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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.
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.
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)