January 18, 2012
What do materials bring to a design? Most immediately, they bring pleasure.
It’s the materials of a space that give it resonance, according to Susan Lyons, Creative Director at Herman Miller. Material colors and textures “provide the experience when you walk into a room,” she says.
Lyons says there’s a sort of alchemy that happens when everything comes together: “the form, the touch, the use, the product works, it looks beautiful, it feels good, and life is good.”
Pleasure is one of five material design principles: honesty, utility, economy, pleasure, and possibility. Each is essential to good design.
This is the last segment in a series on our thoughts about materials—how we choose them, and what we think about when choosing them.
Design, Innovation, Products, Uncategorized
January 10, 2012
“We have to be incredibly mindful and purposeful with how we use our resources,” says Susan Lyons, Materials Creative Director at Herman Miller. This is a major idea behind sustainable design at Herman Miller—doing more with less material is a constant challenge, but one we’re passionate about. A great example: the Setu chair.
As Lyons explains, Setu’s Kinematic Spine, inspired by the chambered nautilus, uses “structure instead of mass” to create its strength and flexibility. And this sustainable innovation, designed by Studio 7.5, yields a lighter, ready-to-sit chair; with Setu, there’s nothing to tilt or tweak, just immediate comfort.
Economy is one of five material design principles: honesty, utility, economy, pleasure, and possibility.
January 9, 2012
Barry Sonnenfeld, director and Digital Man blogger, sits astride a wheeled saddle to scurry around film sets. Forget the clichéd canvas director’s chair, he cherishes his makeshift saddle-on-wheels, a creation of the Men in Black 2 crew that’s since been modified with “drawers for scripts, water, and prescription medication” for his sciatica.
Where he’s all about moving on the set, Billy Wilder, a director from an earlier generation who did films such as Sunset Boulevard and Some Like It Hot, opted for catnaps on set. In 1955, while filming The Spirit of St. Louis, he started taking naps on a narrow plank held up by sawhorses. Wilder later told his friends Charles and Ray Eames he needed something similar—but a bit more comfortable—for his office.
They came up with a slender, armless chaise with a built-in wakeup call. It required Wilder to lie on his back with his arms folded over his chest. Once he dozed off, his arms relaxed, dropped to his side, and gently awakened him. We began making the chaise in 1968, and it’s been in the line ever since.
We’ve added other pieces in the ensuing years. And Sonnenfeld puts three of them through their paces in his search for the right furniture for working in the editing room: the Embody and Aeron chairs and the Envelop desk. Get his read on them, and then check them out for yourself.
Photo: Barry Sonnenfeld is an Emmy-winning television director and the director of Get Shorty and the upcoming Men in Black 3.
Design, Products, Uncategorized
January 4, 2012
As a Japanese-American in a time when the world was at war, Isamu Noguchi embraced both sides of his heritage culturally and artistically; because of this, it is fitting that Isamu means courage.
During World War II, Noguchi voluntarily entered a relocation camp for Japanese-Americans in Arizona as a protest against the camps—and then was unable to get permission to leave. After seven months, he was granted liberation. “I was finally free,” he said gratefully. “I resolved henceforth to be an artist only.”
Much had happened during his internment, including with Noguchi’s art. He discovered that someone had “borrowed” his design idea for a three-legged table. To Noguchi’s protests, the borrower replied, “Anybody can make a three-legged table.” Noguchi designed one as only he could, balancing a freeform glass top on a curved, solid wood base. The ethereal result has been in production since 1948.
Most widely known for his sculptures made from any and every material, Noguchi’s artistic experimentations were diverse: from baby monitors to stage sets, children’s playgrounds to fountains. “I like to think of my work as having some kind of relevance, no matter how abstract or how small or how big,” said Noguchi. “It has a voice which other people can hear.”
Design, Products, Uncategorized
January 3, 2012
Solving problems through design is a core goal at Herman Miller. Because materials are an integral part of our designs, they can solve problems, too. In this segment, third in a series on Herman Miller materials design, Susan Lyons discusses the possibilities of materials and how they play a key role in problem-solving design.
