Getting down & dirty in the bathroom

January 6, 2014

Our journey into the bathroom world started with a brief we loved, from a client who asked us to help them understand the big picture of everything “bathroom” in Australian homes today.

Whilst it is brilliant to begin with such a big question, in order to really pick apart all the different layers that would play a part, we needed to explore it from multiple perspectives – from large social and demographic trends, right down to having people talk us through what they keep under the bathroom sink. We started with a wide scope, viewing it through the lens of our current cultural studies (some summaries are already posted on our website and are available for PDF download) and we deliberately chose this jumping-off point in order to help us put everything else into context. Knowing the tensions and stresses in people’s lives today provided a really useful way of interpreting and making sense of what we could explore in the rest of the project.

Next, we immersed ourselves in the bathroom world. We went to homeshows and talked to award-winning bathroom designers, we sourced bathroom trends from Australia and overseas, we pinned down what was making waves in design at the international conventions, and we talked to building experts. We hung out on design blogs and scoured bathroom supplier websites and, where big themes emerged, we dived in even further. We knew there was something significant in what water represents in our lives too, and we had some amazing conversations with PhD candidates about the meaning of water as a transformative element, and its significance in forming our identities. This all gave depth to our understanding.

Once we had refined and developed our hypotheses, we wanted to match it up with daily reality.  Critically, we needed to know the nitty gritty of what goes on in the bathroom, the day-to-day, so we approached it with a week-long online diary complete with content, photos and videos from near and far, from climates warm and chilly, from all over the country. Through this, we explored different bathroom occasions over an extended period of time, staying as close as possible to the actual experience.  Although we gave our participants lots of guidance on what to cover (and what not to!), we aimed to remain as directly representative of their experience as possible before, finally, we went and hung out with people in their bathrooms. We got up close and personal with their bathroom joys and gripes, and we tested out the understandings we’d developed along the way.

It was an amazing and revealing journey for us as researchers and strategists (and for a client who isn’t afraid to ask the big questions), and proved to be an exciting, and at oftentimes perplexing, topic to explore.


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