Learning happens everywhere on campus. But what about the corporate campus? Can the design of learning spaces at the university teach the corporation something? Tracy Fouchea of Herman Miller thinks so. She makes the point in a recent article in Chief Learning Officer. One key, she says, is designing in the ability to change a space at will to meet all the different ways learning can happen.
“If you think about corporate learning spaces, some of them may be used only for formal learning or when they’re not being used for formal learning, it’s first come, first served or scheduled opportunities to use the space,” Fouchea said. “If you can make it so that it’s adaptable and multi-use, it can take on many other leads within an organization.”
More proof of the similarities between the design of learning spaces on corporate and educational campuses can be seen in places like the Innovation Park. It’s designed to jump-start early-stage companies. The facility itself is collaborative and flexible so it can respond to the diverse needs of short-term clients. Not unlike the situation for spaces on corporate campuses.
The Hendersons bring a legendary bigfoot named Harry into their home. At first, they believe Harry to be wild, but, after spending time with him, the family realizes he is actually quite gentle. The Hendersons begin to care deeply for Harry and put themselves in harm’s way to protect him from danger.
“Fortuitous encounters,” those chance or accidental run-ins that yield unexpected results, was a favorite idea of our former CEO Max De Pree. De Pree was a vocal advocate for creating spaces that encouraged people to meet, and interact with, those they might not otherwise know.
A New York Times piece lamenting the decline of the randomly assigned college roommate got me thinking about De Pree’s phrase. According to the article, students benefit from letting serendipity choose whom they live with for nine months. Students who bunked with a roommate of another race were more open-minded about race later in life, for example. A student with a good GPA can positively influence their roommate’s GPA. Spending time with people who are different from ourselves makes us more well-rounded.
The workplace is no different—a designer benefits from spending time with an accountant, and vice versa. One way to encourage this type of interaction is through mobility. Unassigned workstations can spur people to move around, break up the departmental organization common in many companies, and—fingers-crossed—fortuitously encounter someone they’ve never met before.
Workplaces can be designed for mobility and to encourage chance interactions, but to make the most of it, people must feel comfortable with this behavior. Sometimes this can be as simple as giving permission, and sometimes, as was discussed in a recent Harvard Business Review article, can include senior management modeling the desired behavior. Employees will give something new a try if they see their boss doing it.
So, like the college roommate experience, working alongside someone new might not always work out, but you’ll be a better person for having tried.
Steve Frykholm has been a graphic designer for Herman Miller for over 40 years and has produced some of our most memorable graphic campaigns. Frykholm recently designed a poster to promote REACH and we’re thrilled he’ll be presenting a talk as a one of the special guest speakers on his very first visit to Hong Kong.
Could you tell us about the poster you designed for REACH in Hong Kong.
I really wanted the poster to have a strong connection between China and Herman Miller. The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman is a strong symbol for Herman Miller, and a panda is a strong image for China. After doing my sketch of a panda relaxing in a lounge chair I knew it would be a strong poster. I hope people enjoy it as much as I enjoyed designing it.
The George Nelson led graphic design campaigns must have been a hard act to follow. How have those who’ve come before you influenced your work?
Charles and Ray Eames and the designers who worked for them and George Nelson gave me a wonderful legacy of exceptional work. I believe their work established an atmosphere at Herman Miller to do original and creative work. That’s the kind of work I enjoy doing, so it wasn’t a hard act to follow. Rather than being intimidating, I was energized. Read more
“Seventy percent of work in North America happens with two or more people. It’s no longer about the individual worker,” according to Ben Watson, our executive creative director, as quoted recently in The New York Times. “We need to create microenvironments—a mix of them, in fact, so you want to be at your office more than you want to be at home or at Starbucks.”
How do we design spaces to support this shift toward working together? One step is to understand how current space is being used. You may realize that the boardroom is nearly always empty, while there is a waiting list for small conference rooms. Having this knowledge will help you design a better mix of settings and ensure you are getting the most out of your space.
Inspiration is all around and some of us, like designer George Nelson, are bestowed with the talent to turn it into something real.
The 2011 limited-edition Select tray table features a veneer inlay patterned on one such inspiration. Nelson’s 1962 Flock of Butterflies clock transformed bent, polished aluminum into a simple design that evokes butterflies in flight.
Here is George Nelson explaining, in his own words, how a night of fun inspired another icon of mid-century design, the ball clock.
We’re passionate about design. Whether it’s ergonomic seating, graphic design, or something for our employees. We think about it; we design it–it’s part of who we are.
