Keasha Palmer is a free-lance writer who would like to write a book about writing, but is currently too busy writing to do so. Or maybe that's just an excuse. She has worked with Herman Miller for over 10 years.
April 25, 2011
Do you know that Herman Miller has a program that arranges for companies to donate its used furniture to charitable organizations? It’s called rePurpose and it’s recycling at its very best.
The purpose of the rePurpose program is to keep used furniture out of landfills. But it does so much more than that. For example, John Deere recently used rePurpose when they redid their world headquarters in Illinois, and their used furniture was given several new homes, including a day care center, Big Brothers/Sisters, and Habitat for Humanity, all local organizations.
“The donated furniture was in really good shape and we were thrilled to receive it!” says Cindy Kuhn, a Director at Habitat.
March 28, 2011
Do you know what happens to companies that value their employees? They grow. They succeed. And their employees stay with them, working hard to make their customers happy.
At least, that’s how it is at Navy Federal Credit Union.
Navy Federal is the world’s largest member owned credit union, serving all Department of Defense military. And when they opened up their Florida contact center (formerly known as a call center) a few years ago, they wanted to make it a place where “employees would want to come to work,” says Jamie McDonald, Assistant Vice President, Projects and Analysis, Greater Pensacola Operations.
Their campus, which has since grown from one to four buildings (all LEED Gold certified), is on a beautiful site and offers all kinds of creature comforts, including, says Ms. McDonald “great furniture.”
Herman Miller’s Resolve system was selected for the first building, and it proved to be such an ideal solution that it was also chosen for the other three. As Ms. McDonald explains, “Aesthetically, it’s very appealing—open, contemporary, vibrant, and energetic—which is the feeling we wanted for our employees. And it’s very flexible; we’re constantly rearranging things because we’re growing so much.”
She says their employees deserve a lot credit for that growth. “When our employees are happy, our members are happy,” she states. In fact, the employees have become such great ambassadors for Navy Federal, enthusiastically telling friends and relatives what a great place it is work, the credit union gets about 1,000 applicants a month. “So we can choose the best of the best, which is a really nice situation to be in,” says Ms. McDonald. “Happiness just seems to be part of our culture now.”
March 25, 2011
OS House, Racine, WI
Johnsen Schmaling Architects
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) announced the winners of its 2011 Housing awards, and they are fantastic! From urban settings to rolling farmland to glacial lakes, the projects represent work from all over the country, with so many great ideas—edgy angles, fun curves, creative use of color, and lots and lots of glass.
Living well sustainably and affordably seemed to be key in this contest, which includes four award categories: One/Two Family Custom Housing, One/Two Family Production Housing, Multifamily Housing and Special Housing.
50 Saint Peter Street/Historic Salem Jail, Salem, MA
Finegold Alexander + Associates
The award was established a decade ago with the goal of “recognizing the best in housing design and promoting the importance of good housing as a necessity of life, a sanctuary for the human spirit and a valuable national resource.”
930 Poydras Residential Tower, New Orleans
The 18 winning projects were as different from one another as wildflowers in a field. Let your mind and imagination wander through them. It will be a fun trip from wherever you’re sitting, I promise.
(Oh, and while you’re at it, check out the story on the AIA website about Tokyo-based architect Shigeru Ban, Hon. FAIA, who has designed simple partitions for those living in shelters as a result of the recent earthquake/tsunami in Japan. Also very inspirational.)
Better World, What's Up
March 18, 2011
You have to love an organization whose motto is, “Making a difference, one wag at a time.” And West Michigan Therapy Dogs is making a difference, especially to the kids at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
Twice a month WMTD volunteers drop by with their canine companions to visit the young patients, and the reaction, says Herman Miller Payroll Manager Deb Caukin, is “instantaneous. The kids just love it.”
Deb was instrumental in bringing the program to the hospital four years ago. WMTD trains the dogs and there are currently 20 volunteer teams—one dog, one human—who take turns on visiting nights.
