January 31, 2012
It looks beautiful when it’s from the hands of designer Yves Béhar. Who, with Herman Miller, set out to dispel the misconception that affordable meant offhand design and questionable quality.
Looking for affordability in innovation, Béhar and Herman Miller engineers spent months developing a unique suspension material for the backrest of SAYL. The resulting breakthrough molded ergonomic support directly into the back of the chair, which was then stretched into place. It also replaced foam and fabric, typical to other low-cost task chairs, with a single recyclable material. Less material and fewer manufacturing steps, all saved money. A point not lost on Spencer Bailey of Bloomberg Businessweek, who recently described SAYL as “An executive-quality perch that doesn’t require an executive’s bonus to buy.”
Design, What's Up
January 30, 2012
An early prototype of the Eames lounge developed in 1946.
In 1945, Charles and Ray Eames introduced the world to molded plywood as a material for furniture. Using a process perfected in the living room of their Westwood apartment, the Eames created numerous prototypes. With each, they learned the characteristics and limitations of molded plywood, eventually landing on the forms of their iconic molded plywood chairs.
This February, see the Eameses’ hard work on display along with plywood designs by Aalto, Jacobsen, Yanagi, and others at Plywood: Material, Process, Form at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Hurry, the exhibition closes February 27, 2012.
January 24, 2012
More than ever, working together defines how we get things done. And more than ever, getting things done often takes just two people. Recent research we’ve conducted at companies around the world found that nearly half the time collaborative events involved two to three people.
But no matter the number of people collaborating, companies are committed to making it happen. One approach they’re taking is to give their employees flexible workspaces. In a recent survey, 50 percent of corporate real estate executives said this flexibility enables collaboration.
All this focus on collaboration shouldn’t obscure the fact that people also need privacy and freedom from interruption. Research also suggests that some people, and especially introverts, are more creative when they can work on their own. Maybe the best way to get the creativity we’re all after is to design places that give people more choices for when, where, and with whom they work.
Design, What's Up
January 23, 2012
The American Institute of Architects each year recognizes one American building that is at least a quarter of a century old. “The idea,” says Robert Campbell of the Boston Globe, “is to recognize architecture that has proved its merit over time.”
This year, the AIA chose the residence in Santa Monica that Frank Gehry designed for his family. As much statement as structure, the house features materials familiar in an urban landscape: raw plywood, chain-link fencing, asphalt, corrugated metal—not the stuff of a quiet residential neighborhood.
But, Gehry has seldom been concerned with the expected. We have our own stories to tell about working with him on a factory-office facility we built in Rocklin, California. It has proved its longevity, too. Now owned by the William Jessup University, it’s become an award-winning student apartment building that preserves, as the award citation reads, “the original conversion of the Herman Miller furniture factory, designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry.”
January 19, 2012
Charles Eames, relaxing in the shell of a molded plastic armchair, seems lost in thought.
In keeping with much of his work—from potato chip chairs to Eiffel Tower bases—Eames’s answer may surprise you.
In 1969, Eames was interviewed by Madame L’Amic of the Musée des Arts Decoratifs as part of a design exhibition showing at the Louvre that year. The session proved fruitful, the source of several well-known Eames quotes, and eventually became an audio track on Design Q&A, an Eames Office film on the design process.
The book, Eames Design; The Work of the Office of Charles and Ray Eames, included a transcript of that interview. The following are a few memorable excerpts.
Q: What is your definition of design?
A: A plan for arranging elements in such a way as to best accomplish a particular purpose.
Q: What are the boundaries of design?
A: What are the boundaries of problems?
January 18, 2012
What do materials bring to a design? Most immediately, they bring pleasure.
It’s the materials of a space that give it resonance, according to Susan Lyons, Creative Director at Herman Miller. Material colors and textures “provide the experience when you walk into a room,” she says.
Lyons says there’s a sort of alchemy that happens when everything comes together: “the form, the touch, the use, the product works, it looks beautiful, it feels good, and life is good.”
Pleasure is one of five material design principles: honesty, utility, economy, pleasure, and possibility. Each is essential to good design.
This is the last segment in a series on our thoughts about materials—how we choose them, and what we think about when choosing them.
Design, What's Up
January 17, 2012
One Laptop Per Child is a nonprofit that aims to “provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop.” The focus is on children in developing countries, and so far almost two-and-a-half million of them have one.
Yves Béhar and his team at fuseproject designed the laptop, and now they’ve done a tablet version. Just like the laptop, the tablet is simple and functional, with tactile rubber grips, flexible cover, and solar charging battery.
Pro bono design work isn’t new to Béhar and fuseproject. Another of their efforts is “See Better to Learn Better,” a free eyeglasses program in partnership with the Mexican government and Augen Optics.
Good works and good work are both part of Béhar’s vision. On the latter score, 2011 brought recognition for the UP wristband, which uses tiny motion sensors to monitor the wearer’s sleep, diet, and exercise. It made Alice Rawsthorn’s design honors list for 2011. But then, we’re partial to Béhar’s work, especially the award-winning SAYL chair he did with us.
January 16, 2012
We mourn the recent passing of designers Eva Zeisel and Sori Yanagi, two masters of modern design. While perhaps lesser known than others of their generation, they are no less important. Both enjoyed long careers marked by many beautiful designs.
Eva Zeisel, a trained painter, took up the industrial arts to avoid becoming a starving artist. Beginning her career in a Soviet porcelain factory, the Hungarian-born Zeisel made her way to the United States, following a harrowing escape from Eastern Europe. In the U.S., she joined the growing design scene of the 1940s. Describing her own work as the, “playful search for beauty,” Ziesel drew upon human forms and relationships to create flower vases with belly buttons, bowls that nestled, and shakers that embraced. Rightly credited with bringing tranquility to the American table, Zeisel was 105 when she passed away on December 30, 2011.
For Sori Yanangi the fundamental problem was “that many products are created to be sold, not used.” In response, Yanagi designed everyday objects, ranging from kettles to motorcycles; in doing so, he helped define the look of Japan following the Second World War. One of his most famous designs, the Kikomann soy sauce bottle and its iconic red cap, is familiar to many Western eyes. Inspired by a Japanese shrine gate, the design is largely unchanged since it was introduced almost 50 years ago. Sori Yanagi was 96 when he passed away on December 27, 2011.
Design, What's Up
January 12, 2012
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there’s now more of it for every beholder of our classic Eames designs. MCL is a new premium leather that preserves the luxurious feel and texture of a material that has long been the epitome of upholstery choices.
Most upholstery leathers are sanded and pressed to make the grain—the natural pebbled texture of leather—look more uniform. By contrast, MCL celebrates the inherent characteristics of high quality leather. Soft and thick, MCL closely resembles the aniline leather used on the original Eames lounge chair and ottoman. Over a lifetime of use MCL will wrinkle and patina naturally, meaning it will wear in, not wear out.
Design, Innovation, Products, Uncategorized
January 10, 2012
“We have to be incredibly mindful and purposeful with how we use our resources,” says Susan Lyons, Materials Creative Director at Herman Miller. This is a major idea behind sustainable design at Herman Miller—doing more with less material is a constant challenge, but one we’re passionate about. A great example: the Setu chair.
As Lyons explains, Setu’s Kinematic Spine, inspired by the chambered nautilus, uses “structure instead of mass” to create its strength and flexibility. And this sustainable innovation, designed by Studio 7.5, yields a lighter, ready-to-sit chair; with Setu, there’s nothing to tilt or tweak, just immediate comfort.
Economy is one of five material design principles: honesty, utility, economy, pleasure, and possibility.