Design, What's Up
June 13, 2011
Umpire Andy Fletcher and manager Ron Gardenhire arguing, presumably, over the finer points of design research. Photo: Getty Images
“Design, like the world as a whole, is unpredictable and messy. If you think it boils down to ‘research,’ you’re mistaken,”
Ben McAllister of Frog Design continues to say, “[a]simplistic view of research pervades our culture…. The real world is a complex system inhabited by autonomous individuals. It isn’t so simple or knowable, which is exactly why design can be so valuable. Research can become a crutch to decision-making and that it is sometimes viewed as hard fact,”
The Atlantic recently published two articles on the role of research in design: The ‘Science’ of Good Design: A Dangerous Idea followed by The Art of Design Research (and Why It Matters). They’re good reading and have offer insight into the strengths and weaknesses of research and what is can offer.
Jon French, also of Frog Design, acknowledges McAllister’s skepticism of research, but counters by saying, “Design research is not ‘a science’ and is not necessarily ‘scientific.’ It gives designers and clients a much more nuanced understanding of the people for whom they design while providing knowledge that addresses some of the most fundamental questions we face throughout the process.”
Research has been a large component of our product development process since the 1960 when Robert Propst joined the company. Herman Miller research has always been person-centered, developing a deep understanding of how people work, how they move, how they sit, and what they makes them comfortable. This provides us and our designers a better understanding of the people using our products. But research is an art as much as it is a science, and we also understand that results are not always as cut-and-dry as charts and graphs can make it appear.
Check out the two articles and let us know what you think.
Design, What's Up
June 10, 2011
Architect James Meyer is the founder of Los Angeles based design/build firm LeanArch and the fourth in our POV interviews.
1. You’ve talked about being inspired by the Eames House in your designs. What do you think makes a house feel like a home?
I often promote the idea that the home is the last remaining piece of personal expression left in most people’s lives. Nowadays, we are completely surrounded with products, goods and technology which are designed by others and tailor made to meet the needs of our consumer-driven culture. The cars we drive, the mobile phones we use.
The companies who make these products are constantly trying to demonstrate how they are able to be customized to meet the personal tastes of their potential customers. The fact is, that these items, along with most everything else, are extremely limited when it comes to personalization.
The home is really the last place where one can truly be expressive of their personal tastes, and, as we know, the opportunities are somewhat limitless… This is why we take great care to work closely with our clients to help them define what it is they are ultimately looking for, and to develop a design which will best reflect those desires.
Visit Lifework for the entire conversation with James Meyer.
Design, What's Up
June 10, 2011
Two companies, almost a world apart–Herman Miller based in North America and Magis in Italy–share a similar approach to design.
“Both companies have many and continuing collaborations with the greatest world designers,” explains Alberto Perazza, Co-Managing Director of Magis. Like Herman Miller, Magis believes in authored design, working with outside creative partners who provoke them toward something truly new.
It makes sense that the two companies should partner, placing such design icons as the Bombo Stool by Stefano Giovannoni and Konstantin Grcic’s Chair_One alongside Yves Behar’s SAYL chair and Setu by Studio 7.5. As of September 1, 2011, Herman Miller will be the exclusive distributor of Magis products in the U.S. and Canada.
June 9, 2011
Two print ads for the United Negro College Fund by Harry Webber.
You know the long-running public service ad for the UNCF. A mind is, indeed, a terrible thing to waste. To make sure that doesn’t happen, colleges and universities are trying to figure out just what’s going on in those young minds. The survival of higher ed, or at least its future health, depends on it.
The group known as Millennials is already having an impact on where and how learning happens on campus. That, in turn, is causing schools to reexamine the ways physical space can foster this trend toward learning anytime and anywhere. The key is to use space to engage this population, with amenities to enhance learning and classroom and lab designs that are as adaptable and flexible as the students are.
But what of the next group that follows the Millennials? They’ll likely direct their own learning. The trend toward eschewing traditional careers will only accelerate. More of future students will turn their passion into a profession. The Internet will continue to affect learning as ways of imparting knowledge become increasingly free, global, individual, and socially organized.
Even as learning gets more virtual, however, there will still be the need for physical places where people get together to learn. Chances are these spaces will need to be social and collaborative settings that assume the movement of people and furniture to allow for variety. They’ll need to include changing focal points, typically enabled by technology on demand. And visual stimulation, such as color, texture, and reference to nature, will be required to enhance cognitive skills.
The good thing about the changes coming to a campus near your child is that schools have new incentive to evolve the educational experience. Everyone will benefit from that, and certainly all those young minds ready to change their world.
