Monday, February 14, 2011

New York, New York, it's a Brizo Town

Where do I begin? What I thought was a hoax turned out to be one of the most intense experiences I’ve had in 15 years as a designer. Brizo faucets made the generous offer of inviting myself and 19 other design bloggers to New York City for a few days of product knowledge, design analysis and fashion.

I won’t lie to you. This was a very draining 3 days. I know some of my co-workers and friends told me they were jealous of me and my free junket. The truth is I came home exhausted. The majority of our stay was in workshops in the (it should be noted, very nice) hotel. What little I did see of New York was from the back seat of a limousine on our way from one event to the next. This was most definitely a working trip.

Brizo, in my experience, is a very clever, forward thinking company. Gathering a group of designers together to discuss their product is just good business. Gathering a group of designers who blog, tweet and otherwise engage social media like no other group I’ve seen is downright genius. They talk to us; we talk to our readers and followers. It’s one of the best uses of social media that I’ve come across.

This kind of thinking is not only evident in their marketing department, but in their product design group as well. We were able to spend several hours with Brizo’s industrial design team, following the design process from start to finish. We were even given a glimpse of the future, seeing several examples of products they are just about to release and several that are simply in the idea stage. In return we were sworn to secrecy, but believe me there’s some pretty cool stuff on the way.

The highlight for me however was the opportunity to work with this very diverse group of designers that Brizo brought together. Our final task of the trip was designing a bathroom that employed the principals of “biomimicry,” something Brizo has taken to heart. I’ll discuss “biomimcry” in a future post, but essentially it is the idea of solving design problems by mimicking a process in nature that has already solved the same problem.

The task came to us a design challenge:  Design a bathroom that answers the question "How does Nature bathe?". We were divided into 5 groups and each given the same floor plan. Outside of that we were only limited to our imaginations, and of course our choice of faucets ... no real limitation to be honest because Brizo has really done an excellent job of creating a wide ranging series of product.

Our team (Lori Gilder, Patricia Davis Brown and yours truly) went with a very simple design.  Lots of natural materials (to be gathered from the job site to emphasive the "green" aspects of the design) and curbed lines to emphasize the natural shapes found in nature.  We chose the Sederna line for our project; clean, simple lines and the use of glass inserts in the handle really give a designer an opportunity to make the faucet part of the design.

Once all our design work was done, Brizo presented us with a once-in-a lifetime experience (at least for me): a fashion show during New York’s Fashion Week with designer Jason Wu, a designer Brizo has been sponsoring for 4 years. Fashion is a real fascination to me, and I’m not (just) talking about the beautiful women. Fashion is essentially design for humans so the whole process of designing clothes relates to kitchen design, even if only in a conceptual way.

Photo Credit: Jayme Thornton
(My Favourite)
Jason’s work is, in a word, elegant. The line we saw at the show was inspired by Versailles, or rather the restoration of the palace. The theme of “raw structure” beneath elaborate surface decorations manifested itself in simple, almost architectural in their shape dresses, skirts and jackets adorned with decorative elements; jewels, military-inspired appliqu├ęs. Even the models’ hair and shoes were adorned with gold leaf.

I learned quite a bit at the fashion show. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and the subtle ways in which it finds its way into any design can make all the difference in the world. The use of gold leaf to invoke the opulence of Versailles, or the simple twist of Brizo’s Virage (inspired by some Parisian wrought iron) to suggest the spiral of a twisting vine, each helps complete the design.

Photo Credit:  Michelle Carangi

Photo Credit:  Michelle Carangi
For a more complete, and much better view of Jason Wu's collection than I'm able to give, I encourage you to visit the blogs of two brilliant women, Reina Cox at If the Lampshade Fits, and Michelle Carangi at Holley & Gill.

Photo Credit - Jayme Thornton
The week ended with a cocktail party with Jason. There was a question and answer sessions where Jason answered our questions, and had the opportunity to have our picture taken with designer. In case you’re wondering, he’s a very nice young man, and an ex-Vancouverite to boot!

I took a little time to myself as the evening wound down, took some pictures of the city from the balcony and reflected on the trip. Will I be using Brizo faucets? Not exclusively (sorry Jai) but they will definitely be one of the lines I will use from now on. I like the way they look at design, I like their product, and I immensely respect the way they were willing to work with the design community to help become better designers.

The #BrizoFW Team
Photo Credit:  Jayme Thornton


Raina Cox said...

A most excellent round-up of our once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Thanks for the shout-out!

If the Lamp Shade Fits

Michelle from Holley & Gill said...

Perfect post for a perfect experience from beginning to end. Thanks Arne for the shout out too!

PamDesigns said...

What a great group! Happy to see some faces I recognized. Love that they added the design challenge --after all that IS what it was about. Right?!

Arne Salvesen said...

Glad you guys enjoyed the write up! Thanks for dropping by.

Carmen Christensen said...

Nicely said Arne, great to have spent some time with you and look forward to chatting some more. Yeah for Brizo!!! Carmen

jb @BuildingMoxie said...

Great job Arne ... I guess it is something how we as guys kinda keyed on some of the same themes (kinda. . . and I didn't catch as many of the details as you did) -- I swear I forced myself not to read your post until I had posted myself.

All around a very diplomatic post and esp. love this... so true:

Gathering a group of designers who blog, tweet and otherwise engage social media like no other group I’ve seen is downright genius. They talk to us; we talk to our readers and followers. It’s one of the best uses of social media that I’ve come across.


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