Style, fashion and technology in tile: Tile Files - Aug/Sep 2015

By Ryan Fasan

In any design or fashion industry, technology—both past and present—dictates the limits of design and levels a staggering impact on prevailing trends. The challenging task for the ceramic tile artist and manufacturer is to tweak and perfect current production capabilities to provide consumers with something that fits the ineffable sweet spot within those design trends. That sweet spot is different for ceramic tile than for any other material due to tile’s longevity. Ceramics must take the long view on trends and strive for savvy timelessness.

So what constitutes savvy timelessness? And how does it tie back to tile and tile trends? There are four key ingredients: analysis of micro and macro trends and technological capabilities, along with the harmony principle.

Macro trend analysis:
A macro trend analysis takes a look at overarching themes in multiple industries, like cinema, travel, literature, technology, graphic design, counter-cultures, paint and furniture, among other related design and lifestyle industries. All of these industries have an impact on each other. When creating tile, the designer’s job is to assimilate the macro trend data and create a unique interpretation based on a ceramic tile’s lifespan, target clientele and application. 

Technological capability analysis:
No matter which way you look at it, design is unavoidably interconnected with technology. Creativity is constrained by what is economically and technologically feasible to create at established market prices. If a product is too expensive for the market to bear or too difficult to produce, it is inevitably doomed to failure and obscurity. 

The digital printing technique used today is light years ahead of the technology used even five years ago. As technology progresses through its natural exponential curve, so do the capabilities of product design. 

Micro trend analysis:
Tile is part of a microcosm of design materials, where each category is dependent on its relationship to the whole. Micro trends are associated with a specific sector of the marketplace. Tile epitomizes the savvy timelessness principle due to its longevity and the fact that it is the main canvas for a space. By necessity, the tile industry must take into account current micro-trends in shorter lifecycle products, like paint and fabrics, and take complementary or contrasting action. The ultimate design goal is to make everything else look better because of the surfaces surrounding it. 

Harmony principle:
The final ingredient in achieving savvy timelessness is the application of the harmony principle, which is achieved when all parts of the visual design relate to and complement each other. If a specific target customer, demographic or psychographic is outlined in the concept phase of design, and the development process keeps this top of mind throughout, the end result is savvy timelessness with lifelong value for the consumer.

Ceramic tile is uniquely suited to cater to today’s trends in style, fashion and technology, due to the balanced marriage of modern innovations with centuries of artisanal history and experience. Following are some of the overarching timeless trends. 

Retro reboot: Reviving the past with retro patterns, colors or formats seldom goes out of style. Vintage patterns can be recreated with new tiles and fresh patterns that mix with contemporary elements in order to reach a fresh, new look. Retro tile series like Peronda FS and Aparici’s Moving include a mix of coordinating patterns that, when used together, create a cohesive patterned look. The variety of elements offered by retro tiles allows the design of countless high-impact, creative compositions that result in environments with strong personalities.

Shimmer and shine: Tiles today have a mixture of shine and matte finishes, from subtle horizontal lines of gloss to ornate filigrees on neutral backgrounds. Tile collections from Apavisa, Dune and Grespania are great examples. In particular, the Grespania Crystal series combines neutral colors that are elegantly simple (white, ivory, grey and navy) with horizontal lines in a shiny finish of varying intensity that results in a glamorous, sophisticated look. 

Geometric gems: Hexagon shapes are the geometric favorite of the moment—they are everywhere! This timeless shape is now being seen in new ways, from monochromatic color schemes to subtle retro patterns like the Revolution series from Vives. Natucer Fusion showcases hexagons in elongated shapes, creating a twist on the classic hexagon. The Caprice series, also from Natucer, includes hexagons or honeycomb shapes with three-dimensional extruded porcelain tile in four different monochromatic pattern designs.

Graphic patterns: The movement from geometrics to graphic patterns is expressed in a mix of square and rectangular shapes. A collection with Asian influences, Inalco’s Poise is synonymous with simplicity, order and balance. The subtle tone-on-tone overlapping pattern adds movement and timelessness to the neutral toned tiles. 

Patterns go to the edge with Peronda’s Scales, literally on the tile’s edge. At first glance the series appears to consist of ordinary square white tiles, but then you see the Day-Glo fluorescent color that looks like grout, but it is actually the outside edge of each of the angled ceramic pieces. The edges create a unique graphic pattern meant to imitate the feeling of vibrating movement by fish underwater. 

Heavy metal: Current trends in metallics in tile range from hints of metal and shine to gold effects and three-dimensional tiles that offer raised shapes instead of smooth tile surfaces. Grespania, Peronda and Togama are getting in the metal game with mosaics and small piece tiles.

Strong stones: Some of the beauty of tile versus stone is that tile is lighter and less expensive than much of the stone found in nature, and it can be installed in areas where stone would not be ideal, like the inside of a shower. Stone-look tile is the essence of a timeless design. The trend we are seeing right now is stones with strong character. Companies like Fanal, Porcelanicos HDC and Roca Tile are creating bold stone-look tiles, deep in color, in both rustic and polished finishes that make a daring proclamation in any space.

Copyright 2015 Floor Focus