June 8, 2011
In 1951, while on tour of the Eames office, well-known New Yorker artist Saul Steinberg picked up a brush and painted a reclining woman on an Eames fiberglass arm chair—turning chair into art and beginning a long history of artists using the designs of Charles and Ray as canvases for self-expression.
While for many of us—myself included—the thought of a smudge, much less a deliberate brush stroke, on one of our precious pieces of furniture makes us cringe. But not the Eameses, who treasured Saul’s chair, and displayed it proudly.
Surely they would be delighted to see that artists today continue to find inspiration in their work and use their designs as a canvas for expressing their own artistic visions.
Check out Operation Design for pictures from Eames Inspiration, a charity event Herman Miller co-sponsered last year.
June 7, 2011
Architect, designer, and eco-luminary Bill McDonough is a person we greatly respect. He has been a long-time collaborator with Herman Miller: designing our award-winning GreenHouse facility, as well as working with us on the design the Mirra chair, the first office chair to meet McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) Cradle to Cradle Design Framework, ensuring Mirra’s positive impact on the planet.
On Thursday, June 9, McDonough will be speaking alongside “Cradle to Cradle” co-author Dr. Michael Braungart for the first time in six years as part of a fundraiser for their Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute (think LEED for products). The event will be held at the InterContinental San Francisco. This is a great opportunity to hear McDonough and Braungart speak about the next Industrial Revolution, in which consumption is a good thing.
For more info, tickets, and sponsor and host committee information please visit http://tinyurl.com/3pjfl7s
June 6, 2011
Have a wasp problem? We recommend you use honeybees, as we did at our GreenHouse. Have a goose problem? We recommend Miller, the coincidentally named, goose-chasing dog and newest member of Marigold Lodge, Herman Miller’s lodge and conference center.
Located on Lake Macatawa in Holland, Michigan, Marigold Lodge has long been a favorite summer home for Canadian geese. While beautiful to look at, the geese are messy and nuisance to both guests and staff. A number of methods have been tried throughout the years to discourage the geese from taking up residence on the grounds, but to no avail.
Enter Miller, a five-year old Field-Bred Cocker and solution to our goose issue. Under the watchful eye of the Marigold staff, Miller patrols the grounds chasing away any geese wandering around. Trained to flush out birds, Miller seems to enjoy his new part-time job, which gives him an opportunity to get off the sofa and get some exercise.
This is a fun story, but also touches the core of what we do as a company, creative problem-solving for sustainable solutions. Solving our goose problem was no different. By discouraging the geese from nesting this year, Miller is reducing the likelihood of them returning next year, as geese tend to return to the same nesting location year-after-year.
Miller, enjoying what he does, is one happy dog.
June 3, 2011
The Prefab house deisgned by Marmol and Raziner for a remote site in Moab, Utah. Photo: Joe Fletcher
We spoke with Leo Marmol and Ron Radziner for part three of Herman Miller’s POV interview series.
Can you tell us how you both got involved in designing pre-fab homes?
We had incorporated prefabricated modular buildings into a few of our projects in the late 1990s, including a two-story classroom module as part of The Accelerated School in South Los Angeles in 1997, and four-module childcare center for the Los Angeles Airport in 1999. So in 2003, when Dwell magazine asked our firm to participate in a prefab design competition, it seemed like a natural opportunity to continue what we had started.
The competition sparked our interest in the greater possibilities of designing high-end modern homes within the constraints of a factory. We were exploring ways to minimize the inefficiencies involved with site-built construction, including weather delays, sub-contractor delays, runaway costs and excessive material waste, and prefab seemed as if it might provide some solutions
Since our prefab prototype the Desert House in 2005, we have developed our modular system and completed houses in Utah, Nevada, and throughout California. Our project in Moab, UT was on a particularly remote site and in that way was especially suited for modular prefab. Transportation of labor and materials alone would have made for extremely high on-site construction costs. Further, the modules were installed less than 12 months from the very first site visit, meaning design and construction were able to be completed in less than a year. It was an extraordinary case study for how prefab could significantly improve efficiency and reduce costs for the right project.
Visit Lifework for more of our interview with Leo Marmol and Ron Radziner.
June 1, 2011
We believe design starts with the person—an approach going back to 1976 when we introduced the Ergon chair after 11 years of research.
We’re not just interested in the physical attributes of people, but their behaviors as well: How do they work? What is their posture? How do they move? Even the purpose of their work. Our commitment to understanding the person through research has helped us to balance science with aesthetics and design chairs in which the needs of the person are central.
This approach is often referred to as person-centered ergonomics. We believe it makes sense, and you can see it played out in each of the chairs we design.
Head over to Lifework to learn how to choose a work chair.