Design choices

There are many considerations to be made when creating a product to be a design hit while addressing issues of sustainability and client satisfaction, says Michelle Iacovitti

The challenge with design is to lead while making sure the end results are relevant to those who you are appealing to. For design to succeed, particularly with a functional product, the creativity needs to be built on firm foundations and have genuine substance, such as a global trend, so that your target audience can immediately identify with your reasoning and connect with your product.

Coming from a background in fashion, I am well aware that being at the forefront of design can lack impact if no one is following, your next move is awaited (think iPad 2), or if your designs are perceived as inaccessible (think haute couture).

Our challenge at InterfaceFLOR is indeed to lead and be relevant. As a result, our collections are built on contemporary design trends that pervade our culture and society and resonate with key audiences, not only acting to inspire but also to inform spending habits and support purchase choice. This is why we are renowned as leaders in design.

Hence there is a lot to consider when thinking about design. One major factor is end-user requirements; as a manufacturer of modular carpets we need our end product to remain practical and relevant. Other considerations include new and innovative technologies available, and we are constantly investing in the systems and processes that produce the end product, ensuring that our capabilities are always increasing.

Another major factor is maximizing the use of sustainable advances. As a company that is comprehensively and wholeheartedly committed to protecting our environment, sustainable measures impact on every stage of the design process. How much yarn will the new product require? What kind of dyes? Where will the raw materials be sourced from and what production methods will be used? These are just some of the questions we constantly ask ourselves.

All of these points do not limit creativity, however;. Quite the opposite, they add to the design process and enable us to be even more creative.

This year we encapsulated our new collections within a theme of escapism. Based on design trends that are dominating and leading the creative way all over the world this year, the products were interpreted through a series of classic fairy tales, each reinterpreted with a contemporary and surreal twist.

Against a background of a tough financial climate and an uncertain future, the new Once Upon a Tile collection embraces fantasy and fiction, with an element of mystery. This move towards escapism is also reflected by recent popular film culture, with Red Riding Hood, Snow White and Rapunzel getting the Hollywood treatment.

And as I said at the outset, it is crucial that there is a clear path from conception to finished product if specifiers and end-users are to buy into the individual products, as well as the design ethos behind them. We work hard to bring the concepts, and the journeys, to life.

One such example is the Concrete Mix collection, born out of the strong, structural and linear forms currently influencing many American designers. This is demonstrated through the use of geometric shapes, which are angular and interlocking, creating an architectural and industrial feel, softened by shading. This serves to bring impressions of the built environment indoors. Taking this a stage further, the collection is almost monochromatic, with colours displaying parallels with common building materials: plaster, cement stone and concrete. Along with finish, texture and surface pattern, this led to representing the collection through the tale of Rapunzel, locked away in her tower.

In contrast, the richness and opulence of Luxury Living could seem like a peculiar choice in the current climate. However, trends show that people are thinking more carefully about how they spend their money. Instead of frequent, low-value ‘disposable’ purchases they prefer to invest in products that they know will give them a long-term, more sustainable solution, placing value on aspects such as uthenticity and reliability.

The second reason for opting for luxury is the comfort and reassurance it offers – providing an escape in challenging economic times. In the range this translated to a collection comprising deep, rich tones and extra-high pile, with attention paid to fine detail in an interpretation of opulent materials such as velvet and lace. The end result is a warm and cosy, almost ‘cocooning’, effect in three tufted, cut-pile styles. A true product innovation and a premier addition to our ranges.

Continuing the fairy-tale theme, Luxury Living is depicted by a scene from Cinderella – a character surrounded by, albeit unobtainable, affluence. The result was a high-profile collection, which told its own story and hopefully gave character and a background story to what is, in essence, a very functional product. And all of this was achieved, with sustainability, ease of use and durability.

This article was first published in fx Magazine.

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