Catalonian born, Roca Design Manager, Josep Congost believes good bathroom products must consider ergonomics, aesthetics and a simple interface.

A seemingly modest design mantra, its application has taken Congost from the engineering classrooms at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia to managing Roca’s internationally recognised Design Center & Innovation Lab.

His engineering background and sustainability mindfulness certainly curtails  superfluity of design at Roca—a multinational producer of bathroom products - where Congost admits his obsession with ergonomics and functionality helps him remain from being either overly fashionable or antiquated. 

Congost has held director, managerial and chair positions on many international design boards including the Nissan European Technology Center of Barcelona and Ecot├Ęcnia—a Spanish co-op devoted to engineering sustainable wind energy. 

His design expertise has recently been called on by Australian bathroom company Reece, who earlier this month announced that he will co-judge their 2014 Bathroom Innovation Award to be announced in August.

We caught up with Congost to discuss the awards, his design philosophy and the future of bathroom design.

Explain the process of Good Design, what are the main considerations that need to influence design for you?

Good design should meet the functional requirements and have good ergonomics and user comfort. It must be aesthetic and thorough down to the last detail, and have a simple interface. A good design should be environmentally friendly and never seem antiquated, avoiding being fashionable.

What does innovation mean to you? What are the specifics of innovation that you look for most prominently?

Technological developments are always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But most importantly, innovation must meet the expectations and needs of the consumer, but should not manipulate it with promises that cannot be met.

In the case of bath products, innovation that is pursued is basically to add more functions and better product performance, such as saving water. Put simply, they’re innovative products that help to make everyday tasks just a little bit easier.

Are there any examples where an innovation from Roca has been picked up by market leaders for production?

A couple of examples are the W+W and the In-Tank.

The W+W (Video below) is the sum of its indispensable parts for saving water and space based on the fusion of a sink and a toilet in one single piece. Its refill system filters the basin's water for reuse in the flush cistern. And because its exclusive L-shaped design, it forms a previously unthinkable single body which provides great freedom of movement and space saving.

The In-Tank WC (Video below) is the first to have a concealed cistern integrated into the pan. The In-Tank WC features Softair technology - an air injection system in the cistern that optimises water flow. The flush buttons on the side of the WC activate an air pump that emits a flow of air. This pushes water up from the internal cistern to fill the rim of the pan, while the downward flow clears the bowl. The cistern is then replenished to its optimum level and ready for use. It is the optimal solution for easy installation of wall hung toilets by negating the need for a cistern inside the wall.

What are you working on now? What is the future of Bathroom design and innovation?

With the population aged 65 years old and over set to double over the next 40 years, aged care bathroom design is an important factor in enabling the elderly to maintain independency at home for longer. That is a real focus for future of bathroom design and innovation.

Innovation in this space has to facilitate the execution of routine tasks. The user should be able to perform them without additional knowledge and/or special skills and new products must create the perception of safety. They should also delay the so called “Critical Support Point”, the moment when external help is required to perform the bathroom basic activities. An appealing design and simplicity of the interface should make all special features look desirable.

Where do see the role of sustainability in bathroom innovation and design?

From long ago, one of the main criteria of good design has been sustainability and the promotion of eco products. But now we see that even though the environmental concern of the consumers is growing, they will only adopt sustainable practices if they receive direct benefits that are visible and measurable.

Being sustainable must be convenient: it must require little or no effort, and it must be very clear what is the impact of every action. It must also provide value: it must help the consumer to save resources (water, energy, money) and it must be measurable.

From a corporate perspective, sustainability is not only about supporting a positive reputation but is also about achieving growth: cutting costs and searching for opportunities in new markets and products.