Design, What's Up
September 17, 2012
“The camera has always been a guide,” reflects designer Don Chadwick. “It has allowed me to see things and focus on things that maybe an average person wouldn’t even notice.”
That ability, to see the world in a new way, is exactly what helped Chadwick, along with Bill Stumpf, to create the Aeron Chair. Together they designed the first chair to replace foam and fabric cushions, typical of most office chairs, with a mesh-like suspension material that was not only more comfortable, but offered healthier ergonomic support as well. Aeron Chair has since become an icon of design innovation and is the world’s best-selling ergonomic work chair, with a new one produced every 17 seconds.
What would the world be like if Don Chadwick, and designers like him, saw things like you or I? It’s hard to say, but it would certainly be harder to find a comfortable place to sit.
Check out Don Chadwick’s contribution to Why Design, a new video series featuring designers from Herman Miller’s creative network. There are eight videos in total, with a new one debuting every Monday. Stay Tuned; next week is designer Ayse Birsel.
Design, Innovation, Products, What's Up
April 2, 2012
An Aeron chair rolls off our production line every 17 seconds; a number that so impressed FastCompany that they recently recognized Herman Miller as a model of modern American manufacturing.
The secret? Continual improvement. Using a process we call the Herman Miller Performance System, or HMPS, we compound small, incremental improvements into big change. Rearranging a bin of parts to be six inches closer may only save a half second, but when combined with hundreds of other refinements, the results add up. In fact, they add up to more than 260 seconds—or 4 minutes and 20 seconds—of time saved to make an Aeron chair.
Applying the same problem-solving knowhow to the production of our products as we do their design, Herman Miller remains at the cutting-edge. And while the competition is busy exporting manufacturing jobs, we can proudly say our products are made in the United States.
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, What's Up
September 26, 2011
It’s one thing to talk about solving problems; it’s another to make it a tenet of good design. That’s what we strive to do, and Fast Company recently placed us on its list of Thirty Companies That Get It for creating, “furniture that inspires—and solves problems.”
Charles Eames once said, “The extent to which you have a design style is the extent to which you have not solved the problem.” George Nelson was a problem solver, as was Robert Propst and as are Ayse Birsel and Studio 7.5. In fact