Mark Bickerstaff, director of new product development for kitchen and bath at Kohler, discusses how technology is transforming the bathroom experience
How has technology transformed your design process?
I’m a true believer that technology can make the whole experience better. The Kohler Konnect system connects and brings together everything from the toilet to the smart mirror. It allows the bathroom to respond to the way you’re using it, that eases your journey through the bathroom. That to me, is the true power of technology—we don’t want to include technology for the sake of it, we want to include it to make your life easier, better, safer and more delightful.
What’s your starting point for the development of a new product?
It can start in a number of ways—we can identify themes so as to deliver a better experience in the bathroom. A great example is Sensis, a new intelligent toilet targeted at Asian women with a desire to look after themselves. So Sensis was designed to deliver things that they cared about, such as water quality, hygiene and the overall aesthetic. It’s a beautiful, understated object that looks like a cosmetic container. Another way can be by pure chance. An important part of creativity is to have structured processes, but also have room for the happy accidents. The Real rain shower system came about when one of our designers was caught in a summer rainstorm. He thought, ‘Why can’t I have a shower that feels as great as this?’ He went on a personal quest to find the difference, which turned out to be that raindrops come in different sizes and fall at random. By understanding that, we were able to develop an amazing shower experience that feels like summer rain.
What are the key bathroom trends to watch?
Technology will continue to be integrated into the bathroom. Lighting will be one area to see a lot of big changes and it’s an opportunity to integrate it better into our products. Bathtubs are now coming back into the bathroom, with the bathtub as a centrepiece and a beautiful object. It’s also an investment in personal time that’s a demonstration of luxury—to have bathrooms that are more experiential with opportunities to relax and unwind.
What are your goals for future collections?
We want to design bathrooms that are good for any age and to do it in beautiful ways. I think technology can help in many ways through voice controls and improving accessibility in the bathroom. Sustainability will be a big issue, especially with the consumption of water, electricity and cleaning chemicals. By looking deeper into the whole life cycle of each product, we can create products that take us closer to the goal of sustainable living.
LEFT TO RIGHT Mark Bickerstaff, Kohler director of new product development for kitchen and bath; the Real rain shower system; the Mica collection of countertop basins; the Verdera smart mirror