Deb’s dog Sunshine is always a big hit. “The other night, we stopped in to see a teenager, and she was so excited to see us. Her mom was taking pictures and said to us, ‘It’s so wonderful you’re here; it’s the first time she’s smiled all day…’ We hear things like that all the time.”
Jodi Bauers, manager of the hospital’s Child Life program agrees. “The dogs provide an unconditional love; they look past tubes and wheelchairs to see a new friend.”
The volunteers also go to nursing homes and other hospitals, but the Children’s Hospital is Deb’s favorite. “It’s such a great opportunity to give back to the community. Every single time I go I think, ‘I’m so glad I did this.’ My dogs give me a lot of joy and it’s wonderful to be able to spread it around.”
February 25, 2011
As a company committed to improving healthcare environments through better design, Herman Miller is pleased to tell you about how one man’s idea turned into a wonderful addition to the new Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
It’s all about art. Kids’ art.
The idea, which originated with Dr. Bob Connors, head of the hospital, was to fill the facility with art created for and by children. And when the doors opened in January, more than 600 original creations, by nearly 9,000 West Michigan-area children, decorated the 14-floor facility.
“It was truly a community effort,” said Scott LaFontsee of LaFontsee Galleries/Underground Studios, who helped coordinate the huge effort that involved schools and other organizations as well as local artists who volunteered to help.
“When kids come to this place, they know it’s a children’s place,” said Dr. Connors, who was extremely pleased with the outcome.
Photo credit: Emily Zoladz, The Grand Rapids Press
Better World, Design
February 21, 2011
If I was a designer or architect who’s going to be in New York City between now and May 21, I definitely would make a point to see the Center for Architecture’s current exhibit, which opened February 10. Called “Jugaad Urbanism: Resourceful Strategies for Indian Cities,” it’s all about how to design for today’s large urban cities by studying the inventive “make-do”s of India’s slums. That’s right, India’s overcrowded, packed-in living spaces have a thing or two to teach us about using limited resources, a subject Herman Miller has always had an interest in.
In fact, the term “Jugaad” specifically refers to the resourcefulness and innovation that Indian people demonstrate every day, from jerry-rigging cars and busses to turning plastic pop bottles into street lamps.
The exhibit, says Margaret Castillo, president of the AIA New York chapter, aims to educate both local and international audiences about the critical issues of growing cities. “While Mumbai may seem a world away, the lessons learned from its empowered citizens and designers can be applied to rapidly expanding cities such as Rio or Guangzhou.”
The exhibit is organized by resources — land, water, energy and transportation. It and features everything from products and prototypes, including a new low tech concept for community toilets, to lectures and Bollywood films.
“There’s always this narrative of failure and tragedy when one discusses Indian urbanism,” said curator Kanu Agrawal. “But this represents solutions; people respond creatively where there are shortages of resources.”
It’d be worth checking out even if you’re not a designer, don’t you think?
Photo 1: Jugaad canopy, New Delhi. Photo credit: Sundeep Bali.
Photo 2: Mumbai’s chawls, built in 1916. Photo credit: Rajesh Vora.
Photo 3: A jugaad chandelier constructed from cables and recycled bottles. Photo credit: Rajesh Vora.
February 2, 2011
It’s always interesting to talk with designers about their work—why they went into it, what they like about it, what it takes to be good at it. Take Jeffrey Bernett, for example, one of the creative minds behind Herman Miller’s recently launched Canvas Office Landscape line. He feels that excelling at design means “being very curious about life and being very considerate when it comes to the needs of others. Designing things that are ‘different’ is easy; designing things that are ‘better’ is much harder.”
Bernett’s colleague at CDS and collaborator on the Canvas project, Nicholas Dodziuk, says his earliest awareness of design came from a kids’ table and chair set by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. “We grew up in an eclectic house but that really stood out to me,” he recalls, noting that his mother was an artist who often brought him to the Noguchi Museum, which was close to where they lived in New York.
