April 30, 2010
Photo via: The Henry Ford
If you weren’t able to make it to the “Good Design: Stories from Herman Miller” exhibit at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, the next best thing would be to visit The Henry Ford online. The museum is the lead institution for the Herman Miller Consortium, a group of 13 museums throughout the U.S. that share approximately 800 Herman Miller artifacts in their collections.
Herman Miller established the Consortium in 1988 to share our historical product collection that had been accumulating as part of our corporate archives in Zeeland, Michigan. In addition to the furniture pieces, it also includes a large quantity of product literature.
The Ford website houses the Consortium’s huge image database cataloging hundreds of Herman Miller products with photo, name, circa date, designer, and where you can see the actual piece. It’s a great way to learn more about Herman Miller, our history, our products, and our designers–especially if you don’t live near one of the 13 museums that belong to the Consortium.
April 28, 2010
“As Charles Eames said, Herman Miller should make ‘the best for the most for the least,’” says Susan Lyons, design consultant for Herman Miller’s Materials Program—now one-year old. “So let’s call this the year of Grades 1 and 2.”
“We have been working hard to design and develop innovative materials that are both purposeful and beautiful, as well as low cost.”
The work has paid off with great reviews. In fact, the program received a Silver award from the International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA, sponsored by Business Week) in the Design Strategy category.
Developed by the Michael McGinn Design Office, the Materials Program consists of two equally important components:
• The Materials Collection: physical sampling to be seen and touched.
• The Online Materials Program: a website to explore and understand our materials and their application.
The program is also featured in many industry magazines and blogs. Here are a few:
• Otto architecture + design
• Core 77
• Interior Design magazine
“We’ll keep building on our success,” says Lyons, “as we continue to make Herman Miller materials honest, intelligent, and delightful.”
Better World, Herman Miller Journal, What's Up
April 26, 2010
Herman Miller is proud to be among the activists, educators, and businesspeople honored on Earth Day as one of 16 inaugural Michigan Green Leaders.The award recognizes those who are working to make Michigan’s economy and communities sustainable and vibrant.
From planting trees and recycling trash into art supplies, to making campuses, industrial sites, and a resort into environmental models, the Green Leaders range from huge corporations to tiny nonprofits and individuals. And they’re working to make Michigan a cleaner, greener place to live.
One of the judges for the award, Rick Plewa, senior vice president for sustainability for Comerica, said, “I was simply amazed at how many people are working on green issues and have been for a long time. It filled me with optimism for Michigan’s future.”
At Herman Miller, sustainability has been part of our heritage since our founder, D.J. De Pree, said, “We will be a good steward of the environment.” That was 1953. Since then, we’ve innovated new ways of preserving and living with the natural environment. We’ve also helped found associations that help other companies do the same. These days, we remain committed to getting rid of the negatives–waste and contamination. But we don’t think that’s enough. As our CEO, Brian Walker, says, “The attitude we’ve adopted is to go beyond eliminating the negative to creating a positive. We’re constantly pushing ourselves to go beyond what is required.”
Check out our 2020 “Perfect Vision” goals to see what we’re aiming to accomplish. (We’ve already achieved one of them: 100% green energy.)
Better World, Herman Miller Journal
April 22, 2010
One hundred percent green energy: One 2020 Perfect Vision goal achieved—in 2010. And we’re awfully proud about it at Herman Miller. But so what?
“So what” is that we were able to accomplish this goal due to the cost saving suggestions of our very own employees, rather than spending additional money.
Good business and sustainable business are accepted as one and the same and it’s deeply ingrained here at Herman Miller. Couple this with an environment where good ideas—no matter where they come from—are valued, and you have a cauldron of innovative and eco-friendly solutions.
There have been many ideas over the years that have helped Herman Miller save money and reach our 100% green energy goal. And there have been those that didn’t originally seem like a good idea, but have proven their worth and changed some of our own minds.
