May 16, 2011
We think good design requires good research. On campus, that means talking—and listening—to everyone, especially students. Our goal is to capture the voice of the students, to understand how and why they use a specific type of space on campus.
To hear their voices, we recently sponsored our second annual student video contest. We asked them to show us their “hubs,” those places where they go to connect, recharge, study, and socialize.
Congratulations to first, second, and third place winners Fiona Green, Keaton Davis, and Jesse Hendrickson. Their videos, along with all the submissions, uncovered some common themes. Hubs can be found anywhere on campus. Wherever the hub, students want the physical surrounding of their hubs to be comfortable. That includes comfortable furniture as well as acoustical comfort. Hubs were physical places in all their examples except for one.
This contest provided an engaging way for us to capture student insights. Their views are sure to help campus leadership and facility planners think about the changing needs of students and how higher education facilities can respond to them.
May 9, 2011
Learning in higher education is becoming less a practice in memorization and regurgitation, and more an active, collaborative, and social process. As a result, a new way of viewing university and college campuses is emerging.
Driven by technology and social networks, the current generation of learners is creating an academic experience that is different than even a few years ago. “Circles of exchange” begins to explain this trend. Campuses are increasingly becoming large networks made up of individual student networks. As students connect with one another, the flow and diversity of information is strengthened, more ideas are shared, more knowledge is developed, and the potential for innovation increases.
The physical environment has a role in this. A thoughtfully designed learning space can be place for students to gather, collaborate, socialize, and exchange ideas. The creation of these spaces requires a better understanding of how and why people learn, the effect of ever greater sources of information, opportunities to customize learning experiences, and anticipation and accommodation of technological change. When understanding about these elements is brought to the design process, the campus will better support the needs of students.
Photo: Lure/Forest by Beili Liu
April 27, 2011
“I go to the library to create information.”
Right now, you won’t hear many college students uttering that sentence, but you will soon. That’s one of the conclusions of a panel of experts Herman Miller brought together to talk about the future of academic libraries.
So why do academic libraries have to foster creating—not just seeking—information? Because today’s students are demanding it. They want their experience of the library—indeed every space on campus—to be one of active, collaborative learning.
When learning is active and collaborative—and happens in adaptive spaces—it brings out the creativity in students. They engage at a deep level. And they become creators of information rather than just passive receivers.
Photo courtesy of Duke University
Better World, Education
April 15, 2011
As part of the Herman Miller Education team’s recent book drive, our dealership, Workplace Resource Southern California, collected books for some very deserving children.
After collecting the books, we delivered two Herman Miller Meridian red bookcases to the volunteer organization School on Wheels. The bookcases arrived full of children’s books ranging from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie to Harry Potter.
The books were barely out of the boxes before the kids started chattering in anticipation. They chose their favorite book, flipped through pages, shared stories, and pointed out the funny and bizarre pictures. Then silence filled the room as the stories engulfed them. The eagerness in these young faces was enough to evoke a single word – awesome!
School on Wheels’ volunteers tutor homeless children, give them school supplies and backpacks, help them file necessary paperwork, and even offer each child a dedicated phone number so the child can meet the school board’s requirements for enrollment. The organization is determined to end the cycle of poverty by “shrinking the gap in their education and by providing them with the highest level of education possible.”
Herman Miller collected almost 8,700 books in its national book drive. If you would like to make a book donation, check out Better World Books for more information.
Images courtesy of Juan Luis Garcia
Design, Education, Innovation
April 4, 2011
What was your college experience like? Ramen noodles for breakfast; Chock-a-block lecture halls; No class on Fridays. Am I alone here?
Well, some students are demanding more of their education and universities are stepping up, providing them an opportunity to work outside the traditional parameters of academia. Innovation centers give interdisciplinary teams of students a chance to tackle a project in which they design, fabricate, and test a prototype that solves a particular problem; sometimes in conjunction with for-profit companies.
No specified number of hours, no professor at a podium, no classroom—just a deadline and a problem to be solved. Which raises a problem: Your average classroom is not the highly flexible, dynamic space that will stimulate, support, and contribute to success of the young innovator. But, what is?
Looking to answer this question, Herman Miller convened a Leadership Roundtable to explore the innovation process and develop characteristics of creative spaces. Comprised of university innovation center leaders, national associations tracking educational innovation, and architects and designers, the group focused on several questions:
• What are the characteristics of an innovator?
