The design process for plumbing products parallels fashion design.

Judd Lord, director of industrial design, Brizo, with Michelle Henderson, showroom manager, at Banner Plumbing Supply’s Buffalo Grove, IL, showroom. Photo by Pat Lenius.

When Delta Faucet’s Brizo was exploring where it could take the brand, the company hit upon fashion as something that would resonate with high-end consumers. “Our research indicated that people who identify themselves as being fashion forward end up spending more on their homes vs. people with the same income but different interests, such as a technophile,” said Judd Lord, director of  industrial design, Brizo, in an interview withSupply House Times.

Just as in the fashion industry, the design of faucets and other plumbing products involves trend studies, texture boards, thumbnails and quick sketches, mock-ups and prototypes.

Back To School

Lord also teaches a design studio class at Purdue University. “I tell students every aspiring designer thinks he will design cars, but you end up just loving design. It is the process that is sexy and exciting,” he said.

Being able to take pieces of a puzzle and put them together into a coherent functional design that is aesthetically pleasing is especially fulfilling, he added.

“My students have not been jaded by the world or by manufacturing guys who say it can’t be done,” Lord said. “Instead they ask, why can’t we do this? Designers are able to do cooler things faster and more cost effectively.

“Most students think everything should be futuristic, but 70% of the market is traditional. The dominant design for interior space is still transitional to traditional, but we’re seeing an upward trending of less visual clutter.”

Judd Lord, Brizo. Photo by Pat Lenius.

Green and Sustainable

Diamond Seal technology offered by Delta and Brizo isolates the waterways and opens up the materials palette, Lord commented. “Now we can make a faucet out of anything and the water will come out pristine.”

The challenge now is to engage the user’s senses, hitting upon those intangibles, he said. As quality improves even for lower end products, sensory appeal can serve as the differentiation: How does the product feel in your hands? How does the water look as it exits the spout? What does the water sound like as it fills a basin? The designers for Delta and Brizo recognize that water can serve as a design element.

People use a faucet multiple times everyday. The twin concerns for faucets today are water conservation and universal design, or a good design that works effectively for a person of any age or ability.

“We think about a time out function for sensor faucets so a child or an older person with memory problems can’t just leave the faucet running if they get distracted and go do something else,” Lord noted. “We’re also working on ways to identify the water temperature for the user, such as a light that senses and projects the actual temperature.”

Judd Lord at a meeting of the Chicago Midwest chapter of the NKBA. Photo by Pat Lenius.


The designers and engineers for Delta and Brizo also are looking for ways to make more products hands-free or tap on/tap off. “Our research indicates that 2/3 of people love hands-free technology, but 1/3 hate it with a passion,” Lord said. “No one has anything negative to say about tap on/tap off. Hands-free offers the ultimate in germ control but people like the sense of control with tapping, even if they are using the back of the hand, or a wrist or forearm. Something else we learned from research was from a perception standpoint, the tap on/tap off function is perceived to be every bit as hygienic as hands-free. We are trying to get the price down so this can be introduced to a larger population. Our designers and engineers are constantly working to get functionality and technology to a larger mass audience.”

Brizo’s research team observes people through a one-way mirror as they try out products and also films people using products in their own environment to truly observe their real life habits and processes.

Both Brizo and Delta participate in cross-functional teams and interview customers to ask what they are doing well and where they could improve. “We compile reports and try to act on those responses,” Lord noted. “We get great feedback, and it can alter how we do business.”

Brizo’s portfolio is more design-driven than marketing driven, Lord said. The designers for Brizo try to come up with interesting designs targeting a Brizo consumer, but it’s ok if a certain percentage, say one-third, won’t like it.

“A certain amount of polarization is good,” Lord noted. “As a designer you want to evoke some emotions regarding a product. Not every product works in every region. Our Floriano design has done well in the South, Southwest and Southeast, but not so much on the East Coast or Midwest.”

Brizo’s Talo kitchen pull-down faucet.

Faucet Design Trends

Judd Lord, director of industrial design at Brizo, discussed design trends at a meeting of the Chicago Midwest chapter of the National Kitchen & Bath Association last winter, held at Banner Plumbing Supply’s 15,000-sq.-ft. showroom in Buffalo Grove, IL (pictured above).
The event was attended by more than 130 guests. Here are the trends he identified:

1. Antiquities. This includes warm woods and framing with stainless steel or silver material. Imagine a timepiece or typesetting equipment. The style is Victorian and the texture is vintage inspired. Rivets and leathers are used. Colors include blue, cognac, tobacco gold. Example: Brizo’s Tresa lav faucet.

2. Industrial Era. . This has some glamour and an Art Deco influence but relates to the Machine Age. Think exposed nailheads, deconstructed pipe. It features warmer tones - brushed nickel and bronzes - and a masculine bent. Colors include cream, grey, dusty charcoal. Example: Brizo’s Vesi Channel lav faucet.

3. Blissful Home. . This trend has some pops of color and great patterns including mosaics. It is influenced by Art Nouveau and has a more stylized, ornate appearance with feminine touches. Colors include aqua, amethyst, yellows. Example: Brizo’s Belo faucet.

4. Modern Homestead. . The next generation of designers is reinterpreting designs. This trend incorporates natural wood, earthy topographical patterns, concrete, high machining. It is a celebration of the beauty in manmade items. It represents jewelry for the home and functional sculpture. Colors include sunset orange, rum raisin, silver finish, buff anthracite. Example: Brizo’s Talo kitchen pull-down faucet.

5. Modern By Nature.
 This includes green and contemporary products. It is a fast-growing trend that brings the senses into play. Ceramic that looks like old barn board and surfaces with modern scrollwork or simple botanical patterns reflect this trend. These designs can be asymmetric, organic, soft, with rounded corners often juxtaposed against a crisp, geometric environment. Colors include rose and gold. Example: Brizo’s Floriano kitchen faucet.

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