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Over the years, multi iF DESIGN AWARD winner hansgrohe has been creating innovative products in collaboration with world famous design teams and designers, including Phoenix Design, Nendo, Philippe Starck, Antonio Citterio, and Jean-Marie Massaud, to name just a few. The more than 500 distinctions awarded by independent juries in international design competitions show that engineering skills and creativity are valued very highly at hansgrohe.
Read below the exclusive interview with Jan Heisterhagen, Vice President Product Management of hansgrohe Group – by courtesy of Package&Design Magazine – who talked about hansgrohe’s 2019 iF gold award-winning works and shared his insight on design from the business point of view.
Rainfinity has been honored with an iF gold award
2019. The innovative PowderRain kind of spray could spare people from
unnecessarily causing the face and hair to get wet in the shower. So, was this “PowderRain”
technique newly invented by hansgrohe and used for the first time on this
Heisterhagen: Firstly, the novelty about Rainfinity shower head is that it does not have a shower arm anymore. It no longer looks like a typical shower but has a completely different new look that makes the shower different from typical sanitary products, meanwhile giving the bathroom a more comfortable look. This is enhanced by the new driving color scheme - the combination of white and a dark aesthetic color. We avoided the surface chrome and gave the product a much softer character. Secondly, we have paid particular attention to the design and the arrangement of the jet outlets: we have arranged these jets in an attractive pattern, which appears very decorative and appealing at the same time. The jet openings consist of five to six ultrafine small holes from which the PowderRain jet emerges. Through sophisticated technologies, they transform the beam into thousands of microdrops, which softly land on the skin due to their low weight and also offer a wider spray, thereby producing a different kind of shower experience. For example, you can take a shower in the front of the shower without getting your hair wet, but your body will still be enveloped in water. This is a big advantage for women in particular, as they often take a shower without washing their hair and have always struggled to do so with overhead showers. Besides, it also automatically reduces the spray effect, a big advantage in open showers and generally resulting in much less effort required to clean the shower area. Moreover, the new concepts of a shower without a shower arm and the oblique positioned jet that allows the water to come not from above but rather diagonally from the side while still offering a large shower area, are also special.
Over the years, hansgrohe has collaborated with some world famous design masters, including Philippe Starck, Antonio Citterio, Patricia Urquiola, and Phoenix Design (the design team of Rainfinity), which has won over 800 international design awards. So what’s hansgrohe Group’s criterion in selecting outside design partners? Do you have other long-term creative partners? What’s the cooperation mode?
Heisterhagen: We do not have an in-house design team. We are working only with external designers. Because we are one of the design and innovation leaders, it is extremely important for us to constantly reinvent ourselves. Even the designers need to constantly reinvent themselves, but internal designers usually work on a product type, such as showers. At some point, the internal designer only designs showers and subsequently only the same showers. He is then a specialist and develops tunnel vision because he isn't being influenced by other works. External designers work in various industries and on a lot of different products. Therefore, they are always up-to-date regarding materials, colors, and technologies. For us, the external designers are part of the innovation process.
Design, as we understand it, is design thinking: we need to think the product through. It's not just about appearance, form, styling, materials, and colors. The design process considers everything about the product: the initial idea, the target group, the market analysis, and questions about the function, the price, the production, the design, and the technology of the product. But we also have to consider the user experience, which is becoming increasingly important. So our external designers not only make the product beautiful but are also part of the idea from the very first. We develop the product ideas together with the designers and there is no briefing for our designers. For every product, we work with external designers.
This is a strength and core competence of hansgrohe. In general, all our designers are the "antennas" to the market. They know all about new trends and what's up-to-date. For decades, the hansgrohe brand has worked together with Phoenix Design and is in contact with the team on a daily basis. The cooperation is extremely close. hansgrohe and Phoenix are a team with an interactive and interdisciplinary cooperation throughout the design process. It is a constant coordination and cross-fertilization. With our design brand AXOR, we work with so-called author designers. This is a different kind of cooperation, because product and idea are strongly influenced by the designer and driven by his intention. The designer contributes the idea and we are in charge of the technical implementation and evaluation. It often leads to more courageous products.
“For every product, we work with external designers. This is a strength and core competence of hansgrohe. In general, all our designers are the "antennas" to the market. They know all about new trends and what's up-to-date.” (Jan Heisterhagen, Vice President Product Management hansgrohe)
During the product development process, how do the external design team work with your R&D team?
