ART Ahhh, the look and feel of a product is a quality all its own. Beautiful…sensual … solid…form can make a product a joy to behold or leave
you wondering “What were they thinking when they designed
this?” Form is actually pre-conscious. You notice
something. Instinctively, you’re attracted to
it. It elicits an emotional response—perhaps “
Wow!” It captures your imagination while stirring
something deep inside you.
Diana Schrage is the Senior Interior Designer at Kohler’s wonderful Design Center on the company’s campus in Kohler, Wisconsin. More than 160,000 visitors come through their Design Center annually and— get this—Kohler Design Center staff provides their design service expertise free to their visitors!
According to Diana, “Kohler customers have a high appreciation for art.” It’s evident in the obvious (sinks, tubs, faucets) to the more discrete, such as toilets designed without the obvious P-trap. But as important as form is by individual product, Diana and her team take great pride in coordinating everything to achieve the look you’re after. For those who can’t make it to the Design Center,
Kohler has published helpful selections guides on their
website and provides extensive training for staffs at
plumbing showrooms who offer Kohler’s products. At the Design
Center, online, or in your local plumbing showroom the
goal is the same helping people pull everything together, by room
and by price point, so they can envision the finished
home while managing their investment.
Frank Lin is ThermaTru Doors’ Manager of
Market Insights. Lin knows the importance of first
impressions. Both the Home Improvement Research Institute
as well as ThermaTru’s in-house studies identify
that “attractive appearance” is the #1 factor
when it comes to selecting a door. In both fiberglass
and steel doors, ThermaTru prides itself on offering tremendous
variety in door styles , finishes, decorative glass
inserts and complimentary sidelites and transoms.
Lin is particularly proud of ThermaTru’s Classic Craft series of doors. “Classic Craft is a high-performance fiberglass door incorporating our Acu-Grain technology which gives these doors the appearance
of high grade mahogany or oak doors. They are architecturally correct with styles ranging from
Craftsman to European and the widest selection
of glass styles. Typically made-to-order, the
doors can be personalized to individual preferences.
They also have a solid, hefty feel and in
January, we introduced a smooth (no wood
grain) version of this door line for homeowners
who prefer a smooth finish, painted door.”
While some people might think it a stretch to consider a food waste disposer“
art”, they haven’t met Eric Schultz, Director of Brand and Channel Management for
InSinkErator’s household disposers. In fact, the
company created their entire line of Evolution disposers
with what Schultz calls “a more
stylized, performance look.” Schultz
went on to explain, “Each model in
the Evolution series has specific visual design
cues. We put tremendous emphasis on the
physical design of these disposers, because
their design conveys signals such as strength;
reliability; that it’s up to the task; quiet
and a premium look.”
Wilsonart® unleveled the playing field for laminate countertops with the introduction of their Wilsonart® HD® High Definition® surfaces. Wilsonart’s Manager Premium Laminate and Specialty Products, Michael Lallo, talked about the role form played in making this line of countertops a game-changer.“
High Definition focuses on the in-demand looks most popular for today’s countertops: quartz, slate, travertine, granite and marble. Our new technology endows HD countertops with optical dimension and stunning clarity. You can frame your choices with a decorative edge profile, an extra touch that shows off your new countertop at its absolute best.” In addition, Wilsonart has developed a method of fusing their HD sinks to the HD countertops, allowing the sinks to be undermount— the first time this seamless look has been available in laminate countertops. Lallo also pointed out form, as an element of design, is more than visual. “Warm to the touch, with textures unavailable in other luxury materials, Wilsonart HD is a welcome alternative; there is simply no other surface like it.”
design is more than visually appealing. It also means that the product does what it’s supposed to do, that it does it well and reliably. It means the product is easy to use and maintain. Plus, it means great technology, whether that’s in terms of cutting edge performance or environmental stewardship.
For Lin and ThermaTru, there seemed to be a sequence of purchase priorities. Lin said“
Women more often initiate the entry door selection or replacement project. Early on, she’s more design oriented, looking for a door that matches her home and interior style, overall shape and finishes. Once the style has been identified, her attention turns toward the functional and performance issues and if a guy is part of the decision making process, this is typically where he gets involved.”
According to Lin, the most important
functional aspects of entry doors for consumers are long lasting, followed by the product materials and price. ThermaTru’s steel doors and fiberglass doors are insulated, offering
better energy performance than solid wood doors and exceeding 2010 Energy Star performance standards for entry doors. Steel entry doors are less expensive than fiberglass
but can dent. The company’s steel doors are backed by 5 to 10-year warranties, while the fiberglass doors offer a limited lifetime warranty. The doors are also tested for water infiltration and high winds, and the fiberglass doors offer the highest protection against
forced break-in for enhanced personal security.
Performance and convenience are
what buyers of food waste disposers value.
Interestingly, InSinkErator identified quiet as
a critical aspect of performance. So the company’s
Evolution series disposers were designed to reduce
noise by up to 60% compared to standard disposers. According
to Schultz, homeowners surveyed by the company after
having the Evolution series disposers installed have
high praise for the sound reduction measures taken.
InSinkErator’s research identified homeowners
did not want to have to be overly concerned about what
types of food were put into the disposers. They addressed
this issue in numerous ways. First was the size of the motor.
Essentially, bigger motors better handle larger volumes
of food waste. Second, some of the disposers were designed
to grind food in multiple stages, which meant they could
basically liquefy more types of food as it passes through
the disposer. Their top of the line Excel disposer can
sense if the disposer is about to jam, drawing on extra power
reserves to break through any food waste. Some disposers
have an auto reversing system to reduce jams, others
have a manual reversing system.
A final aspect of functional design for InSinkErator is their in-home warranty. If one of their disposers fail during the warranty period, the company sends a service technician to the home at no cost to the consumer. Peace of mind is great functional design!
The theme of innovation continued from Wilsonart’s Lallo as he moved from addressing form to function. “Wilsonart HD countertops are a whole new kind of laminate. Our new technology provides four times more wear resistance than traditional laminate and five times more scuff resistance, for a countertop that keeps its good looks longer.”
Easy-care is another aspect of practical design. According to Lallo, the company’s High Definition laminate is nonporous – so there’s no need for sealing as with many other materials. He told us “It’s as close to“
maintenance-free” as a hard surface can get. It’s not quite self-cleaning, but our HD countertops are one of the easiest to care for surfaces you’ll ever own. For everyday cleaning, simply use a damp cloth or sponge and a mild soap or detergent.”
Function was also a priority for the Wilsonart’s HD sinks, as evidenced by their thoughtfulness in locating the drain at the back of the sink rather than the center, freeing up more space in the cabinet underneath. Along the top and at the back, Wilsonart designers integrated a shelf (for soap and sponges) designed to ensure water flows downward into the sink.
When asked what makes Kohler’s residential products “woman-centric”, Donna Schrage answered “Fantastic function without compromising aesthetics.” Notice that even for a recognized design leader like Kohler, function was mentioned first.
A high priority for Kohler has been water conservation. Important, yes, but so is a satisfying shower experience. Don’t you hate wimpy showers? Kohler’s solution has been in the design of low-flow aerators for their faucets and showerheads which truly do cut water use without sacrificing performance. Similarly, Kohler offers low water consumption toilets and has made a priority of getting the word out
(including practical tips for everyone) on water conservation via their website.
Schrage identified product quality, as an element of functional design, in a way that resonates deeply. She explains “We are a disposable society, but Kohler’s products have stood the test of time. The Kohler brand is almost an anti-statement against disposable consumerism.”