June 29, 2011
Like death and taxes, cubicles will always be with us, and so will complaints about working in them. Rachel Z. Arndt writing in FastCompany, suggests several ways to make life better for “America’s 40 million cube dwellers.” Add plants and a foldout chair. Subtract wall height. Go for adjustability, in the desk height and light levels, the latter to help with seeing the screen during web calls. Good ideas. Here’s another: Be creative in planning the furniture layout. Make layouts more organic and free-flowing. Give people choices for where they work and gather. Use furniture to mimic the variety of an urban landscape. These ideas mesh with what Robert Propst, the inventor of the first open plan system Action Office, intended. His original idea was to use his invention to make the workplace a “kinetic, active, alert, and vigorous environment.”
June 28, 2011
A sketch by Ayse Birsel from Design the Life You Love. Photo: birselplusseck.com
We’re all designers, busy designing our own lives. Powerful stuff but sounds a bit cliché, doesn’t it? Designing Is About the Decisions You Make Every Day, a recent article on Fastcompany.com, got me thinking, and before I knew it, the questions were popping up.
The problem is that design has become a fantastical buzzword invoked to change the world, heal your woes, and make your life easier. But if you were to ask people on the street the meaning of design, you would receive a new defintion with each person you stopped. And, too often, design is associated with aethistics. And even if you throw function into the mix, what difference does it make? Does advocating a designed life equate to filling your life with good-looking, functional widgets? Is that how design can make your life better?
The key is to divorce design from any assocation with consumption, which is exactly the direction Ayse Birsel takes in Design the Life You Love, a recent project challenging us to stop and “think about [our lives] for a moment.” Conceived as a recipe, Birsel proposes a simple and thought-provoking way of examining the complexity of your life and to ask what’s next. It’s so simple, in fact, you could do it over a cup of coffee.
Birsel recoginizes that design, at its essence, is decision-making—and good design means good decisions—whether that manifests itself as a cool product, choosing to riding your bike to work, or deciding to go back to school—you’re designing your life when you make a thoughtful decision about what is right for you and for your life. And that doesn’t sound like a cliché.
June 27, 2011
As part of Design Now, a series connecting important designers and thinkers with Herman Miller, I had the opportunity to meet Sam Hecht and Kim Colin, founders of London-based Industrial Facility. Together, they shared their perspective on the junction between industrial design and the world around us. Here’s a bit from our conversation:
What influence does the landscape have on a product? And the product on the landscape?
Hecht: “If people are in equilibrium with the objects, the furniture, the room, and so on, then you begin to change the way you perceive the object. It becomes more truthful.
The example we often give is a glass of water. You cannot just see a glass of water without seeing the surface it sits on, the room it is in, the building that holds the room, the city where the building is grounded… that simple glass of water is no more or less important than the landscape and the people around it”.
Colin: “The products we work on, we hope, acknowledge more of the world in this way. Sometimes they don’t have to do as much, because other things are already doing it—they don’t always need to do more. It’s also important to think of the object beyond its moment of use. There is another function beyond this — living with it.”
Your clients are all over the world, is it possible these days to design something for one culture?
Colin: “We are often asked to design for a specific market. But because of the way we question what we are given, we naturally make the problem larger. The brief is specified for a local condition, and the product must make a local connection. But there are many global influences that lean on the local condition–a kind of ambient influence. So we identify with those as well. The product must be small (local), as well as big (global).
Mostly, we see how [a product] fits within a much broader picture, not just in the world culturally, but how it fits with the way behaviors are changing, not just here, but as much as possible, everywhere.”
Design, What's Up
June 23, 2011
Making holiday plans? If you’re planning to be in the L.A. area, plan on doing what lots of tourists are (and have been for years): visit the famous houses. Compared to the vagaries of trying to spot movie stars, let alone get close enough for an autograph, casing out the famous homes of L.A. is a more enjoyable pursuit. From the oldest (Gamble House, 1907) to the one dearest to our hearts (Eames House, 1949), from the work of Wright to Neutra, it is, as Andrew Ferren writes in The New York Times, “the ultimate showplace of American dream houses.” Our guy got a rare tour of the interior. (Tours of the grounds are open to everyone; interior tours are by appointment only.) The Mondrian-like façade is worth the journey alone. One of 25 homes built as part of a program sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine, the house features off-the-shelf parts ordered from catalogs. Charles and Ray balanced these industrial elements with a craftsman-like attention to detail that turns house into home. In fact, they lived and worked there for the rest of their lives. Let us know if you make a visit.
