Form Following Function

Form Following Function

Caroma’s latest bathroom range has been recognised and rewarded with two prestigious design awards. Justin Felix caught up with Dr Steve Cummings to discover more about the successful collaboration between Caroma and Industrial Designer Marc Newson.

With design trends continually evolving and consumer tastes forever changing, manufacturers must ensure their designs and products evolve too. This is especially the case when it comes to the bathroom as it has become just as much of a talking point as the kitchen these days.

One Australian company has maintained a stronghold in this area and has really embraced the challenges which has been recognised and rewarded at the recent Good Design Awards in Sydney. Founded in 1941 by Charles Rothauser, Caroma has been Australian owned and operated for over 70 years. It offers bathroom solutions including toilet suites, basins, tapware, baths, showers and bathroom accessories as well as commercial and care products for the growing aged care, accessibility and special needs markets.
Caroma’s exquisite bathroom range, developed in collaboration with internationally acclaimed designer Marc Newson, took out the coveted Good Design of the Year Award for 2014. The collection also took out the Good Design Award in the Housing and Building category.

The 22-piece Caroma Marc Newson Collection features baths, mixer taps, showers, toilet suites, basins and urinals. Each piece has been meticulously designed by Marc and his team, using high quality materials and advanced engineering by Caroma. Products are fully compliant with Australian bathroom product standards, and are available in various product options that offer flexibility to suit a range of bathroom budgets and styles.

“We have our own internal design team but from time to time we look outside to enlighten us and we’ve found that the team benefit greatly from working with external design teams, Dr Steve Cummings, Research and Development Manager at GWA Bathrooms and Kitchens explains.

“For this project, we were looking for a leading Australian designer – someone that we could relate to. We assessed our options and we decided that Marc Newson was a great fit. He’s Australian and one of the top designers internationally, we’re an Australian company and we are both successful in our own fields and in our own rights. We developed a great working relationship and the collaboration was really successful.”

“We initially sent him an email and he came back and told us he was interested straight away – I think that’s just the Australian way of working. We started up a dialogue and he begun working on ideas from our first contact. We got along really well and we just worked seamlessly from there. Despite working from his office in London, Marc knows the Caroma brand because he was born here. It just felt like a natural fit and it proved to be throughout the entire process,” Steve says.

Caroma’s brief to Marc was fairly straight-forward as the company really wanted Marc to embed his DNA and design thinking into each design.

“Within our brief we stipulated that we wanted his views on bathroom design and we wanted to see how he envisioned them. We wanted his design DNA ingrained into the finished products. Our joint vision was a range that was not only good for Australia but internationally as well.

“We identified the products that we wanted him to come up with for the collection and he quickly commenced conceptual design development. We had a meeting with him at his office in London where we were presented with his design concepts. We were thoroughly impressed with his design work for the Caroma collection. Our approach was to let him come up with a concept we believed was right and then work out the pathway to best deliver it to the market with minimal design changes.”

To get the 22 products out in the timeline they had, Steve explains that his team virtually had to drop everything else and remain focussed on this collection. Interestingly, they were working on the project during the day before they would send the CAD data to Marc’s team for them to work on during the night. Due to the time difference with London, it meant that people were basically working on the project 24 hours a day. Overall, the design process between Marc and the Caroma team took around 12 months.
While hugely successful, the collaboration did experience some challenges throughout the journey; as is expected with any project between designer and manufacturer; however they were overcome through engineering innovation and clear communication channels.

“We faced significant technical challenges when trying to maintain his design when working on the delivery of water into the toilet pan. We had to develop a special flush pipe that could actually deliver the water uphill. Normally we would discount something like this and come up with a reconfigured design instead, but we really wanted to minimise changes to his designs,” Steve explains.

“The design of the tapware he came up with also presented some difficulties, installation wise. In his tapware designs, Marc didn’t want a flange on the basin mixer or a wall cover plate on the bath/shower mixers. It was a simple approach but to do it we had significant engineering challenges to overcome in order to make it work to our requirements. My team was inspired throughout the entire process – they really stood up to the task.

“We wanted to make all of the products really easy for plumbers to install while ensuring the final outcome was very close to the initial concepts we saw at our first meeting. Marc was very open and forthcoming with any issues that we had and was open to changes – this approach was what was so pleasing for me and one of the key factors in our successful collaboration.”

Steve suggests that feedback has been really positive with the collection being specified for some really high-profile projects both in Australia and internationally.

“It was a really rewarding project for us there could definitely be some future Caroma Marc Newson projects on the horizon.”

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