Blending Good Design with High Performance Without Compromise

by Sandy Matheny, Director of Decorative Openings

Have you noticed how much more attractive doors, frames and hardware have become? Maybe a custom finish, intriguing shape, bright color or clever design caught your eye during installation. Perhaps you’ve sensed a gratifying tactile difference like the impressive weight of a door lever, a pleasantly surprising texture on a pull or the satisfying sensation of a mechanism securely engaging or the smooth roll and soft closing of a solid, wood-finished sliding door.

Everything just seems to click when there’s the sensibility of good design encompassing all the components of a door security solution, from the style of the door, frame, lever and pull to the rose, thumb turn and door stop.

It's no accident that these exciting creative options are increasingly more prominent in new construction and renovations today. In fact, they’ve become just as integral to the overall experience that gives a building a sense of place as any other architectural or interior design consideration.

When you think about it, the first physical connection we have with a building or structure is entering through a doorway. In fact, door hardware can be one of the most intimate points of contact we have with a space. Sure, it may be subtler than, say, a grand open-air atrium but it’s still very important to cohesive design.

Safety and Security First
As passionate as architects and interior designers naturally are about good design and as important a role that it can play in openings, first and foremost, door solutions and products are about safety and security; décor and aesthetics come second. That’s what we always emphasize with our team at ASSA ABLOY.

The good news is you can have a very happy marriage between function and design thanks to the beautiful suite of decorative collections we offer that matches up so well with the quality of our extensive lines of door openings and access control innovations. The ability to provide design continuity across all our amazing brands—Ceco, Corbin Russwin, Curries, McKinney, Pemko, Rockwood, SARGENT, Yale et al—makes it easier and far more flexible to choose the best solution for the application. It’s a capability that is unique to ASSA ABLOY.

Consultative, Collaborative Support
We also have a deep bench when it comes to support, which extends from preplanning consultation to project close-out and beyond. There are multiple customers we pay close attention to on a construction project: a specification writer at the architectural practice who is focused on functional needs; the architect and interior designer who drive the look and how people will experience a space in a positive way (because that’s what architecture is all about); and the developer/owner who rightfully expects a combination of reliable, high performance and the excitement of good design without sacrificing one over the other.

Architects and interior designers have to think about so many building materials, it can be challenging for them to keep up with the evolution of door security and access control solutions. It’s a key reason why we’ve worked hard to earn their trust and why they turn to us to help guide them through technical considerations as well as decorative door opening options.

Our approach is a highly collaborative, consultative and intensive one. Right from the start, of course, it’s in everyone’s best interest to put our collective heads together to carefully identify needs. Getting it right may seem complex at first, but our architectural, access control and sales consultants have such rich expertise and great design and specification tools at their fingertips, they make it look easy.

Sometimes, we discover where a product might be over specified and can be switched to a more appropriate and cost-effective solution. Other instances, it may be about exploring decorative options that the architectural firm didn’t realize were available or even possible, including customization.  

Wayfinding and Branding Design
The response to a doorway decorative feature may be total delight depending on its eye-catching or tactile characteristics. Or, as mentioned earlier, the impact may be more subtle. And that’s okay, because even subliminally, it all enhances the experience in some meaningful way, shape or form.

Where the public is more inclined to express a reaction is when they encounter the intentional, obvious use of color or the integration of branding elements such as logos and icons. Along with an aesthetic solution, color is very effective for wayfinding and has been used extensively to help people remember the floor of a multilevel parking structure, for instance.

Today, colorful wayfinding is being deployed more widely, especially in elementary schools, health care facilities and senior living centers. These vivid visible signals help people navigate easily and stay oriented, which helps reduce stress, particularly for those who may have special needs, language barriers or who are simply new to their surroundings.

Incorporating branding elements into the design of door openings has become increasingly popular for commercial and higher education settings, among other applications. Door hardware at colleges and universities, for example, may feature mascots, logos and mottos as well as school colors to ingrain and boost pride. On the other end of the spectrum, corporate facilities sometimes take a more minimalist approach and use a simple treatment of their recognizable company logo to reinforce their brand. The range of possibilities are only limited to the imagination.

Evolving Form and Functional Design
Years ago, we had an escutcheon that we affectionately called the “clown shoe” simply because that’s what it looked like. We’ve come a long way since then. Just take a look at our IN platform with its sleek profile and choice of black or white finishes that include matching hardware inlays; you’ll see what I mean.

The effect of good design on spaces such as healing environments is another good example. Hospitals have moved away from the cold, sterile, clinical look of yore. Today, they feature lots of natural daylighting which many of our solutions offer. Hospital and examination rooms are also quieter thanks to our acoustically rated RITE Slide® with soft open and close mechanisms. These improvements help provide a more soothing, private environment that has been proven to speed up healing, reduce anxiety and improve comfort.

Learning environments also benefit from more thoughtful design like flexible spaces, better flow, brighter daylighting and other attractive and ergonomic door security solutions. How positively kids experience a space and how safely and securely they can move and work within it can have a huge impact on their academic success.

Prompting these ongoing advancements is the valuable feedback from end users, architects, interior designers and our integrator partners. When customers told us they loved our hardware but wanted to see less of it, we responded. So, in addition to a standard 2.75-inch rose behind a lever, we now offer rosettes that are tiny inch-and-a-half rounds for a more minimalist option that can be applied to a variety of specialty doors.

When designers and customers wanted a black hardware finish, we made it happen across brands for our decorative door hardware. When the ask was for decorative options like steel doors with applied moldings and wood grain embossed finishes or flush steel doors with narrow profile frames, concealed hinges and cool colors, we delivered steely eye candy that works as well as it looks.

Tools and Tips for Door Security Solutions Decorative Design
Another important piece of feedback came from customers looking for a comprehensive way to explore and select products and styles across all our brands. That inspired the development of The Good Design Studio website and the printed and digital/downloadable Look Book with its 175+ pages that cover the plethora of fantastic decorative doors, frames and hardware collections in our catalog all in one place.


And if that selection doesn’t quite hit the mark for an application, we can always collaborate on a customized solution like we recently did with Centerbrook Architects & Planners for the renovation of Yale University’s Peabody Museum of Natural History, which, by the way, garnered the 2021 Good Design Award for the Rockwood levers and pulls that will now grace both sides of the Peabody’s 200+ doors.

Another award winner is ASSA ABLOYs Openings Studio BIM solution that integrates with design software to create and visualize openings in 3D and generate complete door, frame and hardware schedules and specifications. It’s also ideal for capturing door assets in a database that makes it far easier to manage institutional knowledge, maintenance and stocking parts.

Envisioning the Total Opening
Ultimately, these products, innovation and support services and tools are about how you put it all together and look at integrating the entire opening. It would be out of step to think of a solution as just a lock, a door, an exit device or the levers by themselves anymore. Sustainability, wayfinding, acoustics, branding, colors, finishes and other decorative, material and operational considerations need to be part of a wholistic design approach if you want to create a great building experience that puts safety and security first.