January 31, 2011
Herman Miller has received the top rating for a fourth consecutive year in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s eighth annual Corporate Equality Index.
We are one of only 337 companies recognized for employment policies and practices that include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) workers and their families. The index evaluates non-discrimination policies, benefits, diversity training, and other internal resources for LGBT workers, as well as external support for the LGBT community.
At Herman Miller, inclusiveness is one of the Things That Matter to us and one of many ideals that helps us succeed.
In fact, Brian Walker, our President and CEO, says, “When we are truly inclusive, I believe we go beyond toleration to really understanding what makes us unique and what unites us as human beings.”
January 28, 2011
Within its sphere of influence, Herman Miller works hard to stay true to its ethos of environmental stewardship and to fulfill its commitment to zero waste by 2020. But whether it’s environmentally friendly facilities or responsible manufacturing processes, companies like Herman Miller can only move ahead as fast as the science that undergirds these techniques and processes.
One place where research is happening on a large scale is Biosphere2 in the desert north of Tucson, Arizona. Biosphere1 is our Earth.
Managed by the University of Arizona, Biosphere2 is a scientist’s dream. It’s a 3-acre Star Trek-like greenhouse of glass and steel completely sealed from the surrounding desert. Within this sealed environment, five mini-biomes, such as mangrove wetlands, a savannah grassland, and a coral reef, have been created. Because these environments can be minutely controlled, science can proceed on a large scale.
Studies are underway, for example, to compare the effect of drought on native grasses like tanglehead versus invasive species like buffelgrass. Or to examine how fast carbon dioxide is absorbed in a rain forest.
Ultimately, the kind of research that’s happening at Biosphere2 should result in a better understanding of how our planet works, as well as nuts-and-bolts ways to preserve and protect our fragile biosystems. That’s the kind of research that companies like Herman Miller might find useful in the future.
January 25, 2011
Designer Yves Béhar believes there’s a parallel between the SAYL chair’s unframed suspension back and how we humans progress by unframed expressions of our potential.
“You live unframed when you let ideas define what it is you want to do and who it is you want to be,” he says.
So, how do you live unframed?
If you have a Twitter account, show us in a TwitPic or yfrog image what it means to you to live unframed and tweet it to @hermanmiller for your chance to win a SAYL chair.
For more information, check out the rules and guidelines page. The deadline for entries is February 11, 2011.
Education, What's Up
January 24, 2011
That’s the question Herman Miller is asking full-time students attending 2-or 4-year colleges or universities in the U.S. and Canada* for our second annual video contest. We’re encouraging them to document the places where they connect, recharge, study, and socialize on campus.
We’re hoping to see a variety of entries that are creative, fun, or serious—all from the perspective of students. The results will help promote discussion among higher education professionals about the rapidly changing needs of students and how higher education facilities can respond to those needs.
Plus, the top three entries will receive cash prizes.
Want to learn more? Check out the contest website and you’ll find everything you need to know.
* Students in the province of Quebec are excluded from participation in the contest.
January 20, 2011
In August 2009, the traveling exhibit Good Design: Stories from Herman Miller hit the road. In a multilayered story format, the exhibit examines the development of well-known Herman Miller products, such as the Aeron chair, Action Office, and a selection of iconic Eames products. Each story explores how a need was met through the collaborative, problem-solving approach that Herman Miller does so well.
“When you look at needs and problems, you aren’t inhibited by the market constraints,” says John Berry, guest curator of the exhibit. “It’s very much about understanding a need and meeting that need and creating, as Herman Miller often does, a brand new market.”
The exhibit is the result of a collaboration between the Muskegon Museum of Art (MMA) and The Henry Ford Museum, which houses the largest collection of Herman Miller products in the world. Since its opening at the MMA, Good Design has traveled to four cities: St. Paul, Minnesota; Dearborn, Michigan; Syracuse, New York; and lately, San Angelo, Texas. Wherever it goes, the reception has been enthusiastic.
“Even in San Angelo, in the middle of Texas, the opening attracted 600 people,” says Berry.
“I find that people can relate to the exhibit because these are items that are in the common vernacular,” he adds. “When you see a plastic shell chair that you probably sat on in school, you can say, ‘Oh, that was an Eames design.’ You understand that this chair wasn’t the result of casual decisions. It required serious, robust research to meet real needs.”
