Kohler - The goal of this project was to create an innovative product experience, centered on the use and enjoyment of water, that specifically caters to the human senses. This ten week project was completed in collaboration with Kohler fixtures.
Research - This project began with pure research into the human senses. One traditional sense was selected, as well two non-traditional. I investigated sound, synesthesia, and temperature. Synesthesia is the combination of one sense with another. For example, people with perfect pitch are often able to see flashes of color when they hear a note.
Inspiration - After investigation of the senses form an abstract viewpoint, this information was applied more directly to an experience involving water in the home. As my exploration progressed, the sense of sound became an inspiration for one of the three initial concepts. Specifically, the sound that water makes as it contacts a tensioned membrane.
Sketch & Model - The tensioned membrane concept was explored further in sketches, as well as small scale tests to validate the types of shapes that could be achieved.
Early Concept - This was one of three initial concept directions presented at a mid-term review with Kohler staff.
Context - Interaction with the sink and fixture was investigated more thoroughly. Common tasks were examined to determine any areas for improvement over conventional fixtures. As a result, the simple two position system pictured in the mid-term concept was expanded into a more dynamic proposal. The tensioned membrane would be electrically actuated to allow the sink to respond to the flow of water, changing shape in response to changes in flow from the fixture.
Refined Concept - The sink is at the same level as the countertop when no water is flowing. As flow increases, the sink gradually transitions into the shape the user has selected. Pictured above is the off state, small sink, large sink, and upward sink shapes.
Faucet Details - Turning the fixture changes temperature from hot to cold, while flow is controlled with a push/pull motion. The user selects the sink shape they desire via 3 buttons, molded into the countertop membrane. The shape of the button corresponds to the sink shape: extended upwards, shallow, or deep.
In Use - The ability to change the shape of the sink allows the user to balance counter space with sink area depending on the task. If they are applying makeup or brushing their teeth, a smaller shape can be used, allowing more space for items. If the user is washing their face, they do not have to bend over as far, the sink can rise up to meet them.
In Use - The water contacting the membrane causes a light tone, constantly altering as the membrane changes in tension. The silicone material is less thermally conductive then standard countertop materials, it feels warmer to the touch. Since the countertop and sink are created from a single sheet, this eliminates the seams between sink and counter and facilitates cleaning.
Paul Summerson
Industrial Designer San Francisco, CA