A Conversation with The Graphite Design Group

A Conversation with The Graphite Design Group

Seattle, WA


“From Aspiration to Inspiration” – The Graphite Group
Graphite Design Group | Home

Ceraclad had the honor of doing a short interview with some of Graphite Group’s Architects.

To see through the eyes of our partners, we want to learn how to evolve our products into something much more user-friendly and valuable. The interviewers are 3 Technical Design guests from our Osaka KMEW Headquarters: Hinako, Akiko & Yuki. They have worked for the Osaka Headquarters for several years and are here to learn more about the American Architect’s viewpoint on our products and how the company can accommodate the North American market. The interview answers are the group’s separate voices and their experiences in their profession.

Q: How do you come up with exterior wall design?

A: “We look at it more holistically as in a bigger picture, is it a curtain wall system, is it a window wall system, is it a low rise- high rise. For this sort of product would work better for a lower rise building.”

“We start with the client and the goals for overall, what the building looks like is just one way to support what the client is trying to achieve based on ideas and concepts that they might relate to in the concept in where the building is going to go”

“If the product works better for a low rise residential application, because it might come off better for a lower rise building.”


Q: What is an important factor when designing your building?

A: “Cost…. Cost…. Durability, aesthetic”
“What’s the goal, what’s the budget, what’s the use, what’s the look”


Q: What issues do you have when designing your building?

A: “Cost”

“Durability, constructability, and suitability. Hoping that as you go through the process what you originally conceived of as a most appropriate design solution is brought on by all the parties and the client is close at the very end. Still holding on to those earlier design ideas, is there a possibility to continue that throughout the entire process. That is some of the challenges we face and sometimes the material selections that we started off with at the beginning of the project are different material selections at the end. But, they are all based on the decisions we made to get to that point and hopefully we held on to the original.”

“Materials need to be code compliance, placed in jurisdiction. Which is a big deal”

“Sustainable too, we try to be and that is a client goal as well. We try to create more sustainable designs. As well as cost, client goal, code compliance, budget”

“And most of Code compliance is Fire sustainability and seismic. That’s a big issue around here, especially as you get higher up on the building, seismic and fire get much more important.

Ceraclad Sales Rep Dave: “that’s where on some of those jobs you are going to need engineered shop drawings because with seismic loads and high rise building like that take into account. With wind loads and compliance”


Q: Is there something that sets CERACLAD apart from our competitors?

A: “Don’t say cost guys” -- *everyone laughs*--

“the great presentations like the one you gave today – looks like there is a lot of variety.“
“durability for sure, I think that it’s the completeness of the system, that is not just one material that you have to figure out what to do with, you guys have thought it through that you have the package of details, that’s very helpful”
“a very good system, the details are really important when you are trying to establish suitability for an intended purpose especially when you get to the exterior insulation system. That has a whole bunch of challenges for codes for detail, installation, weather tightness. Having a good standard set of manufacturing details gives us a starting point. That is much appreciated.”

“The more work you do for us” -  “The more we like you”


Q: What siding design are you looking for in a fiber cement siding, what popular textures do you prefer?

A: “One thing we don’t see, for good reason is steel, natural steel, blackened steel, darker tones of wood grain texture that have some variability to the coating. I think as architects we like to use natural materials, something very suitable for outdoors. Whereas this product itself can find that middle ground that can vary. “


Q: What are some of the popular exterior trends?

A: “Sho Sugi Ban – it’s fun to see”

“I think that the material that has texture, captures shadow. All of the ones with surface texture are very nice. The owner likes their building to be distinct from other buildings, so the fact that there is variety would be my first thing that I’d like to see. Keep coming with the variety, everything is linear and crisp but I might like to see something softer. Which may not be a specific 'trend' ”

Texture name: Ceraclad Zen Garden

“Variety in selection is the trend, I think.”

“From my personal take on this, the material that is trying to be less something else. Like trying to emulate wood or something else. What is the having a material that is a consistent tone that has texture differences to it. Multiple textures, like terracotta, not terracotta exactly but something like it. Can you emulate that in fiber cement.”

“To be able to mix and match the different patterns, so you can make a different composition” “yeah, so it can feel holistic.”

“Something very classic in design.”


Q: Which do you prefer- texture or color contrast?

A: “Yes- both” having the variety of colors is useful.”
“The dangers of color come from trends; some colors are safer to use. unlike a weirder color might fall out of fashion.”
“if it’s an unusual color it’s less likely to be trendy, like the gold ochre color, it’s been stable it’s been a popular color for the last 20-25 years.”


Q: What is your impression of Cashmere smooth compared to similar patterns from other companies?

A: “Good- I’ve never seen anything this texture like this for exterior material, it’s quite handsome”
“It stands out, it’s nice that it’s not stucco, it’s not paper, it’s not Hardie, it’s not too smooth.”


Q: Is there anything you would like to see improved in Cashmere Smooth?

A: “I’ve always looked at material and know when there are sides to a material. The transition options when you turn a corner. It’s inherent to know it’s going to be different when it’s manufactured but it’s always been for me hiding that edge. Maybe color-wise or accentuating or even expressing it.”

Ceraclad Sales Rep Dave: We have to protect that edge, just due to the fiber in the panel so we always need to have trim, or caulk. So, we won’t be expressing that edge of the material so people can see it. So, there might not be a lot of options just because it needs to be a protected edge.

“If you could saw the outside corner and avoid the use of caulk, that would save money and time. Even if there is a way to address that corner.”


Yuki: “Thank you for giving us this opportunity. It was my first time visiting an Architect's office outside of Japan. I find that the differences between cultures, people and their opinions are very interesting. The people at the Graphite Group were very friendly. I appreciated their feedback and preferences on materials in what our Headquarters should focus on next. Thank you very much from Japan!"

Hinako: “I was glad to have the opportunity to hear honest opinions about what kind of products they want from Architects and Designers themselves. Thank you so much!"

Akiko: “I'm glad to have this opportunity, and I was surprised that our products were more popular than I expected. I'd like to use what I learned in development and share it to my colleagues in Japan. Thank you for your cooperation."


“Thank you Graphite Design Group for taking the time to have us and answering our questions.”

~ Yuki, Hinako & Akiko - KMEW Japan


More Episodes

 Episode 1: Jared Smith


Episode 2: Ken Hayes


Episode 3: Susan Jones


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