Design by Tarkett
With the new 2010-2011 collection about to go on sale, Tarkett’s designers worldwide are already halfway through production of the next one. Each collection represents two years of gathering information, developing ideas and bringing along new products, all with the aim as Beatrice Mange, Tarkett’s Design Vice President Design says, “of producing collections that offer solutions for every application and every use, with the widest possible range of textures, colours and patterns.”
Sandrine Bellavoine heads up Tarkett’s Trend Competence and Forecasts Centre and she’s responsible for getting the best input for the designers on new developments. According to her, “Putting together a new collection is a collaboration.” That means maintaining close contacts with international trend monitoring groups and with other designers. She also visits trade fairs –not just the flooring and construction industries – but all types of design and major sectors such as health and education. “They are an opportunity,” she says, “to understand the specific requirements of particular environments and the part that flooring solutions can play in the overall design".
The customer view
In some cases, such as healthcare and education, new research into the physiological and psychological effects of certain colours and patterns can have serious implications. “We’re very aware”, says Beatrice “that in certain areas, you have to be very sensitive to the importance of colour and pattern. For example, in hospitals certain colours will provide an ambience that is more emotionally satisfying. Or, some patterns can create visual disturbances for people such as epileptics. These are of vital concern to our customers and we have to be sure that we’re working from the most up-to-date information.” But in the end, the collection always has to strike a balance between the practical requirements and aesthetics.
In some case, outside professionals can also provide new insights into how products can be used. That’s happened over the last few years where leading designers and architects have started to exploit the visual and technical potential of vinyl. That in turn has influenced the designers. “Seeing vinyl being used in exciting new ways”, says Sandrine, “ is an inspiration for new designs. As a result we’ve developed and continue to develop new products and wider ranges in more high-design styles. With a product as versatile as Tarkett’s residential vinyl, there’s simply no limit to the designs. Nature, abstract - whatever you like – you can reproduce it on vinyl.”
Design at your service
But it’s how specific designs are used that determines the final result. As part of Tarkett’s overall service, the design team also provide advice on how to use colour combinations to the best effect, or on using flooring design for wayfinding or signage, or for creating an identity.
The design team also respond to requests for designs for specific products. “We were recently approached by our sales team in the UK” explains Sandrine, “because a survey had shown a demand for safety flooring with a wider range of design – that didn’t look like safety products. They wanted something that looked more natural, such as wood, but that retained specific technical features.” The design produced as a result of this request is an ideal solution for places, such as care homes, where a warm, homely atmosphere is required as well as safety.
Finally, for very specific demands, the Floorcraft Design Service Tarkett also offers clients customised solutions that make the floor a feature in its own right.
The research carried out by the designers and their contact with clients can provide the inspiration for new products. The design team work closely with Tarkett’s own R&D department and product management are involved in products from the first idea to production. In the case of homogeneous vinyl, where the pattern is part of the production process, this sort of involvement is very important because the type of design that can be produced is currently fairly restricted. However, new techniques are being developed all the time that will increase the potential designs in the future.
The feel good factor
Design isn’t just about how the flooring looks – it has to feel right too. As Beatrice explains, “It’s important that the appearance doesn’t create an expectation of how a floor will feel, and the touch fails to deliver.” To make sure that happens, each product is carefully considered in terms of tactile appeal and the surface structure and embossing are designed to mimic the realism of the design.
For commercial customers, performance can be just as important as a design that reflects the latest trends. Equally, in many situations the certainty that a favourite colour or design will continue to be produced and will be readily available is an important factor in a design choice. For the design team the challenge is to create a complete range of flooring solutions that not only reflects current trends but also incorporates timeless styles – and to match those designs to the right functionalities.
And the future for flooring
So what has the design team produced for the 2010 – 2011 season? “There’s one theme that runs most clearly through all the trends for the coming year” says Sandrine “and that’s environmental values. The environment is a key issue whether the general style is natural, technological, simple or elaborate. That’s reflected not only in the appearance but also in product formulas, surface treatments and production techniques.” Meanwhile, it’s back to next year’s collection.
Some of the enormous potential of Tarkett vinyl can be seen in an exhibition created by Tarkett. Called “Cooking by Tarkett” all the food in this kitchen - cakes, chocolate, sweets, biscuits, marshmallow etc. - is vinyl. “It is designed” says Beatrice Mange, Tarkett’s Vice President for Design, “to explore new sensations, and show vinyl from another perspective, through all the things that go with cooking: play, pleasure, surprise, touch, imagination, contemplation…”.