Like many designers, Jeffrey Bernett and Nicholas Dodziuk love a challenge. And their challenge with Herman Miller's Canvas Office Landscape line was especially intriguing: incorporate two existing Herman Miller lines, Vivo and Intent, as well as some Meridian filing components, to create a cohesive "kit of parts" solution for individual workspaces ranging from private offices to open plans.
Bernett and Dodziuk were an ideal team to tackle the assignment. The two have worked together for many years at CDS, and their backgrounds include a wide range of projects, from airline seating to graphic design to consumer products. And they both love working on furniture.
Bernett says that with any project, "The end-user needs always come first: Who is going to use or want this and why? Of course, there are performance criteria as well; and then the question becomes: How are we going to manufacture what we are working on?"
Both designers have always had a keen interest in how things work. Bernett says he "knew my way around a machine shop from the time I was 10 years old." Dodziuk credits his parents—his father was a mathematician and his mother an artist—with giving him the genes to tap into both sides of his brain.
"With furniture, problems are complex, but they require simple solutions," he says. "And I think there is a lot of opportunity to affect the quality of people's lives when working on furniture; after all, they sit in offices 8-10 hours a day, five days a week."
Bernett and Dodziuk have each traveled extensively, which has influenced their approach to design. Studying people—how they think, behave, and interact—is critical to their process.
"I believe design helps us understand the world we live in and connects us to one another," says Bernett. "The best products anticipate and define future needs and behaviors and ultimately promote balance, harmony, and simplification of our complicated lives."
He also feels it's important to reflect on the past. "As with architecture and art, design is part of a continuum; we learn from what has been done by others."
Dodziuk, who teaches at Parsons Design School, says he encourages his students to "bring something new to the table, challenge assumptions, and find an edge to push. That's how progress happens."
These two definitely made progress—and created a whole new office landscape—with the thoughtful, practical solutions they arrived at with the Canvas line.
New York City
Interior Design "Best of Year (BOY) Award" for Landscape '05, B&B Italia, 2006
Tokyo Designer Block "Best of Show" for work with Covo, 2001