Geiger bridges the office generation gap with the Millennial Collection
June 08, 2009
Geiger International, designer and manufacturer of architectural furniture for commercial interiors, introduces a new concept in furniture designed for multigenerational workplaces. The Millennial Collection, consisting of Geiger Levels case goods and Peer tables, addresses the shift in work style behaviors and office design priorities, driven by the influx of a new generation of young professionals.
Redefining business as usual
"Architects and designers are re-examining not only what workers do in personal work areas, but how they do their jobs—and where, within the larger office context," states Mike Milligan, Geiger's Director of Product Development. For instance, designers are questioning the status quo of lining the perimeter of a building interior with enclosed offices, and they're questioning the scale of those offices. Milligan adds, "For the most part, offices are moving from the perimeter to the core and therefore can be smaller than the traditional private office footprint. The more modest scale not only helps reduce overall square footage, but more importantly, it addresses the new workplace reality."
This new reality acknowledges that a significant amount of today's workforce--increasingly populated by Millennials—also works outside their offices: in shared offices, offsite, in casual meeting areas or in some combination of venues. When they are in the office, they want effortless technology access for "heads-down" tasks, as well as areas to quickly and visually prioritize files and other materials.
Levels designer David Allan Pesso explains: "The Levels environment separates work across multiple horizontal work zones: a main surface where primary work is done and where portable electronic devices are docked, and secondary surfaces that hold active files nearby. This layered approach helps users access and organize a lot of material in a modestly scaled space."
Goodbye closed doors, Hello open spaces
When these social, highly collaborative Millennials leave their offices, what happens next? "We started with a strong premise about how Levels can address new work behaviors and decided to explore the concept beyond the private office. We started thinking about the whole environment these workers use," states Milligan. "What happens when they leave their offices to collaborate or work somewhere else? Where do they go? How will they meet, or talk, or work, once they get there?"
The questions didn't stop there. Lucy Aiken-Johnson and Patrick Johnson of ai3, an architecture, interior and product design consultancy and designer of the Peer table, recall, "We started from an even more fundamental place, asking, How do we sit in a collaborative space? What does how we sit say about our level of engagement? What role does a surface play?"
"ai3's Peer table supports all the research we gathered about how Millennial workers orchestrate their work lives. I've been noticing when I visit design firms or customers at their offices, more and more I'm meeting with them in open, public spaces, usually furnished with a bar-height counter or table," Milligan says.
Patrick Johnson elaborates, "In our own work, we're seeing the growing importance of communal spaces. Oftentimes, this area is the 'heart' of the project, a space that brings people together. When designing the Peer table, we realized there are new definitions of concepts like 'conferencing' and 'meeting'."
Lucy Aiken-Johnson continues, "Peer tables are about conversation, a less formal way of conferencing or meeting. Business conversations are taking place all over the office, which explains why clients want flexible, multi-function spaces. In reception areas, for instance, they're not about the gatekeeper-receptionist-and-beautiful-piece-of-furniture lobby any more. They want usable space: areas for quick conversations, impromptu gatherings or, in some cases, lengthier work sessions."
Power to the people
This architectural shift reflects a new sensitivity to furnishing offices according to the work performed, rather than focusing on corporate hierarchy. Pesso explains, "With Levels, I opted for balance rather than rigid symmetry. This is how we achieve highly tailored, highly functional office settings for workers occupying smaller footprints, regardless of their place on the org chart." Milligan adds, "Simply put, if your work requires a large storage capacity, your office has more storage. If your work doesn't require it, you don't sacrifice square footage for furniture you won't use."
Shifting the focus away from the usual hierarchical approach resonated with ai3 as well. Lucy Aiken-Johnson notes, "We intended the Peer table to imply no hierarchy in its design or its function. There is no front or back, no left or right. It's a common meeting ground for all who congregate there."
The influence of Millennials on the workplace is far reaching in other ways too, as this generation imprints its better-living-through-technology ethos. It's no longer a matter of if technology is integrated, but to what degree. "This generation expects to be connected no matter where they happen to be working," declares Milligan. Pesso concurs: "We designed Levels to help workers organize their project-oriented workflow, but we also wanted to bring a smarter, more intuitive way for today's tech-based workers to access power and data."
Levels case goods incorporates power, data and voice services in worksurfaces, as well as unique docking capability for smartphones, iPods, digital cameras or other digital devices. Whereas Levels brings power and data access to the forefront, the Peer table takes a subtler approach.
"The reveal that forms the integrated shelf is an aesthetic detail that provides a sense of mystery, and it also serves a real purpose. It holds devices and other materials you might bring to a conversation, but don't necessarily need or want to be front and center," Patrick Johnson adds. With access to discreet, under-counter power connections via grommets, users can dock cell phones or laptop batteries on the shelf, without these items taking up prime worksurface real estate.
A Greener Generation
More than any other, the Millennial generation has deeply held values about environmental issues such as access to natural light, clean air and recycling. Geiger Levels and the Peer table were developed according to the Design for the Environment (DfE) protocol and can contribute to leed credits for construction waste management, recycled content, regional materials, low-emitting materials, certified wood and innovation in design, depending on the project. Both products use high-recycled-content substrates and are expected to be greenguard certified by their unrestricted order dates. fsc-certified versions are available as well.
About Geiger International
For more than forty years, Geiger International has inspired the A&D community by pioneering the design and manufacturing of architectural furniture for private offices and commercial interiors. Today, Geiger's excellent reputation for design, engineering and craftsmanship continues to enhance business interiors with an elegant and intelligent portfolio of product solutions for the modern workplace. Founded in 1964 in Toronto and headquartered in Atlanta since 1979, Geiger International is a wholly owned subsidiary of publicly held Herman Miller, Inc. (MLHR).