June 30, 2010
It’s well known that Charles and Ray Eames played with plywood for years, experimenting with the strengths and weaknesses of the medium. They worked on plywood airplane parts, stretchers, and leg splints for wounded soldier in World War II before creating their iconic chair designs.
For those who earn their bread through the sweat of creative idea-making, Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, says to take a page from a child’s playbook.
“When they are in an environment where they feel secure, children can be more creative,” says Brown in a 2008 talk at the Art Center Design Conference. “They don’t fear the judgment of their peers. They don’t apologize for crazy ideas or second-guess themselves.” He adds, “They’re the ones who feel most free to play.” Similarly, a workplace in which people are asked to be creative should feel safe and comfortable. It should be designed to help people feel relaxed.
Second, children haven’t learned to categorize so quickly, so they can create new connections and use everyday items in novel ways. The proverbial cardboard box on Christmas morning, for example, is limited only by imagination while the toy in the box can only do one thing. It was that child’s viewpoint that could see the ball on the roll-on deodorant and apply it to a computer mouse.
Third, young kids do “construction play” with blocks and tape and crayons. David Kelley, founder of IDEO, calls it “thinking with your hands.”
Fourth, kids play house and tea party and cops and robbers; they become super heroes or villains or imaginary creatures. Role play is a powerful way to imagine an experience. How is it possible to design airport seating or a cart for emergency-room nurses without viscerally knowing what is involved in each experience? “When a kid dresses up as a firefighter, he’s beginning to try on that identity,” says Brown. “We’re doing the same thing as designers. We’re trying on these experiences.”
“Finally,” says Brown, “at some point, you have to get serious again. Playtime is probably most useful for the initial generation of new ideas, but there’s also a time to identify and develop the best ideas like serious adults.”
Plywood model photo via: Library of Congress
Better World, What's Up
June 28, 2010
Photo via: Flickr/Ed Yourdon
I recently was asked, “Is there art in your life?”
It’s an interesting question. Although I try to manage a life-work balance that includes celebrating art, too often the balance shifts to the work side of the scale. I realize that this needs to change, and I’m not the only one who feels this way.
On June 17, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced to New Yorkers the opportunity to participate in “Play Me, I’m Yours,” a public art project hosted by non-profit Sing for Hope. From June 21 to July 5, 60 pianos will be placed in parks and public spaces around New York City and its surrounding boroughs. The event is described by the organization as “a festival of music open to all New Yorkers.”
No excuses for those who say they don’t have time for art. Anyone can sit down at a piano and play a tune or attend a free performance by a celebrity artist.
Even better, the pianos are decorated and cared for by “piano buddies” from local schools, hospitals, and community organizations. Afterwards, the pianos will be donated to their buddy organizations. It’s all part of Sing for Hope’s vision for uniting artists and communities by bringing live art to urban centers and renewing the civic spirit.
Photo via: David Gonzalez/The New York Times
I won’t be able to visit New York this week to tickle the ivories, but I just found out that “Play Me, I’m Yours” will be part of the second annual ArtPrize event near my home in Grand Rapids, Michigan. ArtPrize runs from September 22 to October 10, so stay tuned for a future blog post about my experience at the keyboard.
This story has inspired me to look for opportunities to celebrate art. How about you? Is there art in your life?
June 25, 2010
If you didn’t make it to NeoCon this year, you missed something quite surprising and lovely – a stately “green oasis” sitting serenely alongside the truck convoy at the Merchandise Mart. It was a startling break from tradition (major manufacturers always line up their semis at the Mart), and it all started with an idea…that grew…and grew…and grew…
“It was disruptive, but in a very positive way,” states Sheila Warfield, Director of Presence Marketing for Herman Miller about the flower, plant and tree-lined display. Which is exactly the reaction she and her group hoped for when the idea sprouted to do something different at this year’s show.
“It was a way to express who we are as a company in a manner that was not only literally green, but that showed we think differently. We wanted to send a subtle signal to people that Herman Miller is always the first to step outside the box and do something fun and innovative.”
As she further explains, “At NeoCon, we only have three days to show and tell a lot. Our environmental message is typically woven throughout the story of our furnishings and our long-standing commitment to sustainability. This display allowed us to send that message in a quiet, way, with grace and humility.”
And charity. Because what’s even cooler is that Herman Miller partnered with Designs 4 Dignity, a non-profit group based in Chicago, to donate the entire display to Madonna House, a homeless and domestic violence shelter serving women and children.
More about the planting day next week.
June 23, 2010
Remember Frasier’s father on the TV show Frasier? He was very attached to an overstuffed recliner, “Just like my dad,” says Larry Fischer, principal at Perspectus Architecture in Cleveland.
