Design, Products, What's Up
January 18, 2010
Two lighting products designed by Yves Béhar—the Twist LED task light and the Ardea personal light—were on the winners’ list of the 2009 Good Design awards, sponsored by the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design and the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.
Founded in 1950 by Eero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames, and Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., the Good Design award criteria are based on function and aesthetics, with a contemporary emphasis for environmental concerns and green design. Categories include: electronics, medical equipment, transportation, furniture, textiles, energy systems, kitchen/appliances, floor covering, household products, and lighting.
Despite the economic downturn, the 2009 Good Design program was “the strongest program ever with the largest-ever amount of corporate participation and the best and most substantial design awarded,” according to Christian K. Narkiewicz-Laine, president of the Chicago Athenaeum and curator of the awards. “This might be the beginning that signals the start that corporations and designers are changing their direction toward more sustainable and cost-effective design and less the use of flash and extravagance and a new understanding that the global market for consumer products is highly competitive and that only the strong will survive.”
January 15, 2010
Have you checked out Herman Miller’s Materials website lately? For designers and specifiers, it’s a great sampling and information tool that makes it easy to interact with our Materials Program. For people like me, it’s just fun to play with.
On the home page, there’s an intriguing chromatic arrangement of Herman Miller’s entire Materials offering—the textiles, translucents, laminates, woods, and veneers that adorn Herman Miller products and help make them durable and eco-friendly. The page gives you an overall idea of the depth and structure of the Materials Program.
From there, you can narrow down and sort your selections as you like. With every choice, you see swatches of your picks, and detailed, printable, e-mailable information is a click away for each swatch. It’s so simple to view which materials are available on what products, plus (better yet) which materials are shared by different products. Really, you can do all kinds of stuff. So give it a spin, and tell us what you think.
The Materials website is designed to be used hand in hand with the new Materials Collection—a bound set of 15 books containing physical samples of all Herman Miller textiles and finishes. I’ll have more about that in my next post a week from now.
Better World, Technology
January 14, 2010
I’m sure you’ve been wondering how things turned out with Emerson’s Art and Design Perspectives project I reported on a few weeks back–the one where he had to list, categorize, and analyze the environmental impact of every object he owns? Well, his final tally included nearly 1,200 discrete items. Here are some of his findings.
Only 21 percent of Emerson’s stuff was made in the United States. His apartment at the University of Michigan contains items that were made in 37 other countries. Paper is the most common material used to manufacture the things he owns (30 percent), followed by plastic (22 percent). The value of his possessions averages out to $24 per item or approximately 3 hours of Emerson’s time as determined by the pay rate of his summer job. As far as he was able to determine, 706 items–60 percent of the stuff he owns–are destined for a landfill.
Bottom line? “I have a lot of stuff,” Emerson writes in his final report. “The most important thing I can do is buy less stuff and to make sure that I know where the stuff I do buy comes from, what it’s made out of, and what implications it has for the environment and for human rights.”
Professor Trumpey gave him an “A.”
January 13, 2010
There’s new research showing that managers believe women experience more work/life conflict than men. Women employees in the study actually reported less conflict. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and appearing in the Academy of Management Journal, says the belief is held by men and women managers alike, who then see the women as less worthy of promotion.
Women who know about this misperception may think twice about using company-sponsored work/life balance programs like telecommuting—and rightly so. “As long as managers buy into that stereotype, women who take advantage of programs like on-site child care or flextime or paid time-off for parenting are only undermining their prospects for advancement in their companies,” says Professor Jenny M. Hoobler, one of the authors of the study. “What we’re talking about here, I expect, is one of the subtle, entrenched forms of discrimination that make up the glass ceiling.”
Design, Products, What's Up
January 12, 2010
On exhibit at London’s Serpentine Gallery through February 7, Design Real highlights objects that have made a significant impact on our lives, providing new perspectives from which to look at the material world.
Curated by German product designer Konstantin Grcic of Konstantin Grcic Industrial Design (KGID), Design Real focuses on “real” items conceived in the last decade: mass-produced products that have a practical function in everyday life—from furniture and household products to technical and industrial innovations. For example, click on “Office Chair” and you’ll see Herman Miller’s Aeron chair.
According to Grcic, what interests him about industrial design is “how these things are made, in what material, and how this has affected their language and their quality. Some objects are very technically-driven; the function really determines the object. Other objects have much more of a signature or an authorship; you see the handwriting of the designer who made it and that’s what makes it so special.”