• What are the barriers to creativity and innovation on campus?
• What attributes of creative environments that make them unique and supportive of the innovative mind?
The answers to these questions all touched on the type of space needed. Innovation centers require spaces that satisfy both the physical and psychological components of innovation. They have to be an ecosystem in which ideas can grow uniquely with each project.
Pictured: Prasad Boradkar, Director of InnovationSpace (a transdisciplinary laboratory at ASU).
March 21, 2011
Recently, North Central College featured the work they are doing in partnership with Herman Miller and Widmer Interiors. Nine professors and their students are participating in the Learning Spaces Research Pilot program that incorporates the latest thinking in teaching spaces.
Whether it is the unique space compared to other classrooms on campus, the adaptable furnishings and flexible configurations, or the freedom to use technology unconfined, it has the campus talking.
Photo courtesy of North Central College
February 23, 2011
I recently participated in the Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) Learning Spaces Collaboratory roundtable event at Herman Miller’s Los Angeles showroom. Herman Miller was a co-sponsor for the event facilitated by PKAL’s Jeanne Narum and Herman Miller’s Susan Whitmer and Bob Cox.
For more than two decades, PKAL has been one of the leading advocates in the U.S. for building and sustaining strong undergraduate programs in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
The event brought together a mix of architects, interior designers, and scholars who understand that a great learning experience isn’t only about the instructor, course content, or even the subject. An innovative, inspiring environment is paramount and a fundamental element in the overall curriculum.
February 17, 2011
Innovation spaces are a relatively new phenomenon on college campuses. Often called Innovation Centers, they function outside the traditional parameters of the school calendar, taking interdisciplinary groups of students through rigorous projects in which they design, fabricate, and test a prototype that solves an assigned problem. The centers are not classrooms, but highly flexible, dynamic spaces that must meet a wide variety of demands, often on a 24/7 schedule.
Students work in groups in a designated place. There are no set hours, but rather a time frame within which a project needs to be completed. The student who gravitates toward this learning experience is moving away from the traditional instruction paradigm toward a more creative, self controlled experience that emphasizes experimentation, encourages learning by doing, and fosters creativity.
Because we believe the physical environment can nurture creativity and serve as a catalyst for innovation, we recently hosted a roundtable with leaders of innovation spaces on college campuses from across the country. During the session we focused on the key characteristics of great innovation spaces, which we defined as spaces that support collaboration, alone/heads-down time, formal and informal instruction, communication, and rest.
Earlier this week during a session at ELI 2011, we shared these characteristics with a group of our fellow Educause members. They added the characteristics of openness, access, and visibility to this list.
A key conclusion from both groups: space and the elements in it really do matter.
Education, What's Up
January 24, 2011
That’s the question Herman Miller is asking full-time students attending 2-or 4-year colleges or universities in the U.S. and Canada* for our second annual video contest. We’re encouraging them to document the places where they connect, recharge, study, and socialize on campus.
We’re hoping to see a variety of entries that are creative, fun, or serious—all from the perspective of students. The results will help promote discussion among higher education professionals about the rapidly changing needs of students and how higher education facilities can respond to those needs.
Plus, the top three entries will receive cash prizes.
Want to learn more? Check out the contest website and you’ll find everything you need to know.
* Students in the province of Quebec are excluded from participation in the contest.
Design, Education, What's Up
December 17, 2010
Back in the 1970s, Max DePree (who was our CEO then) invited management guru Peter Drucker to talk to his management team many times. De Pree and Drucker forged a friendship based on mutual respect and similar ideas about why innovation and values were important. They also felt strongly that it was in a company’s best interest to help the people who work there realize their potential. It was the beginning of an enduring relationship between Herman Miller, Inc., Drucker, and eventually the Drucker Institute, a think-tank formed in 2006 to further Drucker’s ideas.
When the Institute decided to redesign its office space, it turned to Herman Miller. The Institute wanted a flexible space that would improve communication and support collaboration. Their new offices don’t have any walls, a move that encourages what Drucker called “sideways communication.” Furniture is on casters, so reconfiguring it is a snap. And the perimeter walls have been painted with Idea Paint, a paint that turns surfaces into marker boards.
The new office space is “the perfect blend of form and function,” writes Institute Director Rick Wartzman in his own piece about the project. Clearly, the Drucker/Herman Miller connection is still a synergistic one.