“The company’s design efforts in the past five years have put it in a completely new position of strength in a competitive marketplace. Design is a value driver and a top management issue at Grohe,” said Professor Dr Peter Zec, CEO of the red dot design award.
Over recent years Grohe has won four ‘best of the best’ red dot awards. This year their first Digital Collection won ‘best of the best’ and four other products were awarded the ‘red dot award: product design 2011’.
All crucial contributions to the development of products at Grohe come from the design team under the direction of Paul Flowers, senior vice-president of Grohe AG. “My team and I believe that being named as the red dot design team of the year is the design industry’s equivalent of winning an Oscar,” said Flowers.
“We set out to create experiences that go beyond the product, and our ambition was to take this relationship to a higher level by converting acknowledgement into a feeling of love for our products. Through design we have achieved this.”
An important factor behind the win is that design is given top priority at Grohe. All aspects surrounding the look and feel of Grohe products are created exclusively in-house at the Grohe Design Studio at the Grohe Corporate Centre in Düsseldorf.
The design studio reports directly to David J Haines, the CEO of Grohe AG, reflecting design’s role of importance in the company. With 17 creative professionals in the design studio team, there is a lot of scope for new ideas and design innovation.
Flowers and the design team work to a formula they call Grohe Design DNA. This ensures all Grohe products are instantly recognisable. The DNA is expressed through three design elements, that illustrate the Grohe design identity – the ring, the lozenge and ‘seven degrees’.
“In 2006, we set to work on defining the Grohe brand. We realised our portfolio had become fragmented. It wasn’t clearly segmented into styles. Also, in a saturated marketplace the brand wasn’t clearly differentiated. So we set out to look for what we call a Grohe DNA,” explains Flowers.
“We had to ask ourselves, ‘How will consumers recognise our products? What are the Grohe signature elements?’ We defined these as the ring, the seven-degree angle and the lozenge for very simple reasons,” says Flowers.
“I’m a big believer in product psychology. So I believe a product has a body language, if you like. A seven-degree angle was used on our levers and our spouts – to increase the ‘aperture’ between your hands and a sink, for example,” he says.
“That simple seven-degree incline really invites you into action. It guides you where to place your hands under where the water comes from. Seven degrees is also quite apt because one of our spouts looks like a number seven!
"Then there is the ring that you see on many of our products – like Ondus and Rainshower. We try to use the ring to celebrate and highlight an area – to draw attention to an area. It works in the same way a watch bezel works. It frames the area of interest, and defines the boundary,” he says.
“The lozenge came about from a push on the exploration of minimalism,” continues Flowers. “It’s an approachable form. So we use it on a lot of points of interaction. A lot of our levers, buttons and tactile areas are lozenge-shaped. It’s a functional defining element.”
This year’s ‘best of the best’ winning product was a digital collection of faucets and showers designed for wireless control using a compact digital controller. The controller is intuitive – a button controls the flow of water, while the other two buttons control water temperature. The digital controller gives consumers the ability to create comfort and wellbeing by intuitive operation and interaction.
The illuminated ring on the digital controller works as a safety feature, indicating water temperature by changing colour from blue to red. The wireless technology and modular concept of the digital controller means it can be combined with different Grohe bathtub and shower products, and now Grohe kitchen products as well.
“The digital controller comes from what we affectionately call ‘digital for all’ at Grohe. It is shaped like a hockey puck, and is a portable device that can be used to operate Grohe products throughout a house – including the kitchen,” explains Flowers.
“It’s a wireless controller – a hybrid device, with turn and push controls that are designed to make the technology easy to use and to operate, for everyone – even for those of us who are technophobes. The batteries are small and last for three years – when used by a four-person family.”
The other four red dot awards won by Grohe this year were for their K7 kitchen faucets, Skate Cosmopolitan WC flush plates, Eurosmart Cosmopolitan E and S special faucets and the Sena Freehander shower.