Better World, Design
August 8, 2011
Charles Eames had been explicit with Herman Miller executives when the lounge chair that would bear his name was being developed: it had to be made of rosewood, a wood treasured for its rich color and personality. Unfortunately in the decades since the chair’s introduction, the massive Brazilian rosewood trees that supplied the veneer were disappearing, and slash-and-burn methods of clearing tropical rainforest were endangering an entire ecosystem. This created a dilemma: Do we ruin a wonder of modern design or a wonder of nature?
Nature won, and in 1991 we ceased using rosewood. It was a decision supported by Ray Eames, Charles’ design partner.
In 2006, the Eames lounge and ottoman recaptured its original appearance with the introduction of Santos Palisander, a sustainable species of Bolivian rosewood harvested from well-managed, certified forests. Santos Palisander closely resembles the aesthetic of the original Brazilian rosewood that Charles had insisted was integral to his design.
Almost 60 years ago, Herman Miller founder D.J. De Pree defined a key company value when he stated, “We will be a good steward of the environment.” Since then we have worked hard and taken great pride in making sure that nature wins. The discontinuation of rosewood and the subsequent introduction of Santos Palisander is just one example. To learn more about our journey to become an environmental leader, please check out Merchants of Virtue, coming soon.
August 3, 2011
Sometimes the perfect workspace has four walls and a door; sometimes it has more–prison bars. Tony Perrottet, writing in the New York Times, traces the history of writers who benefited from the concentration afforded by imprisonment: The Marquis de Sade, Oscar Wilde, and even Marco Polo, who only recorded his travels while held captive. Why Writers Belong Behind Bars, while fun, raises an important issue: to get work done, sometimes you need a place closed off from life’s distractions, a place to concentrate.
While we’re certainly not suggesting companies lock up their employees, we do believe workplaces should match the work being done, whether that is working together or heads down. And when it’s the latter, some people require the privacy and control of walls and a door. They benefit from the ability to quietly pursue a thought to conclusion, without fear of interruption. A little solitude never hurt anyone.
Design, What's Up
August 2, 2011
Jeff Weber, designer of the Herman Miller Embody chair, featured in “Design Is The Difference,” an ad campaign by REACH. Coincidentally, the toothbrush was designed by another Herman Miller design partner, Yves Behar of fuseproject.
It’s really quite gratifying to those of us who’ve been doing design for decades to see that, as the REACH folks say, design is the difference. You hear it all over, from those advocating design thinking to solve world problems to, in this case, a toothbrush. There’s a growing recognition that how something works, what it’s made of, how it’s made, and how it looks all matter. Perhaps more important, people are starting to see that these aspects are all wrapped up in the definition of good design. This wasn’t always the case. Charles Eames coined the phrase “good goods” after his wife Ray’s car was robbed in New York. The thieves took all sorts of things, mostly found items Ray had collected, but they left a valuable bolt of cloth. Eames said, “What robber could break into a car, feel this material, and not in his heart immediately say, ‘Somebody should have it’?” We should all have such a discerning eye for good goods.
August 1, 2011
Eames molded plastic chairs have long been a canvas for artists. Which is just what a public library in Augusta, Georgia, decided to do with a large collection of the chairs that used to be in the auditorium.
The Augusta Richmond Library has challenged local artists to decorate the chairs, which will be auctioned off in October to raise money for a new library being built. It will be interesting to see what the artists do.
What would you do if you were given an Eames molded plastic chair to decorate?