January 9, 2012
Barry Sonnenfeld, director and Digital Man blogger, sits astride a wheeled saddle to scurry around film sets. Forget the clichéd canvas director’s chair, he cherishes his makeshift saddle-on-wheels, a creation of the Men in Black 2 crew that’s since been modified with “drawers for scripts, water, and prescription medication” for his sciatica.
Where he’s all about moving on the set, Billy Wilder, a director from an earlier generation who did films such as Sunset Boulevard and Some Like It Hot, opted for catnaps on set. In 1955, while filming The Spirit of St. Louis, he started taking naps on a narrow plank held up by sawhorses. Wilder later told his friends Charles and Ray Eames he needed something similar—but a bit more comfortable—for his office.
They came up with a slender, armless chaise with a built-in wakeup call. It required Wilder to lie on his back with his arms folded over his chest. Once he dozed off, his arms relaxed, dropped to his side, and gently awakened him. We began making the chaise in 1968, and it’s been in the line ever since.
We’ve added other pieces in the ensuing years. And Sonnenfeld puts three of them through their paces in his search for the right furniture for working in the editing room: the Embody and Aeron chairs and the Envelop desk. Get his read on them, and then check them out for yourself.
Photo: Barry Sonnenfeld is an Emmy-winning television director and the director of Get Shorty and the upcoming Men in Black 3.
January 5, 2012
When Charles and Ray Eames were asked to produce a film for the American National Exhibition in Moscow in 1959, they agreed, but on the condition that the film would not be reviewed before the show.
Government officials who had sanctioned the film were clueless on the progress—even the subject—of the film, as documented in Eames: The Architect and the Painter. During regular check-ins, a representative would sit down for a showing, the reel would start, and then shortly thereafter go blank. “Well that’s all we have so far,” was the comment from the Eames Office team. “Oh, okay, looks good I guess,” was the typical response from the minder. And so it went, all the way to opening day.
Arriving in Moscow the night before the scheduled opening, film in hand, Charles and Ray were ready to premiere their Glimpses of the U.S.A. Displayed on seven screens, each 20 feet high by 30 feet wide, their film stole the show. Time magazine called it “the smash hit of the Fair.”
But how does such a film end? It was George Nelson, exhibition design director, who suggested the Eameses finish “with love,” and they did: a single shot of forget-me-nots, translated literally in English and Russian.
Design, Products, Uncategorized
January 4, 2012
As a Japanese-American in a time when the world was at war, Isamu Noguchi embraced both sides of his heritage culturally and artistically; because of this, it is fitting that Isamu means courage.
During World War II, Noguchi voluntarily entered a relocation camp for Japanese-Americans in Arizona as a protest against the camps—and then was unable to get permission to leave. After seven months, he was granted liberation. “I was finally free,” he said gratefully. “I resolved henceforth to be an artist only.”
Much had happened during his internment, including with Noguchi’s art. He discovered that someone had “borrowed” his design idea for a three-legged table. To Noguchi’s protests, the borrower replied, “Anybody can make a three-legged table.” Noguchi designed one as only he could, balancing a freeform glass top on a curved, solid wood base. The ethereal result has been in production since 1948.
Most widely known for his sculptures made from any and every material, Noguchi’s artistic experimentations were diverse: from baby monitors to stage sets, children’s playgrounds to fountains. “I like to think of my work as having some kind of relevance, no matter how abstract or how small or how big,” said Noguchi. “It has a voice which other people can hear.”
Design, Products, Uncategorized
January 3, 2012
Solving problems through design is a core goal at Herman Miller. Because materials are an integral part of our designs, they can solve problems, too. In this segment, third in a series on Herman Miller materials design, Susan Lyons discusses the possibilities of materials and how they play a key role in problem-solving design.
“We spend a lot of time out and about, looking for materials that we may have no idea what we’re going to do with them,” says Lyons. Our job is then to ask, “How can we possibly begin to use this? What could we do with it? What could it turn into?”
The answers to these questions sometimes come naturally. “Nature is the most efficient designer,” she has said, and the best innovations already exist in nature. GreenShield, a sustainable nanotechnology textile finish, mimics the lotus leaf’s “micro-roughness,” repelling dirt and oil naturally. By experimenting with GreenShield and our own materials, we developed Quilty—a high performance textile that stays clean because of its design, not chemicals.
Possibility is one of five material design principles: honesty, utility, economy, pleasure, and possibility.
Design, Education, What's Up
January 2, 2012
“We are at a watershed moment in education design,” says Susan Whitmer in a conversation with Nicholas Jackson of The Atlantic. “The convergence of knowledge and circumstances provide us with the opportunity to revolutionize the built environment for all of education.”
How will the built environment, the physical places on campus, be revolutionized? One way, according to Whitmer, an education consultant and researcher at Herman Miller, is they’ll become movable. In a paper she co-authored on fostering innovation, she notes that education needs “highly malleable spaces that users can interact with almost like a living thing.”
Change is sure to come. According to Whitmer, it can’t happen too soon: “Our world is changing at a rapid pace, yet education is mired in hundreds of years of tradition.” Boola, Boola!