Better World, Design
January 11, 2010
Poking around Metropolis Magazine’s website, reading about past winners of their Next Generation® Design Competition is not only interesting, it’s downright inspirational. Perhaps one of their stories will motivate you to enter the contest yourself. Better hurry, though. Entries are due January 29, 2010.
The 2008 victor, for example, San Francisco architect and teacher, Eric Olsen, based his prize-winning concept–a means of carrying and purifying water at the same time–on the saguaro cactus he observed as a boy growing up in the Nevada desert. Taking his cue from the cacti’s “pleats,” which is where they store water, he devised a lightweight, portable water tote that can be worn almost like a shawl by individuals, say, working in fields, while solar heat and ultraviolet radiation purify the water.
Called the Solar Water Disinfecting Tarpaulin, it’s quite an incredible invention and a potentially important one, too, considering that the lack of access to clean water is a major health problem for more than a billion people on our planet.
As one of the contest judges, architect Lance Hosey of William McDonough + Partners, said about Olsen’s project, “What’s brilliant…is that instead of making a better bucket, he reduced the challenge to its essence: how to get safe water.”
The Next Generation annual contest focuses on finding sustainable solutions that address today’s energy or environmental challenges, a cause that parallels Herman Miller’s environmental advocacy.
What do the winners get? A prize of $10,000, which they can put toward the development of their idea. What a great way to reward (and fund) people to stretch their minds, use their imaginations, and create innovative solutions for the real environmental problems we’re facing around the world. Good idea, no? Next year at this time you could be one of them.
Better World, Herman Miller Journal
January 8, 2010
If you haven’t already heard the story of Herman Miller’s wasp-defeating, wildflower pollinating, incredibly productive honey bees, you should check out this sweet video. If you know about the 24 busy hives located on the grounds of our GreenHouse facility–an award-winning “ecologically intelligent” manufacturing site–I’m here to tell you about what those bees do during long West Michigan winters when Black-Eyed Susans are scarce on the ground.
The GreenHouse hives are maintained by a local beekeeper who also has an operation in Georgia. In autumns past, Herman Miller’s bees were transported to the Peach State, where they could continue to produce the quantities of honey that are the happy side effect of a pesticide-free solution to an aggressive paper wasp problem. But, as for many human residents of northern climes, a recessionary economy and high fuel costs have conspired to keep the GreenHouse bees home this winter.
So while workers inside the seating operations plant continue to weather tough economic times, their apian counterparts outside form big, shivering clusters in their snow-covered hives. Worker bees take turns at the warm center (around 80 degrees F) and the chilly outer edges (46-48 degrees F)–so all can survive.
January 7, 2010
Rich Sheridan, CEO of software firm Menlo Innovations, in Ann Arbor, MI, recently asked the cubicle question. Then, annarbor.com ran an article about his post under the title “Death to Cubicles.” The battle lines were drawn.
January 6, 2010
Or at least cut back on them. I know, there is always pressure to cram more into the day, especially more meetings. After all, they’re where most work gets done these days. But does it have to be over lunch? We need a break. And some, including Carl Honeré, author of In Praise of Slow, argue that getting away for lunch clears the head and makes room for creative thoughts. Even if you’re lucky enough to be sitting in a chair designed to keep you healthy, you need to get up and move around. And leaving a meeting room for a quick lunch can be just the way to do it. So here’s to the separation of lunch from work. Bon appétit.
January 5, 2010
Most working mothers (62%) prefer to work part time, according to research conducted by the Pew Research Center. Working fathers, not so much. Only 21% of them say they’d rather work part time than full time.
Rick Dernberger is one of them. For a long time after they had children, he and his wife Becca both worked full time. Whenever one of the kids got sick, “we’d have fights over who had the most important day,” he says. “One day she whimsically said, ‘Why don’t you quit work?’ That had never occurred to me, but as soon as she said it, I knew it was right. She was making more and she enjoyed her job more.”
For the last seven years, the arrangement has been working for the Dernbergers. Rick enjoys the mix of parenting four daughters (ages 6 – 20), counseling college students, and helping entrepreneurs get new business loans. Being a part of all the details of his daughters’ daily lives has been especially rewarding—and an opportunity that most dads don’t have.
The Pew research didn’t ask men why they don’t want to work part-time, but it’s not hard to guess a few reasons. Cultural norms change slowly. Most men had dads who worked full time so, like Rick, the option might not even be on their radar screen. Even if men do consider it, the decision may be driven by finances: men still make more, on average (women make about 77 cents for every dollar men make).
Still, some men have made the switch. At Herman Miller, .5% of male employees in the U.S. currently work part time; 6.3% of female employees do. In our international division, 1.6% of employees work part time, and all are women.