water starts.”
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Flowers also points to natural accent colours and 3-dimensional patterns on tiles and objects as other key bathroom trends that were evident at the Milan Furniture Fair this year.
And if he could change on aspect of the bathroom? “I would make it bigger. I mean, that’s always the thing about the bathroom. It’s always [about] how much space you have – that’s always a challenge,” says Flowers.