For details of the Eames House, check out these great photos posted by An Amateur on Flickr.
Visit Lifework to read about Cerentha’s dinner at the Eames House.
Design, Products, What's Up
June 20, 2011
What do you get when you combine hockey with Aeron, the world’s most iconic ergonomic work chair? Aeron Hockey, an upgrade to office hockey, the pastime of bored office workers everywhere. And this year, the sport has its own world championship in Hong Kong.
Aeron Hockey takes traditional office hockey—played with a paper puck and makeshift sticks—to the next level by adding real sticks, protective gear, and even its own court. This version has rules and pits two five-person teams against one another as they vie to score as many goals as possible during two 10-minute halves.
Held as part of REACH, a Herman Miller exhibit being held in Asia this September, the 2011 Aeron Hockey World Championships will host 10 teams from across the Pan-Asia Pacific region, including New Zealand, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, and Australia. The teams will face off in an all day tourney, culminating in the crowning of the first ever Pan-Asia Pacific Champions.
Check out this slide show to get a better idea of the level of competition. And Lifework has a video of Aeron Hockey in action.
Design, What's Up
June 17, 2011
June 17, 2011, would have been Charles Eames’ 104th birthday, so maybe the question should have been, “can you stand to see 104 in a row?”—I don’t think Charles would have shied away from a few more.
Charles saw his challenge as balancing craft (beauty) with industrial process (make-ability), a challenge that he worked hard to answer in all of his work. If the design was too heavy in one direction, it didn’t work. For me, the Eames molded plastic chair is Charles’ best answer to his own question.
Durable, colorful, and economical, the molded plastic chair became ubiquitous. I sat in them at school, at church, and even while I waited with my mother at the post office. They are beautiful around a dining table or, quite literally, “100 in a row” since they can gang together. Launched in 1950 and still in production today, the chair has withstood the test of time—proof of successful “balance.”
Checkout Lifework for a cool video of Eames Demetrios talking about his grandfather’s legacy.
Design, What's Up
June 15, 2011
“Wall of Clocks,” designed by George Nelson, hangs in the McNay Art Museum. Photo: OMAR PEREZ / EXPRESS-NEWS
“George Nelson: Architect, Writer, Designer, Teacher”, a traveling exhibit on the life and work of George Nelson, Herman Miller director of design from 1946 to 1972, is now at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas.
Ever the provocateur, Nelson challenged the way we live and tirelessly commuicated his vision. Under his guidance Herman Miller embraced and defined modern design, creating furniture and accessories that resonated with changing lifestyles of the late 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s—many of which are still produced by us today.
The exhibit is a great opportunity to not only see some of Nelson’s iconic design work, but also to learn more about the influential, multi-talented man who helped us see our future.
If you have visited the exhibit in San Antonio or elsewhere, please share you thoughts with us.
Design, What's Up
June 14, 2011
Whether you’re looking to do some work, recharge your electronics, or just to rest your weary feet—or, most likely, all three—you should stop by the Herman Miller Lounge on the first floor of the Merchandise Mart.
Featuring tables and chairs by Magis, our new Italian alliance partner, alongside powered Geiger Peer tables and Herman Miller Classics by Eames and Nelson, the lounge will take care of you—no matter what you need to get done.
Design, What's Up
June 13, 2011
People work together–in pairs and groups large and small–collaborating in the workplace is a way of life. And it happens everywhere in the office, not just at the workstation. This year, our focus at Neocon is supporting the places–formal and informal–where people are working together.
NeoCon is the annual contract furniture tradeshow held every year at the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago. Today is the first day and our showroom is packed with well-dressed people sitting, standing, and meandering as they check out our latest products.
Stop by if you’re in the area, Neocon runs June 13-15, and see what we have to offer, or just have a seat and rest your tired feet–we have lots of good choices. The Herman Miller showroom is located on the third floor of the Mart, or visit the Herman Miller Lounge on the first floor in the south lobby.