Art + Design

How Grohe stays joyfully on top with water—according to Michael Seum, VP Design


By Ronn Tan

How Grohe stays joyfully on top with water—according to Michael Seum, VP Design

How do you even begin to describe the change in consumer behaviours and trends? Drastic? Major? Unpredictable? Lifestyles are no longer as they were 10 years ago. Everyone seeks for more convenience in their lives, to minimise burdens and to optimise the limited time available in the cycle called a day. With the advent of technology, that specific dream is increasingly possible. However, as technology brings about massive improvements in the daily lives of society, brands have to go the extra mile to facilitate the life of their consumers. Whether it is speed, simplicity, or convenience, the demand is high and there is the need for brands to respond to the changes in consumer behaviour.

Imagine this: you’re home after a long, busy day at work, you’re exhausted and all that’s necessary is a good shower to wind down and relax (finally). Wouldn’t a shower system that’s not just stylish and functional but also the ultimate controller provide the best solution to your fatigue woes? That’s where Grohe comes into the picture with the Grohe Euphoria SmartControl 310 shower system that has it all. You know you’re bound to experience an amazing shower when you can curate your own shower experience. Grohe gives you the power to do just that—the global leading brand innovates, designs, and develops complete bathroom solutions and kitchen fittings with the purpose of providing the best experience you can ever get, whether emotional or physical.

Quality. Technology. Design. Sustainability. These are the brand values of Grohe—as they seek to bring consumers the joy of water. While awards aren’t the only measurements of a brand’s success, it has to be noted that Grohe has garnered more than 350 design and innovation awards in the past 10 years alone (including its record year in 2018 with 63 design awards). However, the amount of awards, while brilliant, aren’t as important to Michael Seum, Vice President Design at Grohe. Instead, the design maestro gave a highly precise and elegant insight into the brand here:

Grohe is a leading brand and won 63 design awards last year (2018—record year). Describe Grohe in three words.

Design awards, for me, are really important in the sense that you’re getting recognition from an expert jury and expert panel. It’s super important to me that we’re getting recognition for all the hard work and decisions we made. So, design awards are probably the strongest endorsement you can get. I am really proud of the work we have done. On the three words to describe the brand, I will break the rules a little bit—shaping the future of water. This is an industry that is largely playing on just styling products yet we need to delve a little deeper on how we can create lifestyle experiences and how we can focus on more meaningful ways to treat water. Water can be super transformative, or it can be a big part of frustration in our lives.

From the Water security system Grohe Sense and kitchen faucet collection Grohe Essence Professional to Grohe Blue Home, they all come with the seal of quality ‘Made in Germany’. What sets products made in Germany apart from the rest?

In our heritage, the brand tagline is Pure Freude an Wasser (the pure enjoyment of water) and the Germany industry is well-known in the world for quality. It is really important to us but I think the deeper parts of our brand DNA rely on the balance between quality, technology, design, and sustainability. When we put those four elements together, that’s what makes ‘Made in Germany‘. We are not exclusively made in Germany. We have German minds that are in the factory in Thailand—designed with the standards of every German factory. A large part of what sets Grohe apart as a brand is that a large part of this industry plays on a commodity basis. They sell on price and aesthetic but we are putting our investments in various different areas, whether it is through more intelligent and connected products, or on quality. It is sad that today when you buy something in a basic store that lacks in quality, and this is not sustainable. We believe that all our products need to have a certain level of standards. That is why we rely on German craftsmanship and attention to detail.

There are three signature elements in Grohe’s DNA. Can you explain why the Ring, 7 Degrees, and Lozenge are essential to the brand’s identity?

Let’s talk about why signature elements. When you’re driving, you look in the mirror and you see a car behind, you see it from a distance and you automatically know what kind of car it is. That’s DNA, a recognisable object. In our industry, it’s not quite the same because we have to fit into consumers’ homes and at the same time, match a particular interior style. You can be very prescriptive in your DNA like the automotive industry or you can be more subjective, but these are philosophies that really help us be consistent in our designs. You can see all those elements in our portfolio.

Consumers are fundamentally changing how they define and use their living spaces. What do you think is the trend at the moment and how does Grohe respond to the new trend?

I see a lot of trends and we have to be very selective with trends. This is the type of product, when you purchase it, you’re making a long term commitment. I don’t look for fast trends. I look for what I see as long term trends. I don’t just look at style, I look at emotional context and how we respond to behavioural changes in society. This is richer for inspiration because I can design a faucet every day if I wanted to but this is not a sustainable business model.

Why is it important for anyone to choose their shower heads or kitchen taps carefully?

Choice is a very interesting word, right? You come into a store and you’re faced with so many choices. That can be overwhelming. What we like to do in the design team is to put ourselves in the shoes of the consumers—when I’m showering, what is it that I actually do. I need power to rinse shampoo, a moment to pause so that I can apply soap, or just to reset my mind. There’s the functional and emotional element so you can easily just look at design and colour but you also have to look at the experience that you want—a more experiential bathroom. This is the same for faucets. We have products that are extremely simple in design philosophy or we have products with embedded technology. Some people respond to technology different. Some want it in all parts of their lives so it is very individual in terms of how you shop, but think through the process.

Sustainability is an integral and crucial part of Grohe’s corporate strategy. Grohe has received numerous sustainability awards such as the German Sustainability Award last year. In your opinion, why is being sustainable important?

I look at where I’m at in my life. I want to leave a better place for my children. Sustainability comes with very small gestures—not big actions. There are small steps that we can take. For instance, washing with cold water versus hot water (much bigger impact on energy usage), and shutting your faucet while you’re brushing your teeth. We all need to make these basic changes. We can bring technology to the market but it’s up to consumers to really adapt how they use this. We are focused on products that are able to remove bottled water out of the system. These are small steps you can take that have drastic impact on sustainability. Part of my job is to be a role model for sustainability. I am vegan and this is probably the best thing you can do to be more sustainable because food consumption (agriculture) is one of the biggest drivers of water usage. Taking a 10-minute shower is not a problem, but skip the steak for a week and you’re already making a drastic improvement in sustainable behaviour.

What are you most proud of from all your achievements with Grohe?

I really don’t care about the number of design awards. What I’m really proud of is when I see my team holding the design awards, put them back down and aim for the next one—this belief that we can make another one. I know I’m doing something positive that way.

What’s next for Grohe?

I can’t tell you that but it will be pretty awesome. I can’t tell you our secrets.

While Grohe’s plans for the future aren’t publicly clear, one thing’s for sure is that with technology, the next era of design creation has arrived. Human-centric products are now necessary in order to be meaningful and relevant to consumers. One example is the Grohe Icon 3D, the brand’s first 3D metal-printed faucets. The new Grohe Atrio Icon 3D and Grohe Allure Brilliant Icon 3D – produced by printing metal using a powder bed laser melting process – are creations that once seemed impossible. The innovation of the ultra thin walls of the Grohe Atrio Icon 3D and the hollow interior in the familiar silhouette of Grohe Allure Brilliant equal to making water flow appear magical.

Grohe’s expertise and success in the industry aren’t surprising at all, with more than 6,000 employees worldwide, five production plants in three different countries, and presence in over 130 countries worldwide. Whether it is the Grohe Sensia Arena shower toilet, Grohe Sense smart water sensor, or Grohe Lineare faucets among many other state-of-the-art creations in Grohe’s intensive catalogue of products, the reality is clear and apparent: Grohe is shaping the future of water.

For more information on Grohe, visit their website.

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