‘Design is the voice of the consumer in an organisation’

Antoine Besseyre Des Horts, Leader, LIXIL Global Design, Asia, on LIXIL's Design philosophy

Design, along with technology, quality and a competitive brand portfolio, is the key driver for LIXIL’s differentiation strategy. Inspired by Japanese heritage and world-class technology, LIXIL, known for offering pioneering water and housing solutions, believes in solving real life challenges by transforming home solutions end-to-end, making them easy, enjoyable and of true value to the consumers. From product design to experience design – LIXIL design team spends more time observing, listening, and gathering insights to understand their unarticulated needs. At the same time, LIXIL invests in technology, design and innovation to mitigate the challenges around urbanisation, water consumption, energy demand and climate change. Excerpts: 

Perspective on LIXIL’s differentiation strategy  

We, at LIXIL, believe in making pioneering water and housing products that make better homes a reality for everyone, everywhere. Through our multi-brand, multi-category portfolio strength, we bring in differentiation by offering innovative, thoughtful and meaningful solutions which truly stand out in not just catering to the most obvious requirements, but remain relevant by pre-empting evolving and unmet needs of our discerning consumers. 

Drawing on our Japanese heritage, user-centric design is a key driver for our differentiation strategy, along with technology, quality, and brand. The designs of our products reflect how we extensively monitor trends and insights across landscapes to then translate them into solutions that truly enhance people’s daily experiences. Actually, this approach guides the entire journey of the product, right from the inception stage to manufacture, marketing, and selling of the product. Thus, developing a product which combines appeal, relevance and affordance through design, advanced purposeful features and long-lasting functionality in order to find easy acceptance with consumers organically. 

LIXIL’s brands are and will be focusing on creating solutions to address the macro trends of urbanisation, health and well-being, and Sustainability. As the world’s population continues to rise, urbanisation, water consumption and a changing environment continue to generate challenges. Also, the pandemic that has not abated for two years, has led to rapidly evolving consumer needs and an ever-increasing focus on hygiene and well-being. People are looking for solutions to optimize yet personalize their living spaces as well as enjoy tailored experiences that help them rejuvenate their body and mind. The bathroom and the kitchen will increasingly play an important role in addressing these practical and emotional needs therefore LIXIL’s brands will continue building on their very user-centric design and innovation processes to further deliver pioneering products that solve real life, everyday challenges for our people and communities.  

Also, we have located our LIXIL Global Design Studios in some of the most dynamic, cosmopolitan, and culturally diverse cities in the world, including Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai, New York, Düsseldorf, and London. This global footprint allows us to engage with the Architects and Designers’ community to gather and share insights as well as monitor the trends in all regions. Furthermore, we partner with trends’ experts such as Stylus, extensively use online creative platforms such as Pinterest and Dezeen and travel to fairs all around the world in order to monitor the upcoming trends in the different industrial fields. All these insights and data eventually help the design teams and other teams throughout the new product development process to understand how to create synergies yet offer the most culturally relevant solutions to meet the needs in the different markets 

Translating consumer insights into design  

Each one of the LIXIL’s brands is indeed unique in its own way, but all serve the same purpose of making better homes a reality for everyone, everywhere. The products they offer are the tangible representations of their promises. Therefore, our design strategies must be deeply connected to the strategies of our brands with their distinctive positionings and value propositions: GROHE is our aspirational brand seeking to offer pure joy of water whereas American Standard is our purposeful brand enabling people to create a home they will love every day and INAX is committed to transform people’s everyday life by offering innovative products delivering Japan’s rituals of water. For each brand, we have created signature elements used by our design teams as semantic codes to define and apply a unique design identity onto the products. Also, these signature elements reflect the brands’ values allowing the designers to translate them into emotional and practical benefits that echo the brands’ promises. These signature elements are great tools to ensure differentiation within the LIXIL portfolio and versus competition. Furthermore, the teams in Asia 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 based on identified insights and foresights.  

Evolution of consumer behaviour  

Covid19 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. The good news is that 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 closes and flushes itself after usage. Such features and technologies prevent physical touch of the hand throughout the entire user experience, minimizing the risk of bacteria 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 Covid19 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 utilise 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. 

Also, bathrooms became a place for rejuvenation and relaxation, where one can escape to and recuperate from the daily stress of work. Today, this trend is further amplified as the bathroom is typically the only space at home where one can be isolated, especially in smaller homes. Bathrooms need to include functions and products that emulate a spa-like experience for improved physical and mental sense of well-being. LIXIL’s brands provide a wide range of showering solutions such as American Standard’s EasySET Exposed shower system and GROHE AquaSymphony, with different types of sprays that offer physiological benefits, advanced temperature controls to provide comfort and safety, as well as intuitive outlet controls for daily convenience and fuss-free experiences.  