“We spend a lot of time out and about, looking for materials that we may have no idea what we’re going to do with them,” says Lyons. Our job is then to ask, “How can we possibly begin to use this? What could we do with it? What could it turn into?”
The answers to these questions sometimes come naturally. “Nature is the most efficient designer,” she has said, and the best innovations already exist in nature. GreenShield, a sustainable nanotechnology textile finish, mimics the lotus leaf’s “micro-roughness,” repelling dirt and oil naturally. By experimenting with GreenShield and our own materials, we developed Quilty—a high performance textile that stays clean because of its design, not chemicals.
Possibility is one of five material design principles: honesty, utility, economy, pleasure, and possibility.
Design, Products, Uncategorized
December 20, 2011
There’s an attitude at Herman Miller that’s been around for a long time: treating materials as something integral to the design process. Think of Charles and Ray Eames and their work with molding plywood for the origin. In this second in a series on materials at Herman Miller, Susan Lyons gives a recent example: the Embody chair.
Whatever the example, the point is the same: to achieve what Lyons calls “beautiful practicality.” “When we talk about material utility,” she says, “what we really mean is that we use materials to solve problems.” It’s a symbiotic relationship, with sometimes the material driving the form and other times the form driving the material.
Utility is one of five material design principles we live by: honesty, utility, economy, pleasure, and possibility.
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.
Design, Products, What's Up
June 20, 2011
What do you get when you combine hockey with Aeron, the world’s most iconic ergonomic work chair? Aeron Hockey, an upgrade to office hockey, the pastime of bored office workers everywhere. And this year, the sport has its own world championship in Hong Kong.
Aeron Hockey takes traditional office hockey—played with a paper puck and makeshift sticks—to the next level by adding real sticks, protective gear, and even its own court. This version has rules and pits two five-person teams against one another as they vie to score as many goals as possible during two 10-minute halves.
Held as part of REACH, a Herman Miller exhibit being held in Asia this September, the 2011 Aeron Hockey World Championships will host 10 teams from across the Pan-Asia Pacific region, including New Zealand, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, and Australia. The teams will face off in an all day tourney, culminating in the crowning of the first ever Pan-Asia Pacific Champions.
Check out this slide show to get a better idea of the level of competition. And Lifework has a video of Aeron Hockey in action.
June 1, 2011
We believe design starts with the person—an approach going back to 1976 when we introduced the Ergon chair after 11 years of research.
We’re not just interested in the physical attributes of people, but their behaviors as well: How do they work? What is their posture? How do they move? Even the purpose of their work. Our commitment to understanding the person through research has helped us to balance science with aesthetics and design chairs in which the needs of the person are central.
This approach is often referred to as person-centered ergonomics. We believe it makes sense, and you can see it played out in each of the chairs we design.
Head over to Lifework to learn how to choose a work chair.
May 18, 2011
SAYL received the International Design Award for “Product Design of the Year” at a ceremony Sunday evening. That’s a pretty cool award to get. Getting there took a good designer challenging us just as much as we challenged him.
SAYL designer Yves Behar did just that. He asked, “How do we create a task chair that is attainable? Can we make a comfortable, supportive, healthy, and beautiful chair at a lower price point?” Yves challenged us to develop a technology not seen in low-cost seating.
Herman Miller likes designers that ask tough questions and look for creative answers. We also like to work collaboratively to help achieve their vision. Design and engineering should be at the table from the beginning. We feel a close relationship is a key to innovation.
SAYL’s 3D Intelligent back is a perfect example. Herman Miller worked in tandem with Yves on iteration after iteration, each requiring a new mold, in order to achieve proper supportive flex. It took months of trial and error. Traditional methods would have been easy, and less expensive to develop, but we knew Yves was on to something.
Innovation is not an easy or straight forward road to travel, but we’re okay with that. And an award or two helps, too.
Photos: Live Unframed