The German sanitation industry is orienting itself with growing success towards the international market. It owes its position among the world's leading nations not only to its high standards of quality but also to its uncompromising focus on design.
In this connection, design is the motive force behind the industry's export drive in two respects: on the one hand, as a tool for effectively attracting customers throughout the world and, on the other hand, as a guarantee of the proven blend of quality and functionality, for which products made in Germany are renowned.
German design has long since developed into international design. In particular, companies of the German sanitation industry have evolved their design culture to a very high level and, in cooperation with German and international designers including Philippe Starck, Sir Norman Foster, Marc Newson and André Putman, to mention only some of the highlights of the last two years, are now setting international standards in the fields of ceramic articles, bathtubs and faucets, as well as in the fitness and wellness sectors.
The traditional orientation towards purposeful industrial design has resulted in a design language that, even today, is associated with perfection, straightforwardness and objectivity. These characteristic qualities have contributed to the universal spread of German brand-name products. Today, they are benefiting from the international trend towards reduction and simplicity, the product characteristics of which also convey a notional return to a 'new modesty'. Nevertheless, German product design is nowadays distinguished by a highly individual blend of functional purity and a new, exciting emotionality that can be understood in all cultures.
The best example of an innovation-oriented design culture is the successful 'Raindance' range of shower fittings made by the Hansgrohe fittings-manufacturing company from Germany's Black Forest, which has developed into a full-range supplier in the wellness sector (export share: 72 percent). The foundation was laid in 2003 by the 'Raindance' hand shower that, via new, well-balanced proportions – broad showerhead, short handle – unifies the showering pleasure of a XXL shower with the handiness of the classic hand shower, which is particularly popular in Europe. The creators of the new shape, the German Phoenix Design Team, have been working together Hansgrohe for many years. The 'Raindance' range was recently joined by another variation on the idea of luxury showering: the minimalist 'Rainbow' shower set.
The Dornbracht fittings-manufacturing company has been successful in the international market for many years (export share: 55.9 percent). 'Tara', its luxury range of fittings, made the star handle fashionable again. Launched in 2003, the MEM product concept, which was developed in cooperation with the German Sieger Design agency, stands for the solution-oriented tradition of German design products with bathing rituals being staged and combined with a luxury appeal.
As a full-range supplier coming from the ceramic sector and having a worldwide production and sales network, the Duravit company (export share: 64.9 percent) has taken advantage of its strong position in the market for an ambitious design project. The company's working relationship with the star French designer Philippe Starck began in 1994 when the Starck 1 bathroom series created a worldwide sensation. This was joined in 2002 by Starck 3, a complete series offering particularly good value for money at the same time as combining functionalism and versatility with the fanciful design so typical of Starck.
Villeroy & Boch AG is also internationally renowned and famed not just for tableware products but also for lifestyle bathrooms. The company's bathroom products are distinguished by the flair of modern and multi-cultural design and, in particular, by traditional styles that are highly popular throughout the world. For instance, the 'Hommage' collection unifies the charm of a classic ambience with modern expectations of quality and functionality. Among those responsible for this successful symbiosis of familiar shapes with modern design sensitivity is Germany's 'molldesign' agency.
Another company represented around the world is Europe's biggest fittings manufacturer, Grohe (export share: 76 percent). Based in the German town of Hemer, the company is the world's biggest exporter of bathroom fittings. In this case, too, Grohe design stands for quality and durability. Nevertheless, the company also focuses on the universal appeal of design that ensures easy product use independently of age, fitness or cultural background. The latest design highlight is the F1 series of fittings for which Grohe joined forces with ceramic manufacturer Karamag to take advantage of the power of attraction exercised by the name Porsche Design. The result: a union of three German brands, each of which stands for quality.
Design by Grohe, Hansgrohe, Dornbracht, Duravit, Keramag, Villeroy & Boch and many other market leaders is to be seen at ISH – International Trade Fair for Building and Energy Technology, The Bathroom Experience, Air Conditioning and Ventilation Technology – in Frankfurt am Main from 15 to 19 March 2005. Altogether, around 2,300 exhibitors are expected to show their latest products to some 180,000 trade visitors from all over the world on 250,00 square metres of exhibition space (gross) at ISH 2005.
Moreover, the ISH is holding a design competition under the name 'Outlook Shaping Water', the aim of which is to encourage young designers to develop creative solutions for the bathroom as a whole. For young designers, this is a chance to enter into a professional and critical dialogue with experienced designers, architects and representatives of the sanitation industry. But that's not all: the Design Plus competition and the Architecture and Technology Innovation Prize also put the spotlight on objects that successfully combine aesthetic and functional criteria.
Exhibitor information, event details and information about the competitions can be found on the ISH homepage.