When she’s not curled up with a cup of tea and a book, writer Angelina Spaniolo enjoys holding up museum lines by reading every piece of text—what’s the rush?
November 21, 2011
George Nelson said, “The aim of the design process is always to produce an object that does something,” and what the umbrella does is protect.
People have been shielding themselves from sun and rain for centuries underneath the umbrella’s curved contour⎯an ingenious design with multiple applications, including Nelson’s fiberglass parasols at the 1959 American National Exhibition in Moscow.
As exhibition design director, Nelson’s structure covered exhibits, including Edward Steichen’s “Family of Man” photography collection. Charles and Ray Eames also took part, displaying their film “Glimpses of the USA” on multiple screens showing basic aspects of American life. Additionally, Herman Miller Modern Classics⎯before they were classics⎯showcased as leading innovations in American home furnishings.
Fifty years later, the umbrella’s shape made its way inside, providing shade for computer screens. Designer, Ayse Birsel, compares her Resolve canopy to “a parasol on a beach.” And her umbrella does more than block overhead glare, “It defines your territory and augments your sense of space.”
Resolve creates open, inviting, space-efficient workstations where people feel comfortable and connected. When underneath the umbrella-like Resolve canopy, there’s “a very tangible sense of one’s own space without the use of walls,” as Birsel put it.
Better World, Design, Healthcare
November 8, 2011
“If we think about architecture as simply beautiful objects,” says Michael Murphy, founding partner of Mass Design Group, “then we fail to talk about the process which creates those objects. It’s labor—the construction of craft—that produces beauty.”
Consider Butaro Hospital in Rwanda, an example of MASS Design’s belief in first-rate healthcare facilities for the third world and investing in the local economy as a means of breaking the cycle of poverty. For Butaro’s wall construction, local Rwandans became the masons: hand-chipping volcanic rock and beautifully shaping each piece so they fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.
Built 100 percent by the community, Butaro’s walls are as much symbolic as they are functional. They testify to a community that labored together, using newly learned skills, to build a hospital for themselves.
Patients benefit from their labors, too, in the design of the hospital. Placing beds in the center, making each bed a window seat creates a positive patient experience. An innovative airflow design minimizes the spread of airborne diseases.
Butaro Hospital is functional, innovative, and beautiful. But, to the community, its best design was the process by which it was created.
Herman Miller is excited about working together with MASS. Learn more here.
Design, What's Up
November 1, 2011
Attendees of the recent Cusp Conference in Chicago were encouraged to ask questions and pick the brain of SAYL designer Yves Béhar. Speaking at the conference, Behar talked about problem solving and design, how he approached the design of SAYL, and the layers of its final design solution.
Here are Behar’s answers to a couple of questions:
I’m obsessed with the simplicity and the elegance of the design, but I’m curious to know how the design of the SAYL chair has an effect on its ergonomics, and also on the environment. When conceiving the design of the SAYL chair, and then actualizing it, how did you take into account the question of sustainable design, sustainable material, and use less but get more?
The very foundation of the SAYL chair was to answer the question, “How can I do more with less?” We wanted to deliver ergonomic excellence and do it at a lower cost and carbon footprint. The inspiration from bridges was important as I realized how minimal a tower and tension cable system is relative to the size and function of a bridge.
A lot of experiments took place to see if a similar tower element and a smart material in suspension would deliver back support and allow for upper body movement. The aesthetic of the chair came after we proved to ourselves that we could clearly build a lighter and more efficient design.
You spoke at length at the cusp conference about the source for the forms which comprise the Sayl Chair. You also addressed the economy of materials used to create each part…could you now please elaborate on how you look at the joining together of each of the parts to create the whole?
Too often, task chairs look assembled from a kit of parts, and often they are. There is a dance between SAYL’s functional engineering work and its cosmetic shaping, and there is a relentless desire to have parts run fluidly into each other. For example, I was particularly interested in making the arms look as if they were stretched and growing seamlessly out of their height adjustment posts.
There is also the idea of separate parts drawn as if conceived as one. The SAYL’s frameless back is shaped to both express the tension distribution from the top attachments and visually follow the form and exposed ribbing of the Y-Tower. As a result, the two parts are visually layered as if one.
Design, What's Up
October 27, 2011
The Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Photo: Eliel Saarinen
Sunny California is often considered the center of modern design and architecture, but could the heart of mid-century modernity be found along the shores of Michigan?
Alexander Girard, Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson, Gilbert Rohde—all pioneers of mid-century design and beloved by Herman Miller—lived, learned, and worked in the state. They are only the tip of the designer iceberg. Noteworthy architects who left structural legacies on Michigan soil including Frank Lloyd Wright and Eero and Eliel Saarinen.
Why Michigan? Many reasons, and certainly it was West Michigan’s furniture industry, the opportunity to study at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, exhibits hosted by the Detroit Institute of Art in the heart of the Motor City, and the numerous patrons who supported a new vision for the world.
To learn more, visit Michigan Modern, a project working to raise awareness of the state’s design legacy and share examples of the state’s ongoing leadership in modern design.
Better World, Design, Products, Technology
October 11, 2011
What do a high-speed train and a nanotechnology textile finish have in common? They were inspired by Mother Nature’s 3.8 billion years of research and development. Increasingly, designers and engineers are looking to the systems, process, and models evolved by nature to fuel innovative problem-solving.
The aerodynamic shape of the kingfisher’s beak, for example, lets it catch fish with barely a splash. The same shape allows a Japanese bullet train to move at 200 mph with just a whisper, and 15 percent less energy.
For us, nature inspired Greenshield, a sustainable nanotechnology textile finish that naturally repels oil and water. By mimicking the “micro-roughness” of the lotus leaf—undetectable to the human touch—liquids roll off the surface, never having an opportunity to penetrate. The result is a Herman Miller fabric that is naturally antimicrobial, stain repellent, and easy to clean.
September 29, 2011
Art is in the air—quite literally some hanging off buildings—as ArtPrize takes over downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. For over two weeks, 1,713 artists from around the world transform the city into a giant gallery. Art is all the buzz amongst the residents and the some 250,000 visitors.
Unique to ArtPrize, voting is left entirely up to the public. Week 1 allows unlimited voting to determine the top ten artists. Week 2 gives everyone a single vote to narrow the ten to a winner awarded the $250,000 top prize.
If you’re in the area enjoying ArtPrize, stop by the HUB, a Herman Miller lounge for artists, volunteers, and the public to relax, put up their feet, and continue discussing the art they’ve seen.
And while you’re there, be sure to check out ArtFile, a collaborative project between Herman Miller and students in the UICA ArtWorks youth program.