When Fischer’s 89-year-old dad had hip replacement surgery a few years ago, Fischer started looking for a chair that would offer more than familiarity. At the Healthcare Design Conference in Florida that year, he found it. The Nala chair was not yet in production; however, Fischer was among the first to place an order.
When it arrived a few months later, Fischer replaced the recliner with the Nala–without consulting his father, who thought his low, cushy recliner was just fine. “At first, he was skeptical that it wouldn’t be comfortable because it looked kind of skeletal and he was used to overstuffed,” says Fischer. “He’s lived in that house for more than 60 years, and [stylistically] it’s definitely a typical grandpa’s house. And the chair looks pretty radical in that kind of home.”
Over time, however, he bonded with the Nala, which stops at any point along the recline range and provides correct body support. The arms that flip up all the way, allowing him to turn 90 degrees and get to his walker more easily, have been a boon. “At his age, you lose a lot of your upper body strength and that makes it hard to get out of a chair,” says Fischer, who couldn’t be more pleased that the executive decision he made to replace the chair has paid off.
“In terms of getting in and out of the chair and the comfort it offers, Nala has absolutely changed his life.”
Photo via: Larry Fischer
June 21, 2010
Okay, it kind of is, but with good reason. As almost anyone who is unemployed and looking for a job will tell you (but anyone among the majority of Americans dissatisfied with their jobs may find shocking), work is a predictor of happiness. Only about two-thirds of unemployed workers say they are satisfied with life, while more than three-quarters of working stiffs are.
That may be because work daily gives us access to other predictors of happiness. Events like staff meetings and birthday cake breaks provide social connection, which is a major predictor of happiness.
Work can also provide a sense of purpose and an opportunity to help others. And, if you have work that challenges you but is still within your capabilities, work offers flow experiences—those stretches when you’re so engrossed in an activity that you lose track of time.
“The most satisfied workers find their skills tested, their work varied, their tasks significant,” writes psychologist David Myers in The Pursuit of Happiness. A lot of that has to do with how a person frames his work more than what kind of work he does. An 18-year-old brick maker in Pakistan who makes $3.50 a day working alongside his siblings told NPR, “I’m happy because we are builders of the nation. If we don’t make bricks, people can’t build anything. Pakistan is going to develop every day because of us.” Knowing how you contribute to the bigger picture—whether as a member of a work team, a sports team, or the human race—boosts feelings of wellbeing.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who coined the term “flow,” has some suggestions for how to increase enjoyment and opportunities to experience flow, whether at work or at play. Set goals and measure your progress, immerse yourself in the activity, and focus on that moment in time, rather than worrying about tomorrow.
Money, by the way, doesn’t buy happiness, once basic needs are met. But happiness may bring more money. According to Myers, in recent research “Today’s happiness predicted tomorrow’s income better than today’s income predicted tomorrow’s happiness.”
Photo via: NPR
Design, What's Up
June 18, 2010
It’s back to business as usual at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. From June 14-16, however, tens of thousands of architecture and design professionals, facility managers, and dealers and distributors traversed the halls and showrooms in the massive Mart, which spans two entire city blocks on the bank of the Chicago River.
After 42 years, NeoCon has developed into North America’s largest design exposition and conference for commercial interiors. It’s a time when exhibitors such as Herman Miller introduce new products and services for the workplace and discuss concepts behind future product introductions, including the eCoupled technology. Ask anyone from the office furniture industry about NeoCon and the response usually begins with an amenable smile followed by a description that includes a comparison to what the North American International Auto Show means to the North American auto industry.
And always popular with NeoCon exhibitors and attendees are the awards. It was a thrill to be recognized this year for our product designs and manufacturing practices. Our Healthcare division took home two prestigious awards, including the Large Showroom award in the IIDA Showroom and Booth Design Competition and a Best of NeoCon Gold in the Healthcare Furniture category for its new Compass system. In addition, the Flo monitor arm by Herman Miller company Colebrook Bosson Saunders received a Best of NeoCon Silver award in the Technology Support category and the OFDA presented us with the 2010 Manufacturer of the Year Gold award.
NeoCon also is a time for reconnecting with customers and friends, making new acquaintances, and demonstrating the qualities that differentiate us from others in our industry. Next year’s show already is on the calendar for June 13-15, and the increase in attendance this year indicates that it will remain a very popular event for this industry.
June 16, 2010
This week at NeoCon, Herman Miller Healthcare celebrated the opening of its new showroom in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart and its recognition as a Large Showroom Winner in the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Showroom and Booth Design Competition.