The exhibit is scheduled to open at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin, from January 29, 2011, to April 3, 2011. Additional stops include Austin, Texas; Midland, Michigan; Chattanooga, Tennessee; San Francisco, California; and Kalamazoo, Michigan, before it ends in 2013.
January 18, 2011
In November, Herman Miller began offering basic medical services on site to its employees with a primary goal of reducing health care costs, but also to make it more convenient for people to get the appropriate care they may need.
“We know from our health insurance claims that a lot of people use urgent care or emergency room services for things that are not really emergencies simply because they don’t have a family doctor or anywhere to go for basic care,” says Mike Koppenol, Senior Manager, Employee Benefit Programs. “We thought if we offered some limited services at our three on-site clinics (previously used for work-related cases only) we could save money and also provide a better place to treat people for minor things such as sore throats, coughs, fevers, sprains, stitches, eye or ear injuries, that sort of thing.”
Using ER services for non-urgent care is not only very expensive—on average $450 versus $90 for a doctor’s office visit—it also ties up valuable resources that others may need.
Koppenol says the idea with the clinics, which are staffed by a physician, a physician’s assistant, and a nurse practitioner, isn’t to replace a primary care doctor, but to serve as more of a fill-in. “Employees need primary care physicians for annual physicals and for preventive care, and also so they have a medical ‘home’ to go to if something goes wrong. Our clinics can take care of the bumps and bruises that may come up in the meantime.”
Other large companies, from Toyota to Pepsi to Disney, are finding that on-site clinics are a great way to go; some studies show employers can save as much as 25 percent in employee health care fees in the first year alone, not to mention the savings in productivity when an employee doesn’t have to take 2-3 hours off for a doctor’s appointment.
Design, What's Up
January 14, 2011
You might want to pack your bags and head for Tokyo when you hear what just opened up there: a Herman Miller store. It’s the company’s first storefront to open since the creation of the Textiles and Objects Shop, which it operated in New York City from 1960-1967.
Designed by Torafu Architects and located in the hip Marunouchi shopping district, it’s full of wonderfully designed items, large and small, including limited-edition Eames molded plastic side chars painted by Japanese artist Mustone and unique area rugs developed in collaboration with photographer Takashi Kumagai.
It’s all about making great design available to consumers, from chairs and desks to games and toys.
Up until now there really hasn’t been an easy way for individuals in this area to buy Herman Miller products. But the demand has always been great.
Herman Miller sells its products in North America to individuals through its network of authorized retailers and its online store. Its global network of dealerships sells to businesses worldwide.
The store in Marunouchi provides the company a way to raise awareness for its brand in a growing market. And now the shopping is not only simple—walk right in and have a look around—but fun, too.
Visitors will find a comfortable, relaxing, “at home” atmosphere with several specially designed areas, like the “Try a Chair” section where they can sit, twirl and experiment to find just the right fit.
Design, Healthcare, Products
January 12, 2011
Gianfranco Zaccai brings to design a synergy of two cultures: the rational, practical, American approach he grew up in and the more emotional, traditional, Italian perspective that is his heritage.
While he may have relied on American practicality in his design of the Swiffer system for Proctor & Gamble, he clearly drew from broad experience and a depth of understanding in his work on Herman Miller’s Compass system.
He also is the co-founder of Continuum, an international design firm.
Here are seven questions (plus a half) for Gianfranco Zaccai:
1. What are you working on right now?
Well, I’m working on another project for Herman Miller. Like Compass, it’s in healthcare, which is a particularly compelling area to work in. When I first got out of design school, I began to focus on bringing a human touch to healthcare. That’s really vital.
There’s an overwhelming amount of technology in healthcare. Even doctors get overwhelmed by the evolution in certain disciplines. What gets lost is the human touch.
2. Which of your projects are you most proud of?
Years ago, I worked on another project for Herman Miller that never went to market, but it dealt with ways to allow people to stay at home as they aged or developed disabilities. We came up with a series of solutions for things like personal hygiene, for example. My own parents were aging at the time, so the development of the project came from observing them. When we were building prototypes, many people talked about how they needed something like it for their mothers—or for themselves. It never went into production, but those conversations indicated a need.
