Words Patti Sunio
Images LIXIL Philippines
In case you missed it, the American Standard Design Award (ASDA) 2022 design competition, led by maker of quality water and housing products LIXIL WATER TECHNOLOGY Group, has recently concluded, naming its Asia-Pacific winners.
They are Vietnam’s Lê Đức Thịnh for the Residential Bathroom Space Design category, and Thailand’s Teeragiat Sukyoo, for the Hospitality Bathroom Space Design category.
This year’s ASDA has taken on the theme Purposeful Design: Transforming the Way We Live, in light of the growing urbanization and the global pandemic and its influence on the way we use, transform and design our homes.
Following our previous stories on the design competition—our Q&A with the panel members from the Philippines, and our chat with the shortlisted national winners, Kanto now catches up with Antoine Besseyre Des Horts, Leader, LIXIL Global Design, Asia who currently leads an international team of designers for American Standard, Grohe, and Inax.
Des Horts has gained expertise through years of experience designing home appliances, electronics, and transportation, among others. In his work, he espouses the importance of raising the standard of living and responding to this through great product design and technology that’s purposeful and accessible by everyone.
In this interview, Des Horts discusses the relevance and impact of design competitions; how such initiatives bring forth opportunities where new trends, styles, and talents emerge; and what the future has in store for ASDA.
Please briefly share your thoughts on the recently concluded ASDA 2022. What can you say about the winning designs and how these have delivered design solutions that respond to the changing times and trends? Any “trend” that you’ve noticed among the designs presented? Any surprising or unexpected concepts, ideas or philosophy, or processes worth mentioning?
Besseyre Des Horts: First, I would like to thank all the American Standard Design Award (ASDA) participants for their creativity and efforts. American Standard, like the other LIXIL brands, focuses on the three macro-trends of urbanization, health & well-being as well as sustainability so we were excited to invite fresh design perspectives through the ASDA from across the Asia Pacific region. Some of the ideas will surely fuel discussions and reflections on how American Standard can further enhance people’s daily lives in a meaningful and purposeful way.
Regarding the winner of the Residential Bathroom Space Design, I was truly impressed by the concept created by Lê Đức Thịnh from the Ha Noi University of Civil Engineering. He is challenging the archetype of the bathroom at home which is usually designed as a closed and dedicated space for cleansing and grooming rituals. By splitting the bathroom into different functional areas and having the basin in a prime location and open set up, his concept would help to optimize the living space and therefore benefit people who are living in places such as megacities where space is becoming a rare commodity. Also, this concept would provide people with more flexibility in terms of usage of the products and behaviors as well as new ways to circulate around their homes. Such a concept is fully aligned with American Standard’s purpose to provide pioneering yet dependable solutions to enhance people’s life both emotionally and practically.
Regarding the Hospitality Bathroom Space Design, Teeragiat Sukyoo’s concept was truly inspiring as it reflects very well the role that the bathroom plays when one is staying at a hotel, a home away from home, as a safe haven for rejuvenation of one’s body and mind. The layout, as well as the materials and color selection, make the space very inviting which resonates perfectly with American Standard’s design philosophy as we always strive to create products that invite users for interaction. Moreover, the selected products and additional thoughtful features, provide users with enhanced hygiene and comfort allowing them to truly indulge in their personal time.
What trends do you see will influence the design of living spaces and products, taking into consideration the importance of the user’s overall experience in a health-concern-driven contactless world?
COVID-19 has made people attach greater importance to hygiene and well-being and therefore has led to higher demand for innovative solutions incorporating antibacterial, cleansing, and touchless technology. However, it has not radically changed our strategies, as our brands have always been focused on offering solutions to address hygiene and well-being needs. For instance, our brand GROHE offers several touchless basin faucets such as the Bau cosmopolitan E, Eurosmart Cosmopolitan E, and Essence E which also allow people to adjust the water temperature. GROHE as well as American Standard and INAX offer shower toilets that feature lids that open when a user walks into the bathroom and close and flushes itself after usage. Such features and technologies prevent physical touch of the hand throughout the entire user experience, minimizing the risk of bacterial transmission. Therefore, COVID-19 has actually helped us to expand our offering and triggered new opportunities.
Furthermore, people have come to be more environmentally conscious over the last few years and COVID-19 reinforced their awareness. A few years ago, LIXIL set the Environmental Vision 2050 to underline our commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions and preserving water and natural resource. With that, we continued to utilize our expertise as a maker of pioneering water and housing products to drive positive impact, and this can also be reflected in every detail of our products’ designs complemented by advanced energy-saving technologies.
