Nick Johnston of Rogerseller
Through my work as an interior designer I’ve known about Rogerseller for some time, and their reputation for stocking beautiful and quality Italian kitchen and bathroom products. I recently found out that they also have an amazing in-house design team based in Melbourne led by Nick Johnston. Their in-house team has created a range of bathware products including the award-winning Eccentric range (winner of the 2017 Red Dot Design Award & Best in Category Good Design Award).
We sat down with Nick Johnston for a quick chat to find out more about his approach to design, and Rogerseller’s commitment to Australian design.
Rogerseller began its Australian retail journey over 120 years ago in Melbourne and grew to be a major importer of premium Italian products. Building on that success, Rogerseller decided to get into direct in-house design and launched their By Rogerseller range and began to forge their own distinct design identity and principles. Nick describes the Rogerseller design ethos as being:
Functional and delightful, going over and above a quality, functional product and developing a unique personality that creates an emotional experience that will continue throughout the life of the product.
Longevity of design and engineering resolution are integral to the process to maintain the brand’s reputation. All products must be made to last both aesthetically and physically, so Nick’s design strives to be at the forefront of modern design while considering all aspects embodied in the product ensuring this longevity.
From practicality to how it’s used every day, durability of finishes & materials, manufacturability, installation and servicing, it’s necessary to resolve all aspects of the products lifecycle.
In terms of when we think about environmental responsibility, besides being conscious of materials & processes, it has a lot to do with making sure that the product lasts the test of time through its performance.
We’re quite selective in the fashion & trends that we adopt – which are becoming a lot faster moving with the likes of Instagram, and that’s probably the biggest effort we can make to reduce our impact - to make the product relevant for 20+ years.
One aspect of the By Rogerseller range that I think is great is that they don’t seem to be in a rush to arbitrarily put out as many products as possible to fill every product category. Rather, each product that they’ve added to their range seems to fill a specific need in the Australian market, while maintaining their design integrity and consistent quality of design across the range. This moderation and commitment to creating timeless pieces extends to the materials and finishes, which have been thoughtfully chosen for both durability and looks.
MM: How do you design for the Australian market? Is there anything in particular that you have to take into consideration?
NJ: In Australia, we’re obviously heavily influenced by European design, however over time I think we’ve adopted bits & pieces from various cultures; Italian, German, Scandinavian & Belgian and beginning to formulate our own aesthetic. With the help of Instagram, we’re starting to get a bit bolder, but generally I think Aussie style is a little bit more laid back and conservative than say Italian design.
At Rogerseller we like to say we’re influenced by an Italian aesthetic with German quality & functionality.
Designing premium but commercial goods for the Australian market can be challenging. This creates a small niche of market potential, meaning that you need to be creative in how to produce things economically and encourage high-end producers to get on board. Fortunately, I think Australian design is starting to gain some traction globally opening up export opportunities for volume.
MM: Talk us through your design background? And how did you get here?
NJ: I studied a Bachelor of Engineering in Product Design at Swinburne University and then went on to do a placement & thesis project at Miele design centre in Germany – where I discovered a passion for quality, design-led home appliances that connected with people, designing concepts for vacuums, washing machines & fridges and the like.
Returning to Australia, I set out to find a company that was also privately owned and positioned similarly in the market with a design-led focus. I started out doing point of sale concepts for the likes Samsung & Microsoft but the design would always get crushed on price. I then decided to knock on the door at Rogerseller, realising there were great synergies I started a couple of months later as junior designer over 6 years ago and here I am heading up the design.
MM: How has technology changed the way you design?
NJ: I’ve had quite a bit of exposure to VR when designing at Miele you could literally see the product you were designing in real-time. We don’t quite have the luxury of that yet, but VR is certainly becoming more accessible. 3D printing however I think is the most exciting technology. You can turn something around really quickly, flick a CAD out and it comes back in a day or two. The cost, speed, and materiality is rapidly advancing and challenging traditional ways of manufacturing, opening up new opportunities.
MM: Where do you see your design going next?
NJ: There’s quite an interesting question, in addition to building on the recent success of Eccentric & Caldera collections for Rogerseller, there’s quite a few exciting projects coming through in categories that I haven’t worked in before, which I think keeps it fresh and gives new perspective that will hopefully shake up things a bit. Naturally I think as an industrial designer as you progress you begin to think more holistically about the user experience through every touch-point, rather than just the physical product.