Heisterhagen: We set a clear focus on Industrial Design and from the very beginning the Industrial Designer is part of the product development process. Together with the designer, we start by outlining the Customer Insights before developing an idea in the conception phase. In this phase, we create the first design patterns. In the final implementation, additional departments are introduced to the process, such as research and development and marketing. Like always, we interdisciplinary work together.
awarded designs by hansgrohe in their profile in the iF WORLD DESIGN GUIDE.
As the judges of this years iF Design Awards commented Rainfinity Produktfamilie: “With the black and white contrasts, hansgrohe is moving away from the signature chrome-look to this outstanding alternative.” So over the years, has hansgrohe been designedly following or forming a certain design language or design style on your products and brand?
Heisterhagen: Definitely! After decades of collaboration, our design DNA has been developed through Phoenix Design's. This stands for hansgrohe and we are maintaining it. Designers, such as Tom Schönherr, who has been with the company for over 30 years, is the supervisor of all hansgrohe products. This helped us to create hansgrohe products with a uniform identity. This obviously has evolved, but the products have always been perceived as hansgrohe products. In addition, hansgrohe products are always designed in such a way that they are made for humans, the human being is at the center. For example, we do not create sharp edges just because it's architecturally beautiful. Together with our designers, we observe how the living environment is changing. We study current lifestyles, trends, and interests to be on an equal footing. An example of this is in 2009, when we designed the Pura Vida line in the color white. Today, lava has become an accent color, which is why it is used by Rainfinity.
Could you talk about your background? As the Vice President Product Management of hansgrohe Group, do you personally get involved in the product development process of the company? Do you have your personal preferences in terms of design style? From the perspective of commercial marketing, how do you define “good design”?
Heisterhagen: Yes, of course! Product management is the driver of the entire process or the reason for existence. I attend regular meetings and even the CEO is involved in significant design reviews. At hansgrohe, design is a top priority. I think that in every situation good design is thoughtful design. We consider our products from the view of the user: Is the function thought out, are the materials sustainable, can I easily install it. Then it comes to good design. Sometimes we design products that are not my personal design language, but for the customer of our target audience.
How does hansgrohe carry through the researches of consumer needs and user experience? What role do these researches play in the development and design process of your products?
Heisterhagen: We highly value customer insights, we work together with external professionals from the FMCG branch who are very connected to the end consumer and discover their needs. We are also visiting end customers at their home to study their showering behavior. We study these customer insights in the early conception phase together with our designers.
How do you understand the emotional functionality of hansgrohe’s products?
Heisterhagen: Design language becomes emotional when it is attractive. The design of hansgrohe products is the reason why consumers like to engage with them. Controls are easy to touch and operate, designed without sharp edges, they are made for humans. We also created new technologies, such as Select buttons. The form needs to have value, the design language and should be authentic, and one must experience the functionality.
hansgrohe has been investing in raising consumer awareness of its brands and products. So what has hansgrohe been doing on building up brand image?
Heisterhagen: Basically, we've created a lot of design icons, design classics, and design innovations that strengthen brand awareness of the entire business. An example is the shower panel that has influenced a category (such as Tempo for paper tissues). Such great product innovations upgrade our brand. In 2003, the hansgrohe Raindance shower line has been the decisive factor in propelling the hansgrohe brand forward. Raindance was the driver towards the global brand success of the large overhead showers. However, new iconic products push the brand as well. Other strong products that have characterized the brand are the Talis S mixer and the Pura Vida line, which was now released in the colors white and chrome. Moreover, we're convinced that Rainfinity, with its all-new design and jet technology, will become a design icon of the brand.
Over the years hansgrohe Group has won more than 500 international design awards, and also has been submitting your innovative products to different design awards. What’s the significance of participating and wining a design award for hansgrohe Group? Do you have an inhouse standard in selecting products for participating the design awards?
Heisterhagen: Yes, design awards are very important, and we decide, which awards are important for hansgrohe. Needless to say that there is a strategy for which products we register for which design prices. Our goal is to maintain our high standard of design. Moreover, it is also important for us to communicate our design awards to our customers. Design awards help us manifest our high standards of design.
Read our other special on the 25th anniversary of hansgrohe’s AXOR brand.
Still interested in bath design? Read our iF Design Special: Bath Design.