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Diving Into Crossville Inc.’s Tile Research and Resources

04/01/2020 By Adrian Thompson

Hear how American tile manufacturer Crossville Inc. provides architects, designers and installers with research-based products, such as the new colorful Cursive collection, along with informative tile tools and resources.

Crossville Inc.*This podcast was created in partnership with Crossville Inc.

[Start transcript]

Adrian Thompson: Welcome to I Hear Design, an interiors+sources podcast series. My name is Adrian Thompson, the host for today’s episode, as well as associate editor for interiors+sources. Today’s podcast is in partnership with Crossville Inc., and it’s in addition to our How to Specify March segment, which is focusing on how to find the right flooring within a commercial space.

Crossville is an American-owned company that creates high-quality porcelain tiles for designers, architects and installers. They offer a variety of glass and natural stone tile for interior and exterior floors, walls and countertops, and are also well-known for being the first American ceramic tile manufacturer to offer large-format porcelain tile panels.

So, joining us to discuss the latest research and designs from Crossville is product manager Terri Marion. Terri, thank you so much for joining me for today’s episode.

Terri Marion: Oh, thank you, Adrian. Appreciate it.

Restaurant Bar
Photo: Cursive Collection: restaurant bar; courtesy Crossville Inc.

Adrian: Yeah. We’re excited to have you here. One thing I personally love about Crossville is that your company is always on trend with the latest designs and technologies in tile. I know you guys put a lot of research behind your work and products. So, to get us started with today’s conversation, Terri, let’s just discuss Crossville’s study of trends and tile in general. Can you dive into what some of the research looks like behind a Crossville collection for me?

Terri: Absolutely. I’d love to. So, Adrian, as product manager, one of my roles is to manage our product portfolio. And that means making sure that we’re bringing the right products to market at the right time. I also help to develop new products that are relevant today and into the future, and remove roadblocks in the short communication with our cross-functional team, so that we can continue to bring exciting new products to market quickly and cost effectively.

In this role, I also serve as an internal information hub for all things trending—not just colors and shapes and textures, patterns, but also the bigger, often social and societal macro trends that really drive design trends.

For instance, the current biophilia trend is a result of the fact that over 50% of the world’s population now live and work in urban areas, and we’re surrounded by steel and cement, artificial light and recirculated air. We crave connection with nature and other forms of life really because of the rarity in our everyday lives.

So, it’s really natural that we’re being drawn to ideas like personal health and well-being and sustainability. We look for sensory-rich environments that offer subtle cues of things that are natural: Earth, sky, wind, water, trees.

So, this isn’t just putting a plant in your office. It’s also how does tile make you feel like you’re in nature? The need to be in these environments really allows us to lower our stress level, increase our productivity and happiness, and even promote healing.

So, if you look around, you’re going to see things around you in your environment, especially in tile and wallcovering and those types of things that remind you of the Earth and nature, like the pale blues and the grays in the sky, the deep blue greens of the ocean and the forest. And so, these are some of the base colors that we’re seeing everywhere, from fashion to automotive to interior design. And then we also have bright punches of color, like sunny yellow and moss green and iris purple.

Cafe Wall
Photo: Cursive Collection: cafe wall; courtesy Crossville Inc.

Adrian: I love biophilia as an example, because I think it’s so on-trend and on-point. It’s something that’s not going away; it’s only growing. And I think tile is one of those things where people don’t always consider how does tile tie in with nature?

Well, first of all, it’s a very natural material, but then tiles just transformed through technology where you can do all these different things to create these different wood looks and all-natural looks that tie into exactly what you’re saying.

Terri: Exactly. So, it’s sometimes directly translated like wood-look tiles, and sometimes it’s indirectly translated. We’re looking for subtle cues that remind us of that. I know a lot of people feel the most comfortable when we have our hands in the dirt and we’re in the ground and we’re in nature listening to the birds chirp. And so, that’s a really strong trend for us.

You asked me before how we deal with the research that we’re doing for trends, and there’s a lot of resources that we use to try to keep our thumb on the pulse of the current trends. Daily, we share trends among ourselves, everything from blogs and articles and webinars and podcasts, like this one, with each other. And we don’t restrict our content gathering to just the flooring or the tiling industry, or even interior design for that matter.

We’re also looking for fashion and commercial design, retail, cosmetics, basically anything that has potential to show its face in our markets.

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Adrian: Right. Looking outside...

Terri: Yeah, totally. It’s so important because it’s easy to get market centric. I’ve been in markets before that have made some of those fatal errors, and we’re trying not to do that.

Next, we have really formal benchmarking.

So, we perform competitive benchmarking as a part of our new product development process. When we do this, we’re actively on the lookout for really interesting things that are happening within our industry, especially with competitors. And we look both nationally and globally for that, because it’s not all about the U.S. and sometimes we forget about that.

