Bill Holm is a home-based free-lance writer. A former magazine editor and columnist, Bill writes for a variety of companies, some of which are still in business. He’s been working with Herman Miller over 23 years.
Design, Products, What's Up
March 16, 2011
Many of us have lived this story: a parent or other loved ones who want nothing more than to stay in their own home as they age. The issue is gaining attention because the first 70 million Baby Boomers hit 65 years old in 2011. Their home-related needs will have a significant impact on home and product design.
That impact is explored in an exhibition called “Smart House, Livable Community, Your Future” at the University of Minnesota’s Goldstein Museum of Design in St. Paul. It will be on display until May 22, 2011. The exhibition explores the housing trend of “aging in place,” which allows people to stay in their home by using products with adaptive technologies and by making simple adjustments to their living environment.
Featured in the exhibition is Mobilegs, from Mobi, an innovative mobility device developer in Minneapolis. Mobilegs is a breakthrough in crutch design that makes it easier, safer, and more comfortable to get around. It’s designed by Jeff Weber of Studio Weber + Associates. He also designed Herman Miller’s Embody chairs, Caper chairs, and Envelop desk, which are among the products featured in the Smart House as well.
Design, Healthcare, Products
February 28, 2011
Photo via Popular Science
Think about crutches. Most of us don’t until we experience the difficulty and discomfort of using them. Crutches can damage nerves, arteries, and tissue, and it’s easy to slip and cause more pain or more injury.
Here’s a better way. It’s called Mobilegs, from Mobi, a Minneapolis-based designer of mobility products. Mobi, born out of Studio Weber + Associates, seeks to transform our perception and function of mobility devices like crutches, making them more comfortable, better-designed, and more customizable.
Mobilegs is so innovative, it was named Best of What’s New for Health for 2010 by Popular Science magazine, which reads, “Mobilegs takes the design to the 21st century with modern materials and careful attention to ergonomic factors (which should come as no surprise given that their inventor helped design the Aeron chair).”
That inventor is Jeff Weber, of Studio + Weber, who also designed Herman Miller’s Embody chair, Caper chair, and Envelop desk. “I work to humanize the relationship between people, products, and the world around us,” Jeff says. He was inspired by a 2005 foot injury that made him all too aware of the crutch problem. “The traditional crutch was not designed to accommodate the mechanics of the human body. Mobilegs does just that.”
Design, What's Up
January 10, 2011
First impressions. They count. And at Herman Miller’s Design Yard in Holland, MI, you can count on a good one when you walk in the front door: A friendly and helpful concierge, lots to catch your eye and grab your interest, great aromas from the coffee bar, and comfortable furniture.
If you’re part of a customer tour of the Design Yard, it’s likely your first stop will be the Parlor, just a few steps from the front door. It’s a great room to relax in, unwind, and have a conversation with Herman Miller folks about your company, your needs, and what’s important to you.
“The Parlor sets the tone,” says Robert Hieftje, Herman Miller’s Customer Experience Senior Manager. “It’s a place of discovery a time of learning for us. After we talk and get to know each other, we’re able to personalize the rest of the customer’s experience at the Design Yard so it’s of most value to them.”
Furnished with a carefully selected mix of Herman Miller furniture, the room looks and feels like home. A wall of bookshelves holds not only books, but also artifacts from Herman Miller’s legacy: photos of the companies legendary designers like Nelson, Rhode, Girard, Stumpf, and the Eameses; examples of Herman Miller innovation; and a treasure trove of fun conversation pieces.
For example, there’s a beautiful wooden envelope from the Hall family of Hallmark Cards fame, given in recognition of Herman Miller’s and Hallmark’s 40-plus years of working together.
“This means so much to us,” says Robert, “because it represents the kind of strong, long-term relationships we strive for with every customer.”
Design, What's Up
December 15, 2010
Several years before Kristie Strasen founded Place Textiles in New York in 2006, she visited Herman Miller as a leading textile designer and consultant. She remembers how impressed she was with Herman Miller’s Materials philosophy. “I was very excitied,” says Strasen. “We had parallel attitudes about design and color of fabrics. We understood each other. Since then, my aesthetic sense has always been in tune with Herman Miller.”
