What is your industry background and what attracted you to Kohler Mira?
I have a degree in Industrial Design and worked in a number of industries, including products as diverse as push-chairs! I joined Daryl in 1996 and became design and development manager, moving to Mira as new product development director in 2009. What the attractive great thing about Mira is the top-down commitment to innovation.
What are your responsibilities as new product development director at Kohler Mira?
I am responsible for the whole darn thing: Taking a great concept and seeing it right through to market launch! Can you explain the personality of the Mira brand and how do the products reflect this? Mira’s ’personality’ to date has largely been one revolving around maintaining loyalty with installers. We have been working much harder on the consumer proposition — in terms of features and aesthetics that are less centred on the fitter – in order to better drive sales for the bathroom retailer.
What are the overall challenges in product design?
One of the main challenges is resisting a concept’s death “by a thousand cuts”. One should always remember the original magic in any concept and ensuring that it is constant, and not degraded or diminished, through to final execution is tough, but crucial.
How has new product development changed during your time at Kohler Mira?
Obviously, one has to manage a much larger portfolio than would have previously been the case; and our increased emphasis on consumer preferences has meant a slight shift in mindset (while never forgetting our installer pedigree). Identifying, attracting and retaining the most innovative and technical thinkers in the industry is not so straightforward nowadays either.
Are many of the products designed and made in the UK or now brought in from overseas?
Mira makes the fifth largest investment in new product development innovation across all white goods in the UK. Not only are its products almost all conceived and designed in the UK, they are also predominately manufactured here too. We are unlike many other manufacturers, who rely on bought in and or commoditised products from the Far East which are ‘branded’ without any real domestic input.
How much research goes into the design of each product and what research do you do to ensure it will be a good seller?
That we’re making the fifth largest white goods investment in innovation tells you that our research is similarly extensive and comprehensive. We employ the full range of tools from ethnography and focus groups to consumer immersion and ‘day in the life’.
How long does it take to create a product, from initial idea through to in-store?
lt obviously varies enormously. A straightforward range extension can be realised very quickly; otherwise between six and 18 months would normally apply.
What product have you or your team designed that you’re particularly proud of and why?
Speaking on behalf of the department as a whole, and as massively bigheaded as it might sound, the best is actually to come. And you should watch this space. Less big-headedIy, we’re really pleased with our digital platforms, ‘mechanical’ marvels like the 360 Showerhead which is storming America and seemingly simple things like shower trays that have gone on to become global success stories.
What do you think will the “next big thing” in terms of product design for the bathroom?
lt’s a very fluid environment at the moment, but one thing we’re really interested in is ‘Hidden Intelligence’- whereby all the controls the user needs are at their fingertips and only visible when needed. Furthermore, we must address the needs of sustainability without compromising performance and ensure that the diversity of society is properly catered for.