Adrian: It’s great to have that global perspective and look beyond just any sort of barrier in general.

Bar Wall
Photo: Cursive Collection: bar wall; courtesy Crossville Inc.

Terri: It really is. And especially in tile—you mentioned before that we’re the first American producer of tile. Where has tile been traditionally produced in Europe, and there’s Spain and Italy and those types, and sometimes they’re behind us in terms of design trends, but most of the time they’re ahead of us. So, I think it’s really wise for everyone in our industry to keep our eyes over the oceans, actually.

Adrian: Exactly. And just looking at some of your new products, I think one collection that just really exemplifies everything you just kind of highlighted is of course Cursive—a gorgeous collection right on your homepage on crossvilleinc.com. But I just love the name of this collection. I love the fun colors, these new exciting shapes we’re seeing.

So, Terri do you just want to explain the Cursive collection to our listeners, and the inspiration or research behind it?

Terri: Oh, certainly. We’re really excited about the tile. I’m so glad to hear that you’re liking it as well. We got a lot of great feedback from our customers. Let me tell you a little bit about it just for the listeners who maybe aren’t online as we speak.

Cursive is offered in some rectilinear shapes, so 3-by-6-inch, 3-by-12-inch rectangles, 6-inch squares and 6-inch triangles. It also includes four-inch circles and demilunes that are about two inches by four inches. And then there are coordinating corner options that are available so that you can frame the circles and demilunes.

All of these pieces are designed to work together so that designers can create specific works of custom art for their clients. They can use the collection to personalize spaces with, honestly, almost a limitless array of patterns. And finally, we added a 1 ½ inch-by-6-inch trim piece, which is glazed on two edges so that designers can frame their artful creations and provide a finishing touch that their clients are looking for.

Commercial Bathroom
Photo: Cursive Collection: commercial bathroom; courtesy Crossville Inc.

Adrian: Oh, that’s fun. Yeah, and you guys have so many colors, and like you said, endless patterns, too. And sometimes it can get overwhelming to kind of think, ‘Where do I start? How do I pick the right tile for the space I’m designing?’ So, you guys created the Cursive Pattern Visualizer. Explain that tool and how it can help someone looking to use this collection.

Terri: Absolutely. So, let me let me back up a little bit and talk a little bit about the shape and how that evolved, and then I’ll tell you how we have this great new tool to work with it.

A couple years ago I noticed a trend that seemed to indicate that there was a significant shift from rectilinear shapes to curvilinear shapes. We saw this in textiles and wallcovering, furniture, fashion—everywhere, essentially. And we started to envision this new ceramic wall tile collection that employed these unexpected circular shapes and curves. We wanted it to be both elegant and playful, and honestly to bring a little bit of joy to see some of the spaces that have become kind of maybe not sterile, but just kind of...

Adrian: Bare.

Terri: Yeah, absolutely. And so, we envisioned this really cool wall tile line and then we came up with this really neat palette. So, the palette itself is really deeply saturated. It has a really soft gray undertone, and they range from classic hues like ghost—which is near white and charcoal, smoke and denim—to really updated statement colors like golden rod and iris and rose gold. We even have a gorgeous soft teal.

Backsplash
Photo: Cursive Collection: backsplash; courtesy Crossville Inc.

There’s a bit of homage to the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s in the colors of Cursive, but they’re upgraded in a way that’s really relevant and I think perfectly contemporary.

Another thing that’s really, really cool was that after we sampled the collection and began production, we learned that the colors we selected were remarkably close to a Pantone trend for autumn and winter of this year, called Eclectic Folk. It’s always nice to receive this kind of validation.

Their trend highlighted the power of color to define sense of identity and purpose, and we really feel that the colors of perfect Cursive represent resilient hope and creativity, especially in the face of economic, social and political uncertainty. People are craving things that feel real, that feel different, that have that feeling of craftsmanship. And we really feel like Cursive does all of this.

Adrian: Yes. And there’s lots of options, of course.

Terri: Well, yeah, and that’s why we created the visualizer.

When we started this out—developing this tile—we started actually physically playing with the pieces in different combinations; putting this tile, this circle with these corners and these squares and these triangles, and we found that we were having so much fun mixing and matching the colors and the shapes. And we really wanted our customers to enjoy the same experience. We asked ourselves questions like, ‘How can we get all these fun puzzle pieces essentially into the hands of designers?’

We ended up partnering with MatiCAD last year, and we brought to them our wish list of features that we wanted to offer our customers and their experience in 3-D design solutions for manufacturers and architects and designers.

We quickly had a prototype of what we’re now calling the Cursive Pattern Visualizer that we could play with. And of course, that led to a lot of other wants. As we were playing with it, we’re like, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be cool if we could do this? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could offer the designers this feature?’ And so, what you see on our website today is the culmination of all those ideas.

