TRENDS – ‘The designer is always our starting point in product development,’ says Arno Beurskens of Vescom, an international brand of high-end interior products for the contract market. Over the past month, St-W has been following the design, development, production, and supply processes of the company’s wallcoverings and upholstery and curtain fabrics.
With a flexible production model, Vescom produces in direct response to requirements by designers and architects. ‘Where other manufacturers go for the industrial model, we focus on the customer’s model,’ says Beurskens. Vescom has 16 sales offices around the world as well as dedicated distributors in 80 countries, tasked with identifying projects that might require Vescom products.
This global network of locally based representatives allows Vescom to guarantee short lead times as well as personalized and accountable customer service.
At the same time, Vescom is a manufacturer with an international presence, which puts the company in a position to consider the big picture. Environmental sustainability is a priority for the forward-thinking brand, which has proven to be ahead of legislation when it comes to responsible manufacturing practices. ‘We were the first manufacturer to start water-based printing almost 30 years ago, long before there were laws regulating the use of solvents,’ says Beurskens. ‘Today, we even recycle the water that we use in production!’
Vescom’s manufacturing facilities in the and the USA also serve as production hubs for the two regions, allowing Vescom to reduce its transportation costs. ‘70% of our business comes from Europe and North America,’ says Beurskens, which means that effectively, Vescom is a predominantly local or regional producer.
However, Vescom’s most significant contribution to environmental sustainability is a feature of the products themselves. ‘All our products have a very long lifespan, especially the vinyl wallcoverings,’ says Beurskens. ‘In terms of business, it’s both an advantage and a disadvantage, but we have ample instances of projects where our wallcoverings have been in use for 20 years.’
This longevity also makes Vescom products an asset to cash-strapped institutions such as healthcare centres and hospitals, which are often government-owned. ‘Vescom products are in use in many West-European hospitals for the simple reason that they’re easy to clean and don’t change appearance, even after 25 years,’ says Beurskens. ‘By contrast, if you use fibreglass and paint, it’s difficult to clean so you have to paint it again and again, year after year.’
Compared to the alternatives, Vescom wallcoverings may be a larger initial cost, but they make long-term economic sense and can add softness and warmth to the often stark and clinical atmosphere of healthcare institutions.
There has been a shift in recent years towards creating a sense of welcome and hospitality in spaces for healthcare, work, learning, and retail. Vescom design director Christiane Müller believes that design innovation requires being sensitive to these changing needs and new information from the market. ‘We have to be aware not just of how spaces change, but also how the uses of spaces change,’ she says.
‘The form and function of the products are therefore not separate, but merged together in the design. Sometimes a product may be more focused on a solution, like a walltalker serving as a writable surface – but we have a lot of products that do both,’ says Müller.
Innovation also can be very technical, such as the acoustic curtains Vescom developed in response to open-plan workspaces. This represents innovation from both directions of product design, as the manufacturer is informed by market needs and trends.
Further emphasizing the brand’s customer-focused approach are Vescom’s digitally printed wallcoverings. Merging product and service, Vescom offers a database of 125 million images to suit any hospitality, workspace, retail, education, or healthcare interior, and customers may also supply their own designs.
From ideation to conceptualization to production, the specialists at Vescom work with customers to design and customize the digitally printed wallcoverings, with a choice of seven different surfaces, for a truly unique statement interior. Utilizing the latest technology, Vescom guarantees a seamlessly printed image from floor to ceiling up to 3.15-m high and 30-m wide on its . They truly take the customer-first approach in every aspect of the company.
This concludes our series of in-depth articles featuring Vescom. Click here to view the previous articles which explore the company's design and development processes in dialogue with designers around the world.