Kate Convissor is testing the limits of mobile technology as she writes for Discover while on an extended road trip. You can follow her travel blog at www.wanderingnotlost.org.
March 29, 2010
Jerome Caruso could be considered the king of kitchens. In the mid-1980s, he was approached by the Sub-Zero company to help refresh the look of its refrigerators.
At the time, the young designer was better known for designing digital watches for Motorola. But when Caruso turned his hand to the humble refrigerator, he transformed Sub-Zero into an icon for high-end kitchens. Business Week wrote that his sleek, designer refrigerators were “not unlike having a Ferrari in your driveway.”
In 1998, Caruso designed the Reaction chair for Herman Miller, which won Best of NeoCon Gold. Then he tackled “the Mount Everest of fun.”
Always concerned with ergonomics, Caruso “envisioned hundreds of tiny ‘cells’—each one consisting of a pad with spring-like loops that would both support and respond to different anatomical areas.” The result was the Celle chair with a patented Cellular Suspension system that mimics the buoyancy of water.
Now with nearly 100 patents, Caruso continues to peer into the future of product design. But let’s hear it from him.
Here are 7 questions for Jerome Caruso.
March 1, 2010
Of course Mark Goetz designs furniture that looks good and functions well, but to him, that’s not enough. He wants people to like his pieces, too. “You could live with a good solution and not really like it. Objects should be loved and wanted as well as provide a solution,” he says.
Over the course of his career, Goetz solutions have found their way into the headquarters of the Chicago Bulls, the Kennedy Center in Washington, and the president’s office at Harvard. He’s designed an extensive collection of chairs, casegoods, and tables for Bernhardt Design and others.
A daunting challenge for Goetz was to create a sofa for the Herman Miller for the Home collection that would complement its classic Eames, Noguchi, and Nelson pieces. The result is the Goetz sofa, a clean, unfussy design with a veneer shell and padded upholstery and pillows that is substantial enough to relax in or even to nap in. Goetz also created the Aside chair for Herman Miller.
Here are 7 questions for Mark Goetz:
Design, What's Up
February 12, 2010
Learning happens in all kinds of places. That’s the opinion of participants at a recent gathering of the Learning Spaces Special Interest Group hosted by the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Through Design (CETLD). The CETLD is a partnership of highly pedigreed universities and museums, as well as the Royal Institute of British Architects, that aims to explore how design impacts and enhances learning.
The examples of good learning spaces submitted by the seminar’s participants held some surprises: a garden in Devon; Britain’s National Art Library; and…Herman Miller’s National Design Centre in London, which students described as a “multi-functional modular open space…flexible, adaptable, ‘aspirational,’ interesting use of partitions.”
Herman Miller, of course, has researched how design affects learning for years and has contributed to a roster of educational environments that push the design-and-learning envelop. The Crosland Library at Georgia Tech, for example, or Columbia College in Chicago.
The CETLD might also like Herman Miller’s Los Angeles showroom, for that matter.
February 9, 2010
Once you pass through security, Chicago’s O’Hare International Terminal has little to offer. A few vending machines and a barren mile or so of concourses stretching in either direction. You can walk, or you can sleep. I chose to walk.
After trekking the north concourse, I headed south, where posters began to bloom on the walls. These were not your beach-and-palm-tree images. They were colorful, whimsical works of art announcing a concert in Mexico City or promoting peace or literacy in the U.S.
Apparently, in 2008, Chicago had held its first International Biennial Poster Competition (CIBP), which had attracted an amazingly large and diverse number of entries from around the world. Winners had been exhibited in the Daley Bicentennial Park in downtown Chicago.
I was looking at the afterglow—“Top Dogs: Works of the 11 Jurors of the CIPB”—and these jurors themselves comprised a star-studded roster of artists from Japan, Mexico, France, Israel, and Canada.
And there, among the best work of some of the best graphic artists in the world, was a 1978 poster by John Massey for Herman Miller’s Eames Aluminum Group Soft Pad Chairs.
“Design luminary” John Massey had been the Top Dogs’ top dog—the head juror for the competition. This poster, as sophisticated and understated in black and white as the furniture it was promoting, seemed like a tip of the hat from one grand master of design to another.
You just never know what you’ll find hanging around in an airport during a long layover.
Better World, Design, Products
January 26, 2010
Tom Newhouse walks the environmental talk. From the earth-bermed, passive solar house and studio that he designed and built in 1978 to his recreational choices (kayaking, hiking, and snowshoeing—“all human-powered activities”), Tom has lived his ethos despite the shifting winds of fad and cultural consciousness. Sustainability is part of the “Four Corners Philosophy” of design from which he operates. According to Tom, products should be: aesthetically pleasing, sustainable, ergnomic, and cost-effective. Tom works primarily in the areas of home and office furniture, kitchens, and lighting. His most recent design for Herman Miller was the Flute personal light.
Here are seven questions for Tom Newhouse:
Better World, Design, Products
January 4, 2010
Susan Lyons follows her nose. And her hands, eyes, and ears. In fact, her love for all things sensate has led her to exotic as well as homely places. India, for example, with its riot of scent and color as well as its craftsmanship and reverence for materials and finally to New York where she began designing textiles. Lyons was an early champion for the environment, which led to a partnership with architect Bill McDonough and, in 1995, to an award-winning, cradle-to-cradle collection of compostable textiles.
Still in New York, Lyons has her own design firm, and she consults with Herman Miller on materials and finishes, where her passion for sustainability and love of color and texture has found a likeminded partner.
Here are seven questions for Susan Lyons….
December 15, 2009
“Okay, class,” I say, “get into groups.”
A collective sigh, then shuffling and scraping of chairs. I survey the results.
“No, Jonah. You can’t sit in a corner and read. Move here. Lynsey, turn around. You guys, arrange yourselves so you can talk to each other.”
This is the drill every time I want my English Comp class to analyze a story or to discuss questions. Why is this so hard?
Simple. It’s bad design.
Designers, educators, and Herman Miller are known to encourage collaboration. In fact, Herman Miller is partnering with several institutions to try on some new approaches to learning spaces and to measure the result.
And yet, while we expound on the power of collective intelligence and the value of teamwork, most classrooms are still furnished with immobile, tank-like tables all lined up in rows. If the design of an environment signals how it should be used, most classrooms signal naptime.
I’m confident that students will, by and large, survive their educational gestation in these bland boxes and emerge when the real world prods them into out-of-the-box thinking, but in the meantime, it sure ought to be easier to create an environment conducive to teamwork in the classroom. Or at least to form a group.
September 25, 2009
Photo: courtesy of Danielle Soles
I began teaching English at our local community college as a gig, a little diversion from the monotony of the glass screen. Hours at the computer makes me feel like a social misfit. I figured that teaching a night class here and there would at least refresh my ability to talk.
I never expected to like it so much.
September 11, 2009
Within the family, my mother was known as the “Queen of De Nile.” With ten kids and a Peter Pan-ish visionary for a husband, she learned that selective blindness was a helpful and adaptive way to keep her sanity.
August 7, 2009
When “natural” happiness withers under the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, it’s nice to know we can just make some more.
Making happiness may not be as easy as whipping up a batch of double chocolate brownies, but psychologist Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, says that we humans have the capacity to manufacture happiness, and that “synthetic” happiness is indistinguishable from “natural” happiness.