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INAX X Monocle

Storied beginnings and a fresh approach

Inax is Japan’s pioneering manufacturer of toilets, sinks, bathtubs, faucets and tiles. Founders Hatsunojo Ina and his son Chozaburo started their company (originally called Ina Seito) in 1924 in Tokoname, a traditional pottery town in central Japan. INAX’s global launch of two new collections at Milan Design Week showcases the brand’s Japanese heritage and craftsmanship, cutting-edge technologies, sublime design and uncompromising quality – elements that turn bathrooms into comfortable, relaxing spaces that improve people’s lives.

Design
Inax is reimagining bathroom design, creating relaxing, beautiful spaces. This is not achieved with a single product: comfort comes from a careful composition of toilets, bathtubs, wash basins, faucets and tiles. It’s a level of expertise that Inax has developed over nearly a century and through collaborations with top architects and designers.

Every Inax product is a balance of three values: essence, sophistication and thoughtfulness. The brand’s designers prioritise function, innovation and ease-of-use and strip out excess decoration. They also respect tradition and focus on quality and craftsmanship, paying particular attention to the way a product feels and is finished and how it will be used.

 

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Three basic shapes give Inax’s products their signature look.

 

Squoval
Part square, part oval, this shape incorporates both human and architectural elements, creating a connection between people and buildings. 

Tension
Inspired by the curved surface of water, this gently sloping shape reflects light and adds dynamism. It is precise and beautiful but also functional: water naturally flows over it.

Volcano
This robust and elegant form intuitively guides users to its peak and has a surface that’s easy to clean.

 

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Chief design officer Paul Flowers talks to us about Inax’s global launch.

What was the design approach for the Inax launch?
Our task was to modernise the brand but still emphasise Japan’s cultural elements. We worked to embed a set of simple elements into our work with three basic shapes: squoval, tension and volcano. We also developed a culture of design-thinking, enforcing a consistent, detailed level of design that works on an objective level.

How is Japanese culture reflected in your products?
Our brand values are essence, sophistication and thoughtfulness. These really resonate with the cultural aspects of Japan and act as the guiding principle for everything we create – whether it’s a website, product packaging or an interaction with consumers.

What makes Inax unique?
We have a heritage of being a technology-led brand and we want to continue to lead with our technology. We created the world’s first-ever commercial shower toilet, which has a bigger consumer base than dishwashers in Japan. And we’ve got 100 years of knowledge of making ceramics – we provided the tiles for the design of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.

What are some key design elements, technologies and manufacturing processes?
The Inax blue colour is a strong brand element. When you turn on the shower or flush the toilet, the Inax blue appears to let you know that the water is flowing. You will see it in all of our products. In a number of products, we use what we call “intelligent control”. It’s a unique shower valve that allows you to control the volume of water and reduce consumption. We also consider the spray; the way the water comes out is unique. These are human-centric features – we don’t use technology needlessly. What we try to do with our technology is ask, “What is the human benefit?”

Are there differences in bathing cultures between Japan and the west?
Japanese people bathe at a higher temperature than those in the west. In onsen (hot spring) bathing houses they clean themselves before they get into the tub, even at home. But there are challenges to taking it global – such as universal design and ecology – that our designers can tackle while examining different demographics and weighing the needs of elderly and young people.

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