One example is the use of winding heaters on the big dust collector motors in our manufacturing facilities. (A winding heater uses the motor’s own internal wiring to keep it warm and avoid stress, which can occur by frequent stopping and starting during cold temperatures.) Roger Bosch, one of our master electricians, suggested using the winding heaters to help regulate the motors in the dust collectors. He figured Herman Miller could save operating expenses by having the option to turn off the motors when they weren’t in use. At first, some people were skeptical, but after closer evaluation the project was indeed a money saver. Energy manager Jerry Akers said the payback saved Herman Miller a “bucket load.” Overall, it’s estimated that the winding heaters will eventually help us save more than $52,000/year, nearly 700,000 kWh, and around 500 tons of carbon.
Not bad for a little people power, trust, and a penchant for sustainability.
Better World, Herman Miller Journal
April 21, 2010
Each year, we consume an estimated 500 billion plastic bags worldwide—equal to over one million bags per minute. Currently, it’s actually more expensive to recycle plastic bags and bring them back into the market than it is to make new ones.
Engage in Change is an effort established by a team of Herman Miller employees to engage coworkers in a way to create reusable grocery bags from Herman Miller’s scrap textile material. Another great benefit is that the project aligns with our environmental goals: Every time people use reusable bags rather than plastic, they are helping the environment.
Beginning in January, employees came together to sew and assemble reusable bags from scrap fabric—and to have a good time doing it. The project ran through April, in time to celebrate Earth Day. Over 80 volunteers sewed five bags to donate and were able to keep one bag for themselves. The sewing occurred at our GreenHouse facility—where our seating upholstery is done—and at the homes of our sewing-savvy coworkers. Volunteers made more than 500 bags over the course of the project, utilizing more than 500 yards of scrap fabric.
The bags were given to employees who participated in a company-sponsored Earth Day activity, such as the Adopt-a-Highway program or our annual Earth Day recycling event. A big thanks to all of those employees who helped make this project happen!
April 19, 2010
Joey Ruiter is having way too much fun for a grownup. From his boyhood penchant for dismantling things, Ruiter has continued to finesse the art of stripping design to its essentials. And he brings this aesthetic of the unfussy to his work as well as to his play. So, Herman Miller’s new Intent line of furniture, designed by Ruiter, is meant to look as cool in private offices as it does in open plan and to offer affordable mix-and-match choices.
At play, Ruiter has stripped the bicycle to bare-nakedness, and the Inner City Bike, “a café racer with the performance of a beach cruiser,” is the result. He also tinkers with boat design. “Why are boats so complicated? A boat just needs something to make it float and something to make it go. Maybe something to sit on, too.” Ruiter’s boats are minimalist and easy to maintain; they have the lean, hungry look of a shark. He even manages to make a pontoon boat look like furniture rather than a barge.
A native son of utilitarian West Michigan with a studio in Grand Rapids, Ruiter has managed to marry his engineering bent to an artist’s eye. So we get fun bikes and boats, and some nice furniture, too.
Here are 7 questions for Joey Ruiter:
Products, What's Up
April 16, 2010
Researchers at Yale’s School of Engineering and Applied Science are working toward their goal of making machines compliant to humans. In Professor John Morrell’s laboratory they have developed the Vibrotactile Posture Feedback Chair, which uses cell phone vibrators to alert a person when he or she is sitting incorrectly.
Showcased at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Haptics Symposium last month, their prototype is actually an Aeron chair retrofitted with six force-sensitive resistors, or tactors, and one distance sensor. Morrell says he hopes the device will prevent people from slouching.
“The vibration is supposed to be an annoyance,” says Ying Zheng, who is working with Morrell. When a person slouches, leans too far forward, or crosses his legs, the tactors in those regions vibrate or pulsate as a reminder to use the right posture.
Morrell said he was first inspired to pursue the idea after visiting a physical therapist due to pain from sitting at a computer for long periods of time. He said he was constantly forgetting his therapist’s instructions, which led him and Zheng to evaluate the use of touch to remind people to sit upright with their spines in a neutral position, as recommended by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
In addition to the chair, Morrell’s laboratory is developing a robot that can open doors for the disabled or in dangerous situations.
Photo credit: Brianne Bowen/Yale Daily News
Herman Miller Journal, What's Up
April 14, 2010
Last week, Herman Miller’s own creative director, Steve Frykholm, was named one of three recipients of the 2010 AIGA Medal–the highest honor of the graphic design profession. It’s awarded to individuals in recognition of their exceptional achievements, services, or other contributions to the field of design and visual communication. Along with John Maeda and Jennifer Morla, Steve will be presented with the award at the AIGA Design Legends Gala in 2011.
