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Giant in the field of heating technology – 25 years of iF awards for Vaillant

In our anniversary interview, Udo Ermert, Senior Design Manager, talks about Vaillant’s way of becoming a super brand and he explains, by the way, how to make a boiler look sexy.

We are happy to congratulate Vaillant on 25 years full of iF DESIGN AWARDS. The family-owned company from Remscheid (North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany) is an international leader in the heating sector and has won 45 iF awards since 1995.

Energy-saving and environmentally friendly systems are seen as a key plank in the company’s vision for the future. What started as a master craftsmen’s workshop for installation work in 1874 has grown into a pioneering role in sustainability - as shown by Vaillant’s strategical program S.E.E.D.S. which was launched already in 2011.

Digitalization of heating systems and user experience in its different forms represent a large part of Vaillant’s success story by now. We spoke to Udo Ermert, Senior Design Manager, in whose career path the achievements all 45 iF awards were made.

Giant in the field of heating technology – 25 years of iF awards for Vaillant

About Udo Ermert

Udo Ermert studied Photography and Design at the Folkwang University of Arts (North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany). He joined Vaillant in the early 1990s as Head of Visual Communication, before he was given the responsibility for the product design management of the brand Vaillant. Since 2019, Udo is reporting to Hagen Fendler, Head of Group Design, who is extending the focus of Vaillant Group Design even more to fast emerging markets and digital experience.

iF: Congratulations on 25 years full of iF DESIGN AWARDS. What does this anniversary mean for Vaillant?

Udo Ermert: Many thanks for that! The last 25 years have been a successful journey for our team. We changed from a one-man-show, laying the ground for a brand-oriented product design to an international team of eight product designers, UI/UX designers and graphic designers in Germany, Turkey and China. Now we are one of the drivers for innovation and sustainable brand experience. 25 years also is the time span in which our team was growing with the challenges we were facing - from mono-brand to multi-brand organization, from Europe to Asia Pacific. We created an international super brand and several national power brands, all asking for their own identity and respective character. And all designers in the team were especially proud when their product was honored with an iF DESIGN AWARD.

Many of your iF awarded products include boilers and heat pump systems. Despite the progress of technology, these systems still take much space and weigh a lot when it comes to installing them at home. Could you please explain how to make a boiler look sexy, design-wise?

The weight and size of a product is no more the indicator for performance of a heating appliance. With domestic insulation getting better and increasing efficiency of our products, their physical size is shrinking. Maybe in some years we can integrate a heating system in a wall, and you don’t even see it anymore. That’s why we are focusing on the digitalization of our heating systems and on outstanding user experience to position Vaillant products in the premium segment. A positive user experience, well thought out services and perfect comfort without efforts make our heating system sexy - for installers, non-technic-affine users, your family, your elderly parents. This is a wide and ambitious scope we are tackling.

Compilation of Vaillants iF awarded products & services from previous years

<b>Vaillant auroFLOW VMS70 | Solar station, iF DESIGN AWARD 2015</b><br />This solar station&#039;s functional and compact structure enables an interplay with high-quality innovative components and a power-saving high-efficiency pump efficient operation of the solar system along with reduced energy consumption. The coloring of the round instruments in the Vaillant speedometer design describes their function intuitively, and on the high-gloss surface they stand out as a highlight and provide the best reading comfort. Environmentally sound materials are used for the casing and at the same time reduce heat losses.

Vaillant auroFLOW VMS70 | Solar station, iF DESIGN AWARD 2015
This solar station's functional and compact structure enables an interplay with high-quality innovative components and a power-saving high-efficiency pump efficient operation of the solar system along with reduced energy consumption. The coloring of the round instruments in the Vaillant speedometer design describes their function intuitively, and on the high-gloss surface they stand out as a highlight and provide the best reading comfort. Environmentally sound materials are used for the casing and at the same time reduce heat losses.

<b>Vaillant expo | Brand experience center, iF DESIGN AWARD 2016</b><br />The challenge was to create a business-to-business (B2B) brand world that allows trade partners and staff to experience the Vaillant brand in all its facets. A former factory building at the heart of the parent plant in Remscheid was transformed into a multifunctional &quot;home of the brand&quot; in the style of a modern loft, welcoming guests with a warm and approachable atmosphere. Highlights include the brand exhibition which boasts media installations and surprising interaction formats. All media content can be displayed in nine different languages, according to the origin of the guests.