The prestigious award honors originality of design, visual impact, effective use of materials, and the outstanding use of space, color, texture, lighting, and graphics.
NeoCon showrooms typically consider the convergence of a company’s employees, products, environmental sensibilities, and graphic expressions. Our new space particularly was designed to convey our knowledge about healthcare facility design and practices, and comprehensive product portfolio.
With the recent acquisitions of Brandrud and Nemschoff, Herman Miller Healthcare possesses the most comprehensive healthcare furnishings portfolio in the industry. We chose to demonstrate this portfolio through a broad range of applications that feature a variety of products, including our award-winning Compass system.
Together, Herman Miller Healthcare, Brandrud, and Nemschoff have a tremendous portfolio of innovative, high performance products designed to improve the healing environment.
Better World, Design, Products
June 15, 2010
Building green is a significant way to create a better world and ecoScorecard is a tool that improves the process. ecoScorecard is a free, web-based technology platform that gives product manufacturers the ability to provide environmental information and sustainability documentation about products for LEED and other third-party rating systems. It takes the hours, weeks, and sometimes months out of the documentation process.
Herman Miller is the first major contract furniture manufacturer to incorporate ecoScorecard into its product catalog. Its goal is to improve the time it takes to deliver environmental documentation to end users such as building owners, architects, designers, and product specifiers.
Like most of the business world, we see Herman Miller as a leader in sustainable business practices. It recognizes that ecoScorecard can help all manufacturers make the documentation process easier. In fact, the company is working with us to get other firms in the commercial interiors market to use the platform. And this isn’t about just Herman Miller or a competitive advantage. Its President and CEO, Brian Walker, and Environmental team all want the hassle of the documentation process to become a thing of the past for the entire building industry.
This summer and fall, we’ll be visiting architecture and design firms to share more information about the benefits of ecoScorecard. Send us an e-mail if you’d like to know more about these events.
Design, Healthcare, Products, What's Up
June 14, 2010
Say what you will about NeoCon—for example, “My feet are killing me,” or “These elevators make me crazy,” or “Where am I?”
The truth is, NeoCon provides a great opportunity to see who Herman Miller is, what they stand for, and what they offer.
These videos let you share Herman Miller’s NeoCon experience from wherever you are. They give you a brisk overview of the space, showcasing how we support people at work. The thing is, with mobile technology, people can work almost anywhere now. And they will go to the places where they are best able to get their work done, which often means collaborating with others. Work has become much more complex, so meeting people’s needs is much more complex. In the showroom, you’ll see how Herman Miller handles it:
• Putting people first
We listen to our customers to understand how and where their people work.
• Understanding the ways work is changing
We research factors that impact people at work: technology, speed, mobility, collaboration, health, and multiple generations.
• Making great workplaces
We offer a continuum of integrated, optimized solutions for the entire office landscape that support the full spectrum of work needs.
Plus the showroom looks great. Take a look, and see what they’re up to.
NeoCon overview with Cindy Donn: “Today’s office landscape actually has to support three different areas—individual, group and community.”
Herman Miller Healthcare with Gianfranco Zaccai: “Compass is designed to accommodate itself to any space and to the specific interaction between patient and caregivers.”
Thrive portfolio with Matt Tedesco: “Our job is to make sure that your people can do their job, and that’s what Thrive is all about—making sure you feel better so you work better – simple as that!”
Education with Jeff Vredevoogd: “It comes down to the word ‘change.”’
New Geiger guest chairs:
• David Ritch: “There is sort of this serendipity that takes place between the curved hoop and the rectilinear base of the Saya chair.”
• Khodi Feiz: “I will be happy if somebody walks by and looks at the A-line and Deft chairs and has a little smile just because of the way it looks and then sits on the chair and has another smile because of the way it feels.”
June 11, 2010
You might think that my idea of an office is different than my parents’ idea. Not so. It turns out that they, like a lot of Baby Boomers, are really good at adapting to what’s becoming more common for all of us—working anywhere. That can mean working from home, a coffee shop, or a “campsite” at headquarters. Mobile work is becoming a reality for many people and businesses.
Here I am working in the coffee bar at Herman Miller. (Got my portable mouse and separate keyboard, got my laptop support so I can elevate the display and get it to a good viewing angle.) Studies show that the simple addition of a portable mouse and separate keyboard dramatically increases comfort for mobile workers.
Ask anyone—like me—who’s really into mobile working, and she’ll tell you that portable technology is a must, and the fewer things to carry, the better. While mobile working may be the preferred work style for many now and most of us in the future, it doesn’t mean we can ignore our health while we do it. If I’ve learned anything from working anywhere it’s that being on the move feels better when I bring some good ergonomic support along with me.