December 31, 2010
Herman Miller has established several sustainable practices to help it reach its Perfect Vision goals, but what are others doing to create a better world? I recently traveled to Germany and witnessed the country’s commitment to sustainability. Potsdamer Platz is one area that stands out.
Historic Potsdamer Platz in the center of Berlin has seen its share of turbulence. Razed during World War II and bisected by the Berlin Wall (an unobtrusive brick line still runs through the center of the square marking where the wall once stood), it once was a cement-covered no-man’s-land.
Within the last two decades, however, the square has been reborn, and it has a green story to tell.
Meandering through the square, an “Urban Waterscape” of pools, canals, and gentle cascades create “an oasis of calm and beauty,” according to design firm, Atelier Dreiseitl. Naturalized landscapes (“purification biotopes”) surround and filter the water that passes through it.
Besides the aesthetic benefits, the Urban Waterscape is a sophisticated rainwater management system. Over half of the buildings surrounding the enormous square have green roofs. Rainwater from the buildings supplies flushing toilets and fire systems. The remaining rainwater fills the pools and irrigates the landscapes.
Almost subliminally you are drawn to the vista of natural grasses, ducks, fish, and even a crane peacefully co-existing between a highway and the bustling city center. Add the environmental story, and Potsdamer Platz becomes an impressive part of Berlin’s renaissance.
December 29, 2010
When actor Dennis Quaid’s 12-day-old twins nearly died as a result of a medication mix-up a few years ago, it brought to light an on-going and serious problem for hospitals: dispensing the wrong medications to patients.
Herman Miller has been working closely with hospitals for many years to help health care professionals find ways to reduce what are known as “adverse drug events.” A new Herman Miller Solution Essay, “Making Medication Dispensing Safer for All,” discusses the common causes of drug errors — from interruptions to poorly designed med dispensing rooms — and offers advice on what hospitals can do to prevent or mitigate them.
One of the most interesting aspects of all this is the study of “human factors;” that is, human capabilities and/or limitations that may have an impact on any given situation, from the person’s age to his or her reaction to stress. The idea, of course, is to learn all we can about why people make mistakes in the first place, so we can design work environments that help prevent them from doing so. Or, as the U.S. Institute of Medicine once put it, “make it easy for people to do the right thing and hard for them to do the wrong thing.”
Check out the latest Solution Essay to learn more about how Herman Miller helped two hospitals improve their processes.
December 27, 2010
To survive and thrive on the other side of the economic downturn, companies are going to have to take innovation to a whole new level—even companies like ours that have a reputation for innovation.
There are a lot of ways we enable innovation here. We work with leading designers, explore new materials and how they can be used in our products, and use ethnography to understand people and the way they work in the real world.
As part of our effort to continuously improve innovation, Jim Long, Director, Research and Development, began working with the NewNorth Center, founded by Nate Young as a nonprofit educational organization, which offers classes on innovation methods and helps companies bring discipline to their creative processes. The result is three workshops created specifically for Herman Miller. Each is built around a specific tool, including “A Day in the Life,” which puts participants in a customer’s shoes and helps them understand the customer in a very detailed way. It often reveals where that customer’s needs are not being met.
“Over time, these workshops will give us new insight into our own innovation process,” says Long, “which we can use to make something that’s already very good, even better.”
Pictured above: Nate Young, President of the NewNorth Center . Courtesy of MiBiz.
Design, What's Up
December 24, 2010
Pictured above: Pauline Verbeek-Cowart, associate professor at KCAI
“Design is a response to social change.” –George Nelson
Certainly, a lot of social change has taken place since George Nelson, Herman Miller’s revolutionary lead designer in the 40s and 50s, said those words. The way offices function and the way people work has changed dramatically.
So, what might contemporary artists and designers have to say about design and social change? I quizzed a student and a professor at the Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) about their response to George Nelson’s statement and about the relationship between art and design in general. Here’s what they had to say:
Theo Bunch, a senior at KCAI, said that, while design can be a response to social change, it’s also a response to life. “Design is part of life. We’re always changing,” he said. “Design, like art, represents human expression and creative thought. It’s planned, intelligent, creative thinking. Design is applied art, like physics is applied math.
According to Pauline Verbeek-Cowart, associate professor and chair of the Fiber Department, “Artists and designers have always responded to the world around them, this action is often a reaction to the status quo, to the current culture. What happens in the world of art and design is a response to societal norms, and social change can be the outcome.
So, there you have it, a contemporary reflection on a past visionary. Let the discussion continue…
December 22, 2010
“One,” you say. That’s a tempting response, but leaving politics aside and focusing just on the PRC, what plays in Beijing is likely to flop in Shanghai and go unnoticed in Chengdu.