Today, she says, “I’m extremely excited again.” She recently reconnected with Herman Miller, and the result is what she calls “a match made in heaven.” Place Textiles is now an alliance partner with Herman Miller, and a selection of her line is now part of Herman Miller’s Textile Alliance Program.
The alliance with Herman Miller honors Strasen’s lifelong admiration for the very designers whom she revered when she conceived Place Textiles. “The whole idea behind Place is to create higher-end fabrics with beautiful color and texture,” she says, “and not focus on pattern. It’s a tightly integrated palette, with clear, clean, bright colors as well as neutrals. This combination complements the historical importance that Herman Miller places on color.”
Training as a hand weaver also gives Strasen a keen understanding of the architecture of the woven fabric and has contributed to her award-winning success in textile design.
Better World, Design, What's Up
December 8, 2010
If you’ll be in New York City soon, visit the Cooper-Hewitt to see the “Why Design Now?” exhibition before it closes on Jan 9. What an important exhibition, and what an uplifting experience! I was energized by the array of innovative design solutions to fundamental world problems—including environmental degradation.
For decades, Herman Miller has been working to systematically minimize its impact on the earth. Environmental advocacy has always been one of the pillars of the company, and it always will be.
In 2010, it announced a goal of being carbon neutral by 2020. Not easy, but given the company-wide commitment and passion for the cause, I bet we make it.
Of course, we don’t hear much about all the positive work that’s making an impact on large and small scales. “Why Design Now?” shows that smart people are designing solutions to human and environmental problems all over the world, making life better, safer, and healthier.
It’s hard to pick a favorite display. They are all amazing in their own way. Maybe it’s the solar-powered LED streetlight that’s part of a living tree. Or maybe the device that converts ocean waves to electrical power. Or the web-based world-health map that displays and tracks disease outbreaks. Or the “Return to Sender” artisan eco-casket.
So if you think the world is beyond hope and problems are too huge to even think about, get to the Cooper-Hewitt. Or buy the beautiful book Why Design Now?, the catalogue created for the exhibition. It’s all good.
September 13, 2010
I climbed a narrow flight of stairs to the third floor of a cool old building in downtown Holland, Michigan, to visit Rick Edwards Design and see what the proprietor was up to for his latest project with Herman Miller. Rick has worked with Herman Miller for many years, and they had reached out to him to help develop new applications for Meridian filing and storage.
Specifically, the challenge was to reconfigure existing Meridian elements to support and even inspire group work. Filing and storage is traditionally configured and placed for individual use or archival storage purposes, so Rick had to think outside the file to design solutions.
The results are evident when you walk in Rick’s door. On a Resolve input table, he displays his scale models of new Meridian Group Furniture applications. “People are intrigued by models,” he says. “They interact with them, they’re accessible, and it’s a starting point for creative conversations. We’ve had great discussions and input.”
It’s a tribute to Meridian’s versatility that its modules can be reconfigured to create and define areas where people gather, share, and connect. Plus, there are applications that can accommodate power and data for people’s technology and equipment.
“We want people to be attracted to these places,” Rick says, “so they naturally come together and collaborate.” And with Rick’s models to illustrate, it’s easy to see how Meridian does it.
August 27, 2010
So you’re an executive who strives to make your real estate more efficient and your workplace more effective. It’s necessary. But it’s not easy.
Enter Herman Miller’s Space Utilization Service. Space Utilization Service makes it a lot simpler to gather accurate occupancy data and create the workplace you visualize.
Before Space Utilization Service, the typical method of gathering data was to walk around with a clipboard and count heads. Then you multiply the number of heads by some standard allocation of square feet per person, and voila, you get an estimate of space needs. But that’s exactly the problem. You only get estimates.
With Space Utilization Service, you get accuracy. A small, wireless motion sensor is attached to your work chairs to detect occupancy. The sensors transmit data continuously for six weeks so you can measure, track, and study occupancy and get a precise picture of your space usage. You can analyze on any level you want—entire buildings, conference rooms, common areas, individual workstations.
Using this information, Herman Miller can help you rationalize your real estate and tailor it to fit your people and how they actually work. These days, for example, that often means more support for collaboration and touchdown work, smaller workstations, and less floor space allocated to individual work.