Bernett, too, feels that “knowing what has come before is very important to design, especially when it comes to furniture. The process is part of a continuum; you learn from what other people have done.”
January 18, 2011
In November, Herman Miller began offering basic medical services on site to its employees with a primary goal of reducing health care costs, but also to make it more convenient for people to get the appropriate care they may need.
“We know from our health insurance claims that a lot of people use urgent care or emergency room services for things that are not really emergencies simply because they don’t have a family doctor or anywhere to go for basic care,” says Mike Koppenol, Senior Manager, Employee Benefit Programs. “We thought if we offered some limited services at our three on-site clinics (previously used for work-related cases only) we could save money and also provide a better place to treat people for minor things such as sore throats, coughs, fevers, sprains, stitches, eye or ear injuries, that sort of thing.”
Using ER services for non-urgent care is not only very expensive—on average $450 versus $90 for a doctor’s office visit—it also ties up valuable resources that others may need.
Koppenol says the idea with the clinics, which are staffed by a physician, a physician’s assistant, and a nurse practitioner, isn’t to replace a primary care doctor, but to serve as more of a fill-in. “Employees need primary care physicians for annual physicals and for preventive care, and also so they have a medical ‘home’ to go to if something goes wrong. Our clinics can take care of the bumps and bruises that may come up in the meantime.”
Other large companies, from Toyota to Pepsi to Disney, are finding that on-site clinics are a great way to go; some studies show employers can save as much as 25 percent in employee health care fees in the first year alone, not to mention the savings in productivity when an employee doesn’t have to take 2-3 hours off for a doctor’s appointment.
Design, What's Up
January 14, 2011
You might want to pack your bags and head for Tokyo when you hear what just opened up there: a Herman Miller store. It’s the company’s first storefront to open since the creation of the Textiles and Objects Shop, which it operated in New York City from 1960-1967.
Designed by Torafu Architects and located in the hip Marunouchi shopping district, it’s full of wonderfully designed items, large and small, including limited-edition Eames molded plastic side chars painted by Japanese artist Mustone and unique area rugs developed in collaboration with photographer Takashi Kumagai.
It’s all about making great design available to consumers, from chairs and desks to games and toys.
Up until now there really hasn’t been an easy way for individuals in this area to buy Herman Miller products. But the demand has always been great.
Herman Miller sells its products in North America to individuals through its network of authorized retailers and its online store. Its global network of dealerships sells to businesses worldwide.
The store in Marunouchi provides the company a way to raise awareness for its brand in a growing market. And now the shopping is not only simple—walk right in and have a look around—but fun, too.
Visitors will find a comfortable, relaxing, “at home” atmosphere with several specially designed areas, like the “Try a Chair” section where they can sit, twirl and experiment to find just the right fit.
December 29, 2010
When actor Dennis Quaid’s 12-day-old twins nearly died as a result of a medication mix-up a few years ago, it brought to light an on-going and serious problem for hospitals: dispensing the wrong medications to patients.
Herman Miller has been working closely with hospitals for many years to help health care professionals find ways to reduce what are known as “adverse drug events.” A new Herman Miller Solution Essay, “Making Medication Dispensing Safer for All,” discusses the common causes of drug errors — from interruptions to poorly designed med dispensing rooms — and offers advice on what hospitals can do to prevent or mitigate them.
One of the most interesting aspects of all this is the study of “human factors;” that is, human capabilities and/or limitations that may have an impact on any given situation, from the person’s age to his or her reaction to stress. The idea, of course, is to learn all we can about why people make mistakes in the first place, so we can design work environments that help prevent them from doing so. Or, as the U.S. Institute of Medicine once put it, “make it easy for people to do the right thing and hard for them to do the wrong thing.”
Check out the latest Solution Essay to learn more about how Herman Miller helped two hospitals improve their processes.