For any company going global, especially in China, subtle differences are key. China is set to overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy by 2020, so there’s great allure to “the China market.” But China is really multiple markets. Multinational companies looking to house employees there have to do as marketers do: Actively seek out cultural influences and integrate them into the business. That can give corporate real estate and facilities people a better understanding of cultural nuances.
And that, in turn, can make it easier to provide office space that balances both local and corporate needs.
December 20, 2010
This fall, Herman Miller’s Insight + Exploration team and Herman Miller Healthcare worked with senior interior design students at Kendall College of Art and Design. The students in Professor Lee Davis’ Studio V class completed the interior design of an adult healthcare clinic, which includes primary care and an infusion center. Herman Miller provided knowledge about the function of the space and a comprehensive product portfolio that allowed the students to focus on creating an innovative, healing environment for these two unique patient groups.
The students did their own research, learning from interactions with office managers, nurses, physicians, and close family members who experienced these types of spaces and treatments.
“Research is a huge part of healthcare design. Herman Miller’s healthcare knowledge was a great assistance in our learning,” said student Melissa M. Suchowolec.
When asked to identify a key learning, there was consensus that the complexities and rigorous requirements of healthcare design were eye opening. The thoughtfulness and attention to detail would make them better designers of any space, not just healthcare.
Experiencing the students excitement, seeing their innovative designs, and hearing how this project had influenced their design thinking made this is a great collaboration and a meaningful experience for me and the Herman Miller team.
Design, Education, What's Up
December 17, 2010
Back in the 1970s, Max DePree (who was our CEO then) invited management guru Peter Drucker to talk to his management team many times. De Pree and Drucker forged a friendship based on mutual respect and similar ideas about why innovation and values were important. They also felt strongly that it was in a company’s best interest to help the people who work there realize their potential. It was the beginning of an enduring relationship between Herman Miller, Inc., Drucker, and eventually the Drucker Institute, a think-tank formed in 2006 to further Drucker’s ideas.
When the Institute decided to redesign its office space, it turned to Herman Miller. The Institute wanted a flexible space that would improve communication and support collaboration. Their new offices don’t have any walls, a move that encourages what Drucker called “sideways communication.” Furniture is on casters, so reconfiguring it is a snap. And the perimeter walls have been painted with Idea Paint, a paint that turns surfaces into marker boards.
The new office space is “the perfect blend of form and function,” writes Institute Director Rick Wartzman in his own piece about the project. Clearly, the Drucker/Herman Miller connection is still a synergistic one.
Design, Products, What's Up
December 16, 2010
Congratulations to Eric Chan who recently received the 2010 World’s Outstanding Chinese Designer award from the Hong Kong Design Centre.
Chan says this award is particularly significant: “Creating product that is meaningful, responsive, and imparts a sense of cultural relevancy are personal priorities. I am truly grateful to be recognized in such a meaningful way.”
The founder and director of ECCO Design, New York, Chan was born in China and strongly believes in the Eastern philosophy of creating harmony between man and nature, society and technology: “I am most interested in translating complicated technology into simple understandable, and friendly products for people,” he says.
Herman Miller and Chan have collaborated on a number of projects during a long and proud history together. Among them, the elegant Foray chair and the highly adaptable Intersect Portfolio.
Design, What's Up
December 15, 2010
Several years before Kristie Strasen founded Place Textiles in New York in 2006, she visited Herman Miller as a leading textile designer and consultant. She remembers how impressed she was with Herman Miller’s Materials philosophy. “I was very excitied,” says Strasen. “We had parallel attitudes about design and color of fabrics. We understood each other. Since then, my aesthetic sense has always been in tune with Herman Miller.”
Today, she says, “I’m extremely excited again.” She recently reconnected with Herman Miller, and the result is what she calls “a match made in heaven.” Place Textiles is now an alliance partner with Herman Miller, and a selection of her line is now part of Herman Miller’s Textile Alliance Program.
The alliance with Herman Miller honors Strasen’s lifelong admiration for the very designers whom she revered when she conceived Place Textiles. “The whole idea behind Place is to create higher-end fabrics with beautiful color and texture,” she says, “and not focus on pattern. It’s a tightly integrated palette, with clear, clean, bright colors as well as neutrals. This combination complements the historical importance that Herman Miller places on color.”
Training as a hand weaver also gives Strasen a keen understanding of the architecture of the woven fabric and has contributed to her award-winning success in textile design.
Better World, What's Up
December 13, 2010
This holiday season, Herman Miller is partnering with architects, designers, and suppliers for its annual We Care event. In 25 cities across the U.S. and Canada, volunteers will help children from the Boys and Girls Clubs of America make holiday gifts for their loved ones—everything from tree ornaments to photo frames, holiday placemats, and felt scarves.
It’s the 14th year of a great tradition that brings some very deserving children a day of seasonal good cheer.