What value does the ASDA 2022 initiative bring to LIXIL, a company that continues to respond to the ever-changing consumer needs and global trends through its innovative products? How does it hope to enhance the competition to further serve and go beyond its aims? How do competitions such as the ASDA help companies like LIXIL uncover new design trajectories and trends as well as spot future talents?
The ASDA provides the participants with opportunities to share their ideas with experienced and influential creative professionals and industry experts. By interacting with them, they get feedback and first-hand advice on how to make their work more compelling to the target audience and more relevant to LIXIL and its brand American Standard that organizes the competition.
In return, our teams at LIXIL get a lot of inspiration on how our products can be used to create life-enhancing experiences. The concepts submitted give them a lot of ideas on how to engage with customers as well as with Architects and Designers who are important stakeholders and partners for LIXIL’s brands. These concepts were developed by participants from different countries where people have different lifestyles and customs. This gives us a lot of insights into the role and possible evolution of the bathroom space at home and in the hospitality context, triggering a lot of new product and solution ideas that could lead to new business opportunities. Finally, such an initiative is a way to identify talents and further develop our network for future collaborations.
With the rapid acceleration of smart technology, how do you regard the future development of product design for LIXIL?
Smart digital technologies have largely infiltrated our daily lives and living spaces. They offered many benefits in terms of access to information, communication, convenience, comfort, usage, self-enhancement, and more. For instance, in the bathroom touchless, and advanced cleansing features offered by our three brands’ smart toilets bring convenience to daily routines while providing people with an enhanced and personalized hygiene experience. However, smart technologies are not limited to digital ones. For instance, our American Standard EasySET concealed and exposed shower systems feature very advanced yet intuitive controls for the outlets, water flow, and temperature allowing people to truly indulge in their personal time as they can very easily toggle through their preferred settings.
LIXIL brands are and will be focusing on making better homes a reality for everyone, everywhere. Therefore their aim will continue to be about developing and leveraging technologies that are meaningful by providing practical and emotional benefits that truly enhance people’s daily lives. The great thing about consumers in Asia is that they often adopt new technologies and adapt to them very fast. This attitude towards innovation will offer amazing opportunities for brands like ours!
What’s next after ASDA 2022? Are there other LIXIL initiatives that aim to promote design competitiveness?
We are encouraged by the positive response from the designer community and media to the ASDA; and we plan to continue the ASDA to keep engaging the APAC designer community and encouraging purposeful design, especially amongst young designers.
At LIXIL, Design is the voice of the consumer. It is the objective barometer, keeping our brands relevant while adding value to society. The Design teams’ primary focus and responsibility are to transform trends and insights into experiences for our consumers and add value to LIXIL’s brands. We are actively expanding our design teams located in some of the most dynamic, cosmopolitan, and culturally diverse cities in the world, including Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai, New York, Düsseldorf, and London. These locations have been carefully selected for strategic reasons as they have a large community of Architects and Designers who are key customers and can be advocates for LIXIL’s brands. Having our design teams in these locations also allows us to engage with this creative community to better understand their needs and share the stories behind our products. At the same time, this global footprint affords us the unique opportunity to monitor trends in all regions, so we understand how to create synergies to offer the most culturally relevant solutions to meet the needs of the different markets.
When it comes to our teams in Asia, we take pride in adding value to LIXIL’s three powerbands: GROHE, American Standard, and INAX for both APAC markets and Greater China. The designers based in Singapore and Shanghai follow a GLOCAL strategy. They ensure our brands’ have a global appeal by implementing their design identities consistently while addressing the local-specific requirements.
Being part of a global design organization while being present in two of the most advanced Asian megacities allows the designers in Asia to develop broader perspectives. We are constantly changing hats by working on projects for different brands and markets giving us unique opportunities to develop very differentiated solutions within our portfolio and versus competition. •
For more information on the winners, visit the ASDA website or click the banner below.
Patti Sunio used to write fashion trend forecasts and must-have shopping lists before immersing herself into the world of Philippine design—the people, their stories, and the products that make it. She is currently managing editor of TouchPoint, the online magazine of FAME+. During the pandemic, she started learning to play tennis and completed her first virtual run-for-a-cause, which converted her kms to liters of drinking water for an Aeta community.