AIGA executive director Richard Grefé said, “AIGA is proud to recognize the 2010 Medalists for their exceptional contributions to the field of design. Each has contributed to the way design can intrigue the spirit, engage curiosity, enhance business, explore creative use of visual technique, and communicate value that is respected by business, society and our popular culture.”
Steve has directed Herman Miller’s graphic identity for 40 years. His iconic work has been widely published and exhibited at institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, and the Danish Museum of Decorative Art.
As Cheryl Heller, chair of the AIGA awards committee, noted, “Each Medalist this year is completely unique, yet all three are stellar examples of how to be a true leader and live a life in design.”
Unique? That’s what we love about Steve. Stellar? Definitely. At Herman Miller, Steve Frykholm is as iconic as his picnic posters. We’re honored to have him here.
Better World, What's Up
April 12, 2010
Until recently, the words “fortune” and “green” might have only conjured up images of the color of currency. And certainly they seemed like words from different parts of the thought spectrum. But my, how things have changed.
Now those words are part of the regular vernacular—from cutting-edge entrepreneurs to leaders of Fortune 500 companies to environmental organizers. Businesses now believe that being “green” isn’t just the nice thing to do; it’s the smarter thing to do, creating more economic and social value. It’s the approach Herman Miller has practiced for years.
This week, Herman Miller will be an active participant in the “green” dialogue at the Fortune Brainstorm: Green conference, held April 12-14 in Laguna Niguel, California. Representatives from Herman Miller will join leading thinkers from different industries and sectors for the second annual event. As the title alludes, this will truly be a brainstorm—a working conference where ideas will be shared, sparks will fly, and perhaps participants will blaze a trail in some new and exciting direction.
As a leading advocate for sustainable design and solutions, Herman Miller is proud to sponsor this meeting of minds. And since it’s in on the beach in California, I’m really excited to be attending. Watch for my updates on @HermanMiller, hashtag #betterworld.
April 9, 2010
It started where it always does, with me wishing for more time. Since 24 hours a day is all any of us get, I’d need to be more efficient. Enter RescueTime, software that records, in a very Big Brotherish way, where you spend your time on your computer. As you use Word or Excel, shop at zappos.com, or play Farmville on Facebook, RescueTime is running in the background, mercilessly recording ever minute of it.
Initially I thought it was cool. The very first day, RescueTime awarded me a blue ribbon and told me I was in the top two percent of users—oh, the rush! But it turned out I hadn’t properly launched the program the day before, and those stellar results were only for the previous five minutes.
I have several computers I use throughout the day for different projects. Every time I returned to the computer on which I’d installed the software, RescueTime demanded to know where I’d been. The default responses include “Leisure” and “Other work” and the program allows you to customize. (I created a category called “Doggy management,” since I have a high maintenance dog.)
Often it was tough to be accurate. On a normal day, I might be away from my main computer for four hours, during which I’ve worked on a client’s project, thrown meat in the crock pot, and played tennis. There’s no way to log those activities individually, unless you remember to return to your computer between each one.
Furthermore, I sometimes found myself responding to the constant “where have you been, young lady?” like a recalcitrant teenager, clicking on the “None of your business (don’t log this time)” button, even when the time had been spent productively. While this tactic was personally gratifying, it did not help my productivity score.
To its credit, RescueTime did curtail my Facebook habit. I work alone and Facebook is to me what the water cooler is to office workers. RescueTime noticed when I lingered there too long (something you can set in the preferences) and notified me. I learned how to go to Facebook, skim my friends’ status updates, comment on a few, and leave. No more disappearing down the rabbit hole!
That worked great until a friend emailed me a link to Superwolf Ogles, a Facebook page written by a cat who is in an open relationship and has political leanings (Meo-ism).
Impossible to resist, right? I took a quick peek. Soon I was looking at a picture of a young woman named Steffani sitting on the Great Wall of China, and then at wedding photos of another complete stranger.
RescueTime waggled its Big Brother finger at me, but, already on my way to the video clip of Jim and Pam’s wedding dance (on “The Office”), I just sneered. The only one who can rescue my time is still me.