SOURCE: Moen Incorporated

Moen Incorporated

September 14, 2010 08:00 ET

The Birth of a Faucet... Product Development From Inspiration to Reality; An Inside Look at Moen's Design Team

NORTH OLMSTED, OH--(Marketwire - September 14, 2010) -  From the moment we step into the morning shower... fill the coffee pot at the kitchen sink... or take a relaxing bath to unwind... we are touched by water throughout our day. And whether you're showering, cooking or bathing -- did you ever stop and think about the product that delivers this valuable resource to you? If it's one produced by Moen®, the number one faucet brand in North America, it's likely that a team of associates spent more than 2,500 hours to create this reliable product that we depend on every day.

Where does the inspiration begin? And how does it evolve from an idea to a product on a shelf? Judy Riley, vice president of global design, Moen, gives us an inside look at the birth of a faucet... from inspiration to reality. 

Understanding Consumers

Before Moen's designers begin creating a new product, they collaborate with the company's marketing managers and Research and Insights department to determine market needs and consumer desires. In the case of the recent introduction of Moen's 90°™ kitchen and bath collection, the need for a modern suite was identified.

"90° was truly a global suite -- which meant it had to satisfy a number of very specific global plumbing requirements and design aspirations," explained Riley. 

Finding Inspiration

When it's time to create, the designers need inspiration to fuel new thinking. Designing innovative products year after year can become challenging, so Moen has developed a number of creative ways to keep the design team fueled with novel ideas. "Sketchfest" is one of the tools that Moen has refined over the years and is an excellent example of group inspiration.

In its essence, Sketchfest is an off-site session where Moen's design team meets to create new product designs. Riley's team plans every detail to ensure a successful Sketchfest: a stimulating location, field trips and activities are selected to inspire the designers' creativity. A range of consumer problems are defined and presented to the group, and the days are spent with all of the designers working around one big table, sketching to the task at hand. As the designers sketch together, they challenge each other and build on one idea after another.

"Prior to Sketchfest, we create inspiration boards which visually organize lifestyle trends we're seeing in the marketplace," explained Riley. "We highlight emerging design trends from inside and outside of our industry. Trend boards typically include everything from beauty and fashion... to automotive and electronics... to lifestyle trends like 'urban living' and 'sustainability.'

"In the case of 90°, our inspiration featured the primary themes of flat/thin and linear designs. The inspiration boards highlighted products such as wafer-thin electronic devices, cell phones, jewelry, appliances and architecture."

The Science of Sketching and Sculpting

At the conclusion of Sketchfest, the design team presents the sketches to a global project team and the top designs are chosen for further refinement. 

"In this age of technology, there is still value in creating sketches by hand," added Riley. "Most companies today design products directly on computers; however since our products tend to be very sculptural, it's important to 'feel the form' and the scale of a faucet. When sketching by hand, the idea flows from the mind's eye to the arm to the hand and then to the paper. The designer's inspiration is realized and can be communicated to others."

The second round of sketches is narrowed down once again, based on those which best meet consumer needs. They are refined to actual scale, allowing room for intricate interior mechanisms like cartridges, valve bodies, connectors and plumbing hoses. From here, the hand-made work continues and the sketches are turned over to Moen's professional sculptor. This important associate hand carves dense foam prototypes of the actual faucets from the designers' sketch.

"When we review initial models, we can see what might need improvement. In the case of the 90° single-handle lavatory faucets, once it was modeled, we immediately saw the faucet handle needed to be smaller," explained Jen Sedwick, designer of the 90˚ collection. "Because the 90° design is so geometric and linear, it required a smaller handle design with a more complex lever mechanism. It was difficult to see this detail in the sketch; whereas the models bring it to life. Plus, the 90° bath faucets don't contain an aerator, so the sculpted models revealed the fact that we had to work on the flow and water presentation so that it would complement the form of the faucet while still delivering the performance consumers would expect from Moen."

To ensure the designs meet Moen approval, the models are shared internally for thorough review. To give the models a more life-like appearance, the foam models can be cast in a hard resin material and finished in chrome or other finishes.

The Road to Reality

At this point, the chrome models are taken to consumers for feedback that helps determine the product's design readiness for the next step. Research is conducted via focus groups, individual interviews or online for style validation and refinements. 

"With regard to 90°, we shared the models with architects and designers, because we knew this was a very design-focused product line. We also wanted to ensure we had the right aesthetics for a global audience, so we hosted group sessions internationally, as well," added Riley. "We received particularly positive feedback to this suite -- made a few minor refinements and put the line into production."

"The collaborative process we undertake to produce all of our products requires many meetings and discussions with people in different time zones and with very different perspectives," said Riley. "90˚ was a team effort in every sense of the word.

"Once the design is finalized, it continues on the road to reality before it can hit store shelves -- through plant production and quality testing; then distribution and marketing initiatives. And we ensure that it hits Moen's high standards every step of the way. Because not just any product can bear the Moen name -- only those which meet the superior quality, durability and reliability for which we are known."

The 90° collection, Moen's answer for sleek, modern styling in the kitchen and bath, launched in May 2009 at the annual Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (K/BIS). Featuring a minimalist design, the suite offers dramatic geometry, 90-degree-angled lines and exacting attention to details -- all engineered with the most sophisticated Moen technology. To date, the line has been well-received by builders, designers, consumers and the media.

For more information about the 90° kitchen and bathroom collection from Moen, visit moen.com or call 1-800-BUY-MOEN (1-800-289-6636).

Moen offers a diverse selection of thoughtfully designed, on-trend kitchen faucets, bathroom faucets, showerheads, bathroom accessories and stainless steel sinks for residential and commercial applications. As the #1 faucet brand in North America, customers have come to rely on Moen to deliver dependable products and service. Moen is part of Fortune Brands, Inc. (NYSE: FO) (www.fortunebrands.com), a leading consumer brands company.

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