Paul Flowers (above, left), who was in charge of the GROHE Design Studio from 2005 to 2015, has been appointed Chief Design Officer at LIXIL Water Technology (LWT), coordinating the design of all brands belonging to LWT. Michael Seum (above, right) has joined GROHE as Vice President Design in 2015 and is now leading the GROHE Design Studio in Düsseldorf.
Q. Paul, after ten years at the GROHE Design Studio you have now taken on new responsibilities as Chief Design Officer at LIXIL Water Technology. At LWT, you are in charge of the design of all brands, including GROHE, LIXIL/INAX, American Standard and JAXSON. What do your new tasks entail and what are the challenges that you have to face?
Paul: I have learnt over my two decades of international design experience that people really are a brand’s most precious resource. My role is to orchestrate a Global Design Team and ensure we have the most talented people in our studios in Düsseldorf, New York, Tokyo and Bangkok. I intend to fuse creativity into the culture of each of the companies, elevate design and in turn show the value of design as we have done in the last ten years at GROHE.
A big challenge is the diversity of the separate brands as well as the varied technical requirements and individual design preferences in the different countries. We intend to share and combine our knowledge of global trends and experience. We have the challenge of keeping the brands true to their individual values and their aesthetic expression significantly different from each other, unique and preferred over our competitors.
I am very fortunate that I get to travel all over the world and have first-hand experience of different cultures and trends. Through insights, research and a consumer focus we will generate unique experiences, which are relevant and valued by the people who use our products.
Q. Was it difficult for you, to pass the baton on and let someone else take the reins at the GROHE Design Studio?
Paul: When you have dedicated so much passion, time and energy to something, it becomes very personal and important to you. I have had an amazing time at GROHE and I am immensely proud of what the team has achieved in the last decade. The great aspect of my new role within LWT is, I will still be involved working closely with Michael Seum to take the brand to the next level.
I took considerable time to personally find somebody like Michael Seum, he is highly motivated, incredibly creative and is very experienced having already designed for some very impressive leading international brands.
Q. Michael, design is a key brand value at GROHE. The GROHE Design Team won more than 200 awards in the last few years. What is your design strategy for GROHE? Will there be a different focus or will you preserve the typical design characteristics?
Michael: GROHE has a special understanding of the value of design and it is clearly been recognized with so many external accolades. Paul has built a highly talented design team and, more importantly, has built one of the most efficient creative cultures I have ever been a part of. The designs envisioned in the studio get produced, there is very little loss of design intent and they are easily recognized as GROHE products.
Design will absolutely remain a strategic driver of brand value within GROHE. I will be working closely with Paul to ensure we do so. It’s great that Paul and I share many of the same philosophies, methods and discipline in our approach to designing products and brand experiences. I am excited to work with this team, ensuring design continues to increase brand value by creating strong emotional connections to our products and brand experiences through great design.
Q. Before joining GROHE, you have already worked for renowned companies. Where do you see the challenges in designing for a sanitary company? Are there special requirements you need to consider when working with the element water?
Michael: Every company and industry that I have worked in has its own unique category challenges; for designers these unique challenges become the real opportunities for design.
For GROHE, we must exceed the rational expectations of consumers — they also have to embody the emotional needs consumers have in their homes –for example calming, relaxation, privacy and personal health and well-being. Beforehand amongst others at Whirlpool, Procter & Gamble, Pepsico, I gathered versatile experience in different industries, which I can now benefit from.
Q. Paul, what are the cornerstones of your cooperation with Michael? Could you tell us about the depths and contents of your working together?
Paul: Michael is very innovative in his approach to both solving problems and identifying consumer opportunities, which is imperative for a brand like GROHE and I trust his judgment 100% percent. We work very closely together and have structured weekly meetings and constant dialogue. We have a number of creative tools, which we use to ensure we are pushing forward and realizing our long-term strategy. From our well defined Brand Values, Style Segmentation and unique Signature Elements to our Design Quality Reviews, we have a very objective approach to reviewing and guiding the work of the Düsseldorf studio.
Q. Michael, you already know the GROHE portfolio very well, do you have a favourite product yet?
Michael: Prior to coming to GROHE, I renovated my loft in Chicago with our new Essence line but if I had to pick another product it would be GROHE Blue. I read recently that for the first time we have more plastic in the ocean than we do fish. At the same time, we also have so many unhealthy beverage choices. GROHE Blue is a product that our consumers love; reducing plastic consumption/use while enjoying the healthy beverage options of high quality filtered still or sparkling water.
Q. Finally, a question for the both of you. Please briefly complete the following statement: Good design is…
Paul: Good design removes the unnecessary to allow the user to focus on the elements, which enhance the experience. It guides a user intuitively to get the most from a product or service, it anticipates a user’s needs and facilitates an emotional and unique experience which adds value to our lives. Good design is mindful of the precious resources it takes to make, package, transport and use the product…
Michael: We as designers face a lot of pressure to create unique, new, highly differentiated and exciting products. Good design considers the consumers’ overall desired experience, their emotional needs and the contextual needs within their homes. Good design is about meeting the needs of our consumers in both expected and unexpected ways.
All photos courtesy of GROHE Press
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