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What LIXIL’s Jean-Jacques L’Hénaff Looks For in Emerging Designers

What LIXIL’s Jean-Jacques L’Hénaff Looks For in Emerging Designers

“A generous amount of empathy” is one key thing Jean-Jacques L’Hénaff, leader of LIXIL Global Design for the Americas, looks for in design talent. WantedDesign is honored to have Jean-Jacques as part of the Launch Pad 2021 jury.

Over the past 25 years, Jean-Jacques has built and managed international design teams in the US and Asia for companies such as Terk Technologies, Kohler and LIXIL/American Standard. He looks for deep connections between the product on one side, and the users and stakeholders on the other, to create lasting value for the various brands he worked for. His work spans consumer electronics, private yachts and aircraft interiors, bath and kitchen fixtures and fittings, medical devices, branded retail environments, packaging, and subway train interiors.

In 2013, Jean-Jacques L’Hénaff joined LIXIL Water Technology America, where he spent the last eight years building an award-winning design team responsible for the design of all American Standard and DXV products. 

Jean-Jacques is passionate about discovering and supporting the next generation of designers. American Standard, part of LIXIL’s portfolio of global brands, is a long-time WantedDesign partner and the sponsor for Launch Pad 2021.

We spoke with Jean-Jacques about his role at LIXIL, his vision for American Standard, and what he is looking for when reviewing young designers’ portfolios and projects.

WantedDesign: Can you share a bit of the new design vision and concept for American Standard’s upcoming collections?

Jean-Jacques L’Hénaff: We just completed an important project called the American Standard “Reference Line.” This collection of products will not go to market, but instead is meant to represent the purest expression of our brand values, and will help maintain consistency and homogeneity in our design approach. It is our “North Star,” a benchmark to use when creating future American Standard products.

Photo credit: American Standard

The American Standard brand is Dependable, it is Inviting, and it is Pioneering. We translated these brand values into physical Signature Elements – Taper, Pillow and Frame – meticulously chosen to imbue our products with form and qualities that will help us build brand equity and generate more long-term value for our brand. In short, we created a semantic, a code, a language.

Beyond the form language, it was also important for us to demonstrate the user-centric design process that is the bedrock of our design philosophy. So most of these products have been developed using our Presearch process – a process that combines ethnographic and market research, consumer segmentation, brand values and trends research, which led to a number of utility patents. The intellectual property created through this process will fuel our future product lines for years to come. 

You will start seeing this work infuse new products in the months to come. First, this November, we are launching a new touchless faucet – CleanIR – that leverages fully our Signature Elements. Then our first full collection based on all these principles will be announced in the next year and will certainly mark the start of a new era for American Standard.

Photo credit: American Standard

WD: What are your design priorities at LIXIL, and across the brands?

At LIXIL, our role as designers is to leverage trends and insights to create experiences for our consumers and value for our brands. We are currently applying the same approach we used for the American Standard Reference Line to our other brands in order to increase the equity through consistency within each brand, and create clearer differentiation between them.

WD: What do you think will be the big changes, new lifestyle and habits in the years to come that design should respond to?

The pandemic has accelerated a number of trends that were a long time coming. It seems reasonable to think that we will continue to spend a higher share of our lives at home and not in office, as technology made our connections seamless and remote work a new normal. So both of these environments – home and work – are being looked at under a different light now, within their new roles and functions.

I invite you to look at our new North American headquarters that just opened in Piscataway NJ, as an example of how we translated our vision into a new office concept that reflect our values.

In response to the insecurity of the outside world, our homes have become sanctuaries more than ever, a trend that is poised to impact interior design for some time. But I see the urgency of the climate change crisis as the most consequential event influencing the way we design, produce, ship and use products in the future. For us at LIXIL, it will certainly impact product development, manufacturing and distribution, and will also present a unique opportunity to redefine human behavior toward this precious resource we call Water.

Photo credit: American Standard

WD: Finally Jean-Jacques, can you tell us what you look for when you scout for new design talent?

At LIXIL, our design philosophy is rooted in User-Centric Design. We tend to look for designers who, beyond having a passion for creating products and possessing a great sense of form and detail, demonstrate a generous amount of empathy, are curious about the way users live their lives, and seek ways to make it better. More and more, the projects we work on are multidimensional – they have a research component, a technology component, a branding component, etc. – so having designers who approach projects in a holistic way is very critical as well.

Thank you, Jean-Jacques, for speaking with us and continuing to be a supporter of emerging design talent.

Discover emerging design talent in-person at Launch Pad at WantedDesign Manhattan 2021, Nov 14-15, at the Javits Center in New York City during NYCxDESIGN. Registration is open.