Furthermore, as a me time space the bathroom needs to reflect one’s personality and aspirations therefore our brands offer full bathroom collections with unique design languages to target many different audiences. American Standard’s Kastello collection is a modern interpretation of a classic style while Signature collection is symbol of elegance and soft minimalism. INAX S600 and S400 collection bring Japan's sense of spatial beauty to homes and exemplifies the “Humanitecture” design philosophy of the brand. Grohe faucets and showers are available in different colors and finishes allowing people to create tailored bathroom spaces that match their tastes and aspirations. 

Evolving product design and sustainable innovations 

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 in the daily routines while providing people with an enhanced and personalized hygiene experience. However, smart technologies are not limited to digital ones. For instance, our GROHE Smart Control Concealed streamlines the shower space with a sleek, very advanced yet intuitive control system 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. It also combines with a wide range of head and hand showers to provide all the design flexibility you need. Moreover, it has an integrated sealing system that prevents water from flowing behind the wall.   

LIXIL brands’ aim will continue to be about developing and leveraging technologies which are meaningful by providing practical and emotional benefits that truly enhance people’s daily lives. The great thing about consumers in Asia especially in India 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! 

R&D and Innovation on global level 

At LIXIL, we aim to become a leading enterprise in water sustainability and regularly invest in research and development of sustainable solutions. We partner with NPOs, NGOs, and educational and research institutions to facilitate R&D related to global sanitation, and support education for sustainable development for the next generation. By 2050, we also aim at achieving net-zero carbon emissions, preserving water and natural resources in operations, housing, and lifestyle solutions for future generations. 

Moreover, LIXIL’s U2-Home II has been transformed into an IoT smart-home research facility. The facility uses 250 sensors that measure elements such as temperature, humidity, and human motion to collect data on residents’ behaviour, consumption of utilities, and other factors, and serves as the venue for various demonstration experiments.  

Leveraging sophisticated technologies, LIXIL is working to employ a manufacturing model that preserves natural resources for future generations, with products that are water efficient, help in conserving water, and minimize wastage. 

  • GENIE is an award-winning pressure boosting and water saving hand shower designed by American Standard for consumers experiencing low water pressure in Asia. 
  • GROHE Sense Smart – a water sensor to detect leaking water. 
  • GROHE Sense Guard – a smart water controller that detects burst pipes and automatically shuts off the water supply. 
  • GROHE Ondus App Smart App – for complete water control in the toilet. 
  • GROHE Rainshower Eco showerheads that reduce water consumption by up to 40% while maintaining the full shower experience. 
  • GROHE Blu – enables to draw of filtered and chilled water straight from the kitchen faucet preventing the use of up to 800 plastic water bottles every year and reducing CO2 emissions by more than 60%. It also allows people to monitor their water consumption. 
  • GROHE BauEdge – Cradle to Cradle certified gold product with a sustainable impact that can help reduce a building’s carbon footprint. Product is manufactured in such a way that, at the end of its life, the components can be used to create new products. 

In India and other developing countries, considering the availability of limited water resources, and behavioural and cultural trends of the local community, LIXIL has invested in providing hygienic, durable, and cost-effective toilet systems that require a minimal quantity of water. With that purpose, LIXIL developed the SATO Tap in 2020 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. As a hand washing solution, SATO Tap uses water in a plastic bottle and gravity to release a minimal, frugal but stable water flow. As little as 100ml is needed for each hand wash, which is 90% less water than needed with a traditional tap. With a plastic base and nozzle that can easily be manufactured, its simplicity helps keep production costs and retail prices low. 

Journey at LIXIL and beyond 

My role is to provide creative direction to translate some of our brands’ strategies into culturally relevant consumer experiences, through product, product user interface, packaging, environment and communication. I believe design is the voice of the consumer in the organisation. It is the objective barometer, keeping our brands relevant in ever evolving consumer landscapes and adding value to society. Every element, from the very first touchpoint, to using the product – moves beyond simply finding the perfect balance between aesthetics, functionality and technology. Therefore, it is crucial for our designers to have a deep understanding of users and their requirements to be able to design products that enhance their lives both emotionally and practically.

I believe inspiration is everywhere! I can literally get inspired by everything I come across: Nature, architecture, fashion, food, music, and art. Until today, I have been very fortunate to be able to travel a lot professionally and privately; therefore, I have been exposed to many different cultures, customs, and styles. Also, reading and listening different types of media every day as well as interacting with people with diverse life experiences is truly what fuels my extreme curiosity. All these experiences and insights I gathered throughout my life have been influencing deeply my thinking and creative process and helped me develop strong abilities to give rise to meaningful and relevant solutions. Very useful as the first step of the design journey is determining the cultural context that shapes user experience!  

Tags assigned to this article:
LIXIL Antoine Besseyre Des Horts


Around The World