3. What inspires you? Where do you go for inspiration?
The way we approach any project is to get deeply into the context. So, with healthcare, we spend a lot of time in hospitals. We observe and talk to people—nurses, doctors, patients, cleaning staff. As a result, we are able to glean information that we’ve developed into a series of projects.
I also like to hike in the Italian Alps, especially the Dolomites. That’s a particularly wonderful place to be.
4. What work do you most admire by another artist or designer?
One guy I very much admire is Ettore Sottsass, founder of the Memphis collective. He was very pragmatic and was not afraid to step outside the bounds of what’s considered good design. His work was both rational and emotional at the same time.
I also admire Philippe Starck because he transforms everyday items into something you can experience in a different way. It’s very emotional design. I particularly like the flyswatter and the ghost chair.
And Renzo Piano, not only because he designs elegant buildings, but also because he incorporates elegant solutions, like bringing light into a gallery space, for example.
5. What would be your dream project?
To redesign the American healthcare system–the way healthcare is delivered, the way people collaborate, the way technology is integrated. We have a lot of Band-Aid solutions. Someone has to change the package.
And one-half: You’ve said that Compass is your favorite project. Why?
Compass deals with the sweet spot that I’m interested in—humanizing health care. If we’re successful, we will have created an environment in which providers can practice better healthcare and patients can feel that they’re well taken care of. Compass is a system that allows for efficient change, even if the hospital is 100 years old. It’s Utopian to think you can create the perfect environment for something when that something keeps changing.
6. What place in the world would you most like to visit?
Tibet, because of the mountains, but also because Asian art, architecture, and furniture is very appealing to me. I’ve been to other places in Asia, but not there.
7. What one thing do you want to accomplish before you die?
To make sure my children are headed in the right direction. Everyone has their own path to follow. I hope to do my part in preparing them to be good people and to achieve their dreams.
Photo via Syracuse University Magazine
Design, What's Up
January 10, 2011
First impressions. They count. And at Herman Miller’s Design Yard in Holland, MI, you can count on a good one when you walk in the front door: A friendly and helpful concierge, lots to catch your eye and grab your interest, great aromas from the coffee bar, and comfortable furniture.
If you’re part of a customer tour of the Design Yard, it’s likely your first stop will be the Parlor, just a few steps from the front door. It’s a great room to relax in, unwind, and have a conversation with Herman Miller folks about your company, your needs, and what’s important to you.
“The Parlor sets the tone,” says Robert Hieftje, Herman Miller’s Customer Experience Senior Manager. “It’s a place of discovery a time of learning for us. After we talk and get to know each other, we’re able to personalize the rest of the customer’s experience at the Design Yard so it’s of most value to them.”
Furnished with a carefully selected mix of Herman Miller furniture, the room looks and feels like home. A wall of bookshelves holds not only books, but also artifacts from Herman Miller’s legacy: photos of the companies legendary designers like Nelson, Rhode, Girard, Stumpf, and the Eameses; examples of Herman Miller innovation; and a treasure trove of fun conversation pieces.
For example, there’s a beautiful wooden envelope from the Hall family of Hallmark Cards fame, given in recognition of Herman Miller’s and Hallmark’s 40-plus years of working together.
“This means so much to us,” says Robert, “because it represents the kind of strong, long-term relationships we strive for with every customer.”
January 7, 2011
Herman Miller’s independent contractors are an important part of our community, and just before the holidays transcriber Jodie Alexiev surprised us with a wonderful gift–a donation in our name used to stock a health clinic for those in need.
Alexiev considers herself an altruistic person by nature. For example, following her dreams meant she had to give up her job at a travel agency to serve with the Peace Corps in Bulgaria. And later she created her own transcription business so that she could stay at home with her kids.
Her altruism showed through in her Christmas gifts to Herman Miller and the rest of her customers, many of which are healthcare organizations in West Michigan.
Their reaction? “They’ve been tickled and honored,” she notes.
The idea came from a gift catalog published by World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization.
“It ignites your imagination,” says Alexiev, “and you know where your dollars are going.”