Adrian: I think it’s so fun to have that chance to just experiment and explore, especially with so many different colors and shapes with a collection such as this. So, it’s great that you guys have this as a resource.

Terri: Oh, so much fun. And I think one of the nicest features of the visualizer is that all of these custom patterns can be printed, and then the program—I think this is cool probably because of my background—can provide an estimate of the approximate number of tile pieces or square feet that the pattern requires based on the size of the space that the user defined.

So, if they say, ‘Hey, I want to design a feature wall or feature area that’s 4-by-8, they can put the design together, expand it out, and then we’ll tell them essentially what they’re using for that design and how many purple circles they need to order and how many snow-colored corners they need. The users can also save their designs, come back to it or they can use them in a lot of the popular design platforms that professionals in our industry use.

Adrian: That’s just another awesome perk of going digital with tools like this, is that they’re more efficient, they can be more cost effective. So, it’s really a win-win for everyone when there’s a surplus of materials really, or lack of, I should say, too.

Terri: Absolutely, yeah, and honestly, I’ve spent way too many hours just creating patterns and playing with the visualizer. At first, it was in the attempt to try to ‘break it’ to debug it, and sometimes now it’s just for fun and for happiness.

Adrian: Nothing’s wrong with that.

Terri: We really, really hope that more people will get online and check this out. Let us know what you think and even suggest improvement for us, so that we can continue to improve this. Especially since we are looking at expanding it for future collections.

Adrian: That was my next question. So, good to know. While playing around with it, Terri, what types of environments do you see Cursive working best in? A little bit of everywhere? Or anything in particular? What are your thoughts?

Terri: Of course, my perspective is a little bit of everywhere. We really do see this collection working in virtually all interior spaces, both commercial and residential. It delivers a bit of individuality that few of our competitors can match.

I think that’s what our designers, architects and eventually the users of spaces are really, really craving in today’s environment. It’s a bit early to know how many specs we’ll have for this collection since we did just launch it a few weeks ago, but it is safe. The market has wholeheartedly welcomed Cursive. And our customers are showing a real excitement for it.

Adrian: Well, that’s exciting, and I’m excited to see where it’s gonna go in the future, and also how you guys will expand that Pattern Visualizer tool.

Just to circle back to that, I think it’s great that Crossville offers so many resources and tools like this for architects, designers and installers. I personally can attest to using your guys’ Tile 101 resource online, just to learn the material and the industry and all the different things that go into it. But just from personal experience, what other digital resources would you say people really like to use on Crossville?

Terri: Absolutely. So, we just did a major update of our website last year. And as part of that, we wanted to make sure in every bit of that to keep designers needs in mind. We want the information, the inspiration and the resources to be exactly what they need.

It’s curated so the designers can specify Crossville with confidence. But an essential feature is a simple, nimble ordering of samples. This is so important, today and tomorrow.

Designers find it really easy to ‘shop the site’ and order free samples. And they’re delivered remarkably quickly. I’ve even used it on occasion when I couldn’t find the sample that I needed in the warehouse. I just found it easy to go to the website and order a sample for myself.

Adrian: Must be super fast.

Terri: It is. We also provide digital design solutions. So, beyond the Cursive Pattern Visualizer, we offer an interactive mosaic builder and also a room visualizer to empower the designers to create things online. And then throughout the website, we provide really thorough technical information, so that the essential facts that designers need to work with installers and fabricators are available so that they can incorporate the full range of surfacing solutions, including our new Crossville porcelain countertops and porcelain tile panels, into their projects.

And so, having this technical information on-site and easy to find makes it so easy and makes a huge difference when people are in the midst of projects. We really feel like our website right now is a one-stop resource.

Adrian: Yes, and I definitely see that myself and like I told you, I’ve used your resources before. They’re extremely helpful. I think it just really shows how you guys back up your research into your products. You’re not just here to, ‘Hey, look at this tile, look at this tile.’ It’s like, ‘Here’s the different styles. Here’s where we might use it; all the different spaces we can use it,’ and it just really expands what your thoughts on the material really are.

Terri: Absolutely. You get it.

Adrian: Well, Terri, thank you so much for joining us for this partnered podcast with Crossville and just highlighting more about your guys’ research, your resources, as well as, of course, the new vivid Cursive collection. We really appreciate you sharing more all about that.

Terri: Thank you, Adrian, and interiors+sources for inviting me to share about Crossville.

Adrian: Oh, you are welcome. And for those listening and looking to utilize these tools that we discussed, as well as explore the Cursive collection and utilize that Cursive Pattern Visualizer, you can always visit crossvilleinc.com.

You can also find more topics related to our How to Specify series on interiorsandsources.com as well as in our magazine. Otherwise, thank you for tuning in, and we hope you join us again for another episode of I Hear Design.

Terri MarionAbout our guest:

Terri Marion is a product manager for Tennessee-based Crossville Inc. and is responsible for driving overall product strategy and launching inspired new products.