When Delta Faucet’s Brizo was exploring where it could take the brand, the company hit upon fashion as something that would resonate with high-end consumers.“Our research indicated that people who identify themselves as being fashion forward end up spending more on their homes vs. people with the same income but different interests, such as a technophile,” said Judd Lord, director of industrial design, Brizo, in an interview with Supply House Times.Just as in the fashion industry, the design of faucets and other plumbing products involves trend studies, texture boards, thumbnails and quick sketches, mock-ups and prototypes. BACK TO SCHOOL Lord also teaches a design studio class at Purdue University.“I tell students every aspiring designer thinks he will design cars, but you end up just loving design.It is the process that is sexy and exciting,” he said. Being able to take pieces of a puzzle and put them together into a coherent functional design that is aesthetically pleasing is especially fulfilling, he added. “My students have not been jaded by the world or by manufacturing guys who say it can’t be done,” Lord said.“Instead they ask, why can’t we do this? Designers are able to do cooler things faster and more cost effectively. “Most students think everything should be futuristic, but 70% of the market is traditional.The dominant design for interior space is still transitional to traditional, but we’re seeing an upward trending of less visual clutter.” GREEN AND SUSTAINABLE Diamond Seal technology offered by Delta and Brizo isolates the waterways and opens up the materials palette, Lord commented. “Now we can make a faucet out of anything and the water will come out pristine.” The challenge now is to engage the user’s senses, hitting upon those intangibles, he said. As quality improves even for lower end products, sensory appeal can serve as the differentiation: How does the product feel in your hands? How does the water look as it exits the spout? What does the water sound like as it fills a basin? The designers for Delta and Brizo recognize that water can serve as a design element. People use a faucet multiple times everyday.The twin concerns for faucets today are water conservation and universal design, or a good design that works effectively for a person of any age or ability. “We think about a time out function for sensor faucets so a child or an older person with memory problems can’t just leave the faucet running if they get distracted and go do something else,” Lord noted. “We’re also working on ways to identify the water temperature for the user, such as a light that senses and projects the actual temperature.” R&D The designers and engineers for Delta and Brizo also are looking for ways to make more products hands-free or tap on/tap off.“Our research indicates that 2/3 of people love hands-free technology, but 1/3 hate it with a passion,” Lord said.“No one has anything negative to say about tap on/tap off.Handsfree offers the ultimate in germ control but people like the sense of control with tapping, even if they are using the back of the hand, or a wrist or forearm.Something else we learned from research was from a perception standpoint, the tap on/tap off function is perceived to be every bit as hygienic as hands-free.We are trying to get the price down so this can be introduced to a larger population.Our designers and engineers are constantly working to get functionality and technology to a larger mass audience.” Brizo’s research team observes people through a one-way mirror as they try out products and also films people using products in their own environment to truly observe their real life habits and processes. Both Brizo and Delta participate in cross-functional teams and interview customers to ask what they are doing well and where they could improve.“We compile reports and try to act on those responses,” Lord noted.“We get great feedback, and it can alter how we do business.” Brizo’s portfolio is more design-driven than marketing driven, Lord said. The designers for Brizo try to come up with interesting designs targeting a Brizo consumer, but it’s ok if a certain percentage, say onethird, won’t like it. “A certain amount of polarization is good,” Lord noted.“As a designer you want to evoke some emotions regarding a product.Not every product works in every region.Our Floriano design has done well in the South, Southwest and Southeast, but not so much on the East Coast or Midwest.”
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