Whatever the case, your real estate will work harder and your people will be more productive. Even better: use Herman Miller’s Energy Manager, too, and reduce your energy costs.
July 16, 2010
Call me crazy, but I love Detroit. Few do these days, and it’s a tragedy that this complex city is so devastated. But give it a try. The Detroit Jazz Fest, for example, is fabulous; you feel and hear the beating heart of the city’s great people. The Detroit Institute of Arts is redone and remarkable. Comerica Park is fun—go Tigers! Good restaurants. Concerts at the Fox Theatre. It’s all there, and so much more. Plus, the cars are competing again.
Sure, there are problems, to put it mildly. I admit that often while driving past the many bleak remains, I’ve thought it would be best to just bulldoze the crumbling husks and start over. Make a new city: smaller, well planned, green, with room to grow.
Trouble is, there are lots of buildings that may look ready for the wrecking ball, but are actually historic, architectural treasures that beg for preservation as the city is remade. But which ones stay and which ones go? The Detroit Free Press lets you express your opinion in an article called, “Be reasonable: Should these vacant Detroit buildings be saved?”
Be sure to check out the reader comments. You get a broad sense of people’s anguish, love, hope, and hopelessness. And while you’re at it, read this wonderful article by Free Press columnist Mitch Albom writing for SI.com: “The Courage of Detroit.”
Design, Healthcare, Products, What's Up
June 14, 2010
Say what you will about NeoCon—for example, “My feet are killing me,” or “These elevators make me crazy,” or “Where am I?”
The truth is, NeoCon provides a great opportunity to see who Herman Miller is, what they stand for, and what they offer.
These videos let you share Herman Miller’s NeoCon experience from wherever you are. They give you a brisk overview of the space, showcasing how we support people at work. The thing is, with mobile technology, people can work almost anywhere now. And they will go to the places where they are best able to get their work done, which often means collaborating with others. Work has become much more complex, so meeting people’s needs is much more complex. In the showroom, you’ll see how Herman Miller handles it:
• Putting people first
We listen to our customers to understand how and where their people work.
• Understanding the ways work is changing
We research factors that impact people at work: technology, speed, mobility, collaboration, health, and multiple generations.
• Making great workplaces
We offer a continuum of integrated, optimized solutions for the entire office landscape that support the full spectrum of work needs.
Plus the showroom looks great. Take a look, and see what they’re up to.
NeoCon overview with Cindy Donn: “Today’s office landscape actually has to support three different areas—individual, group and community.”
Herman Miller Healthcare with Gianfranco Zaccai: “Compass is designed to accommodate itself to any space and to the specific interaction between patient and caregivers.”
Thrive portfolio with Matt Tedesco: “Our job is to make sure that your people can do their job, and that’s what Thrive is all about—making sure you feel better so you work better – simple as that!”
Education with Jeff Vredevoogd: “It comes down to the word ‘change.”’
New Geiger guest chairs:
• David Ritch: “There is sort of this serendipity that takes place between the curved hoop and the rectilinear base of the Saya chair.”
• Khodi Feiz: “I will be happy if somebody walks by and looks at the A-line and Deft chairs and has a little smile just because of the way it looks and then sits on the chair and has another smile because of the way it feels.”
Design, What's Up
June 7, 2010
Paging through the May Bon Appetit, a seductive photo of a rich mélange called Galician Pork and Vegetable Stew stopped me cold. Mmmm. Leeks! A pound of kale! More meat than you should eat in a week!
I finally tore myself away and continued to page until I was stopped again—this time by an ad with an outline drawing of a classic Eames wire chair and the words “Pull Up Your Favorite Chair.” It’s part of a promotion for Architectural Digest’s AD Roundtable, an “online design community.” (AD and Bon Appetit are both Condé Nast publications.)
The site is designed to let roundtable members discuss design, express opinions, receive “exclusive offers,” and win prizes. But once you join, you find out, there are no discussions to join—at least so far. There are no surveys to be taken. No offers to accept. No prizes to be won. “Stay tuned,” it says.
To join, you’re asked to take a pretty long survey with some pretty personal questions. So that might turn a lot of people off. Still, once the site receives some attention from AD, it could be an interesting place to visit.