We’re also pretty passionate about cycling. So, in 1999, when a group of avid cyclists, including our current CEO Brian Walker, began discussing the idea of creating a special Herman Miller bike jersey, design quickly entered the discussion.
Since then, nine Herman Miller jerseys have been created. And much like our picnic posters, each designer had their own theme. Inspiration came from bike components and accessories, Herman Miller products, diabetes awareness, and even beet juice. Each one was designed to be eye-catching, because when you’re on the road, the last thing you want to do is blend in.
Designing the jerseys were always a fun project, but clothing was a new experience. “The tricky thing is to create one design that looks as good on a [size] small as it does on a XXL,” said graphic designer Martin Burch, who designed the first several jerseys.
The jerseys have become a part of the Herman Miller spirit. Our creative director, Steve Frykholm, put it best, “It’s fun to see someone wearing one on the road. It’s like seeing one of our trucks, it gets you kind of excited.”
If you’re in the West Michigan area, come join us for the Herman Miller Grand Cycle Classic. You’re guaranteed to see a few of our jerseys on the course.
In 2009, the United States generated 486 billion pounds of solid waste. What happened to last years “hot” cell phone? Or that plastic water bottle from lunch today? Or the office chair you sat in before the renovation? More likely than not, it was thrown away. But “away” is not some far, far mythical place–it’s a landfill.
Design has long been a tool for developing new products that drive consumption and boost the bottom line–products that will eventually become trash. But recently, companies have begun to recognize design as a tool for solving issues associated with the end of a product’s lifecycle.
Design can make a product’s end-life more sustainable in several ways. The first is to develop products that last longer. Durable products are replaced less frequently and can be refurbished–giving them a second life and postponing their trip to the landfill.
Another approach is to design for disassembly. Products that are easy to take apart are easier to sort into smaller pieces, which encourages a larger percentage of the product to be recycled. We have developed a set of Design for the Environment protocols that try to accomplish both of these goals. The degree of our success varies, but the lifecycle of our products, from beginning to end, is always on our minds. Check out Taking It Back, a great article about companies working toward better sustainable goals.
Gianfranco Zaccai pretends to be a lot of things: Chinese parent, a basketball player, and a child with diabetes to name a few. When asked to work on a healthcare project, Zaccai and his team at Continuum, the design consultancy he co-founded, built a fake hospital room and pretended to be hospital patients. Why? “To empathize,” replied Zaccai in a recent Wall Street Journal article.
Zaccai isn’t interested in producing a “better” healthcare product—his goal is to create a better healthcare experience. Which is exactly what he and Continuum achieved in the Compass modular furniture system for Herman Miller Healthcare. More than 550 clinicians, hospital administrators, architects, and designers were interviewed to find the most important unmet needs in how patient and exam rooms are designed now. The result was a deep understanding of what makes a better experience for everyone involved: the patient, the caregiver, the family, and the administrator. Because, as Zaccai says, “The opportunity for innovation is finding the sweet spot where needs overlap.”
Long before transforming into Los Angeles’ first LEED CI Platinum building, our showroom had a past. Located in Culver City, the building began its life as a cloth diaper manufacturer in the mid 1950’s. As the area changed and manufacturing left, the building lay unused until a becoming a warehouse for mens’ suits in the 1980s.
When Herman Miller purchased the building in 2007, the there were few people who questioned the decision. In order to meet our environmental standards, both the structure and the interior required extensive renovation. Design by TVS Design, 20 percent of all materials used were made with 500 miles of the site, and 85 percent of all construction was recycle and diverted from the landfill. These, among many other efforts, resulted in the building being honored with LEED Gold certification and the interiors with Platinum–the first, and still only, Platinum commercial interior in LA.
Finnish material specialists, Ore. E. Refineries, recently caught our attention with their post on the how-to website Instructables entitled, How Not To: Design a Chair. A title guaranteed to pique our interest because we think hard before we design a chair. The post is a challenge to designers to refrain from designing chairs in 2012.
The guys as at Ore. E. Refineries raise some great points, namely that there are a lot of chairs in the world. They ask us to rethink the meaning of sustainable design and suggest repairing old chairs. So why did they create a how-not-to? Wouldn’t a call to action be more powerful that a call to non-action? Engage designer to use their talents to creating “new” chairs from old chairs, or perhaps a how-to on repairing old chairs would have been useful. Positive challenges will lead to positive outcomes.