Donald Cremers remembers the day a colleague walked past his office and complimented a carpet sample laying on the floor next to his desk.
While it’s not unusual for Cremers to have product samples displayed around his space, this particular piece of carpet was part of the Mannington Vivendi collection he had designed.
“That feedback was nice to hear, as it was completely unsolicited and came from someone who sees hundreds of samples,” said Cremers, an interior designer at HOK in San Francisco
It also validated a design collaboration that HOK initiated with two manufacturers to create a system of coordinated product lines. The first-of-its-kind pairing brings together the Mannington Vivendi collection of resilient sheet flooring and carpet with the Pallas Valetudo collection of privacy curtains and upholstery.
“One benefit for us and the manufacturers is that we get immediate feedback from designers who will be specifying the product,” said Eric Koffler. “Sometimes coworkers agree with my opinion and other times they provide fantastic insight.”
It was HOK’s keen insight into healthcare trends that identified a market need for aesthetically pleasing, easily coordinated interior products.
“This isn’t a simplistic ‘Garanimals’ approach to matching colors,” said Cremers. “It’s creating a family of products that look good together and complement each other.”
The goal was to simplify the process of selecting materials for design projects, particularly small renovation jobs challenged by tight schedules and limited budgets.
“Even someone without a formal design background could lay these products out and know that they’re going to have a cohesive palette,” Koffler said.
The opportunity to shape the future of healthcare interiors appealed to Koffler, who had previously designed spaces in the corporate and education sectors and was frustrated by the lack of stylish options for healthcare projects.
“I was able to voice my opinion on healthcare color and style trends,” he said. “It’s about introducing more color, boldness and vibrancy while maintaining the durability and infection control required for healthcare environments.”
Both manufacturers were eager to create flexible product lines that could extend into other markets seeking stylish, high-performance products, including education, hospitality, retail, corporate and institutional.
“This type of product is about color, texture and pattern,” Cremers said. “We weren’t reinventing how they make carpet or textiles. We were creating an aesthetic that starts as digital sketches and often evolves into something that’s woven or tufted.”
Designing the products required synthesizing the diverse perspectives of groups within Mannington and Pallas.
“We dealt with marketing, sales, manufacturing and sustainability teams across the country,” Cremers said. “That was fun. Everyone has a different objective and approach.”
For Koffler, the experience included learning a new language.
“Learning the nomenclature of the textile and carpet industries was a challenge,” he said. “We also learned tricks of the trade, like how weaving a textile in a subtly different way can create a completely different effect or color.”
That knowledge has come in handy.
“When vendors bring in new products, I’m now able to speak their language, which catches them off guard,” he said.
Ultimately, Cremers said, the product design experience strengthens HOK’s credibility with clients.
“It elevates our presence in the eyes of our clients to know that we’re influencing the whole healthcare design industry,” he said. “It demonstrates our leadership that manufacturers want to partner with us to help enhance their product design.”
Since their debut in 2011, both product lines have exceeded sales projections and won several prestigious industry design awards, including two NeoCon Gold Awards and a Nightingale Award for the Mannington Vivendi collection.
HOK Product Design is currently working with two new manufacturers to expand the offering of stylish surfaces available to the healthcare market.