Vaillant expo | Brand experience center, iF DESIGN AWARD 2016
The challenge was to create a business-to-business (B2B) brand world that allows trade partners and staff to experience the Vaillant brand in all its facets. A former factory building at the heart of the parent plant in Remscheid was transformed into a multifunctional "home of the brand" in the style of a modern loft, welcoming guests with a warm and approachable atmosphere. Highlights include the brand exhibition which boasts media installations and surprising interaction formats. All media content can be displayed in nine different languages, according to the origin of the guests.

<b>flexoCOMPACT | Flexible heat pump system, iF DESIGN AWARD 2016</b><br />This heat pump can be combined with all regenerative heat sources and enables remote control by smartphone. The appliance has an integrated hot water storage tank that fulfills the EU Ecodesign Directive, its output is significantly greater than its predecessor models, and it needs no maintenance. It bears the Green iQ label for especially sustainable, efficient and intelligently networked heating appliances. In energetic terms, the flexoCOMPACT already fulfills the requirements of the energy label A+++. In addition, the appliance is the quietest of its efficiency class.

flexoCOMPACT | Flexible heat pump system, iF DESIGN AWARD 2016
This heat pump can be combined with all regenerative heat sources and enables remote control by smartphone. The appliance has an integrated hot water storage tank that fulfills the EU Ecodesign Directive, its output is significantly greater than its predecessor models, and it needs no maintenance. It bears the Green iQ label for especially sustainable, efficient and intelligently networked heating appliances. In energetic terms, the flexoCOMPACT already fulfills the requirements of the energy label A+++. In addition, the appliance is the quietest of its efficiency class.

<b>Vaillant &quot;Future Home&quot; | Augmented reality app, iF DESIGN AWARD 2019</b><br />This app presents Smart Home Systems in six chapters, offering users a very real look at the benefits of digitally-run home climate systems and how they function. The VR experience includes spatial gestures and multimarker-tracking, incorporating real-world objects into the VR simulation for an even greater immersive experience. The app was created for use at trade fairs and was later adapted to run on AR Kit and Google AR Core.

Vaillant "Future Home" | Augmented reality app, iF DESIGN AWARD 2019
This app presents Smart Home Systems in six chapters, offering users a very real look at the benefits of digitally-run home climate systems and how they function. The VR experience includes spatial gestures and multimarker-tracking, incorporating real-world objects into the VR simulation for an even greater immersive experience. The app was created for use at trade fairs and was later adapted to run on AR Kit and Google AR Core.

<b>aroTHERM  |  Heat pump, iF DESIGN AWARD 2019</b><br />The design of this heat pump was aimed at providing a flexible solution for rising energy costs. A compact design and efficient, low-noise operation are also important demands that many users place on a heat pump. The technical conception and creative implementation of aroTHERM meet these requirements. An important design feature is the horizontal fin geometry, which adds to the structural stability of the front. Digital tools for heat pumps support the installation and handling of the device.

aroTHERM | Heat pump, iF DESIGN AWARD 2019
The design of this heat pump was aimed at providing a flexible solution for rising energy costs. A compact design and efficient, low-noise operation are also important demands that many users place on a heat pump. The technical conception and creative implementation of aroTHERM meet these requirements. An important design feature is the horizontal fin geometry, which adds to the structural stability of the front. Digital tools for heat pumps support the installation and handling of the device.

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While we are on the subject of user experience, in 2019 you won, for the first time, an iF DESIGN AWARD for an augmented reality app. How would you describe Vaillant's fascination for communication design?

The app it is an attractive blend of technical information and immersive user experience from which some will be adopted into the interaction concepts of our products to make installation, usage and service easier. Digitalization is changing our lives, but we must be aware that digitalization is not only about algorithm and automatism. It is about understanding user needs and support him or her to know what the appliance is doing and how our personal decisions on comfort or economy influence our carbon footprint which is highly influenced by domestic heating. The actual momentum in digitalization of our business makes it intriguing to see new business cases and use cases emerge and ask designers for new solutions.

You said that digitalization is also about reducing the personal carbon footprint. In your opinion, what are today’s challenges and opportunities when it comes to designing sustainable products?

The longer you will use your product, the more sustainable it will be. To us, the next 15 years will look like this: Solar thermic, photovoltaics, heat pumps and hydrogen using boilers, connected and controlled by a flexible and well-balanced energy management, capable of modular extensions or integration of new technology. And we must today deliver a product design and interaction design which will still be up-to-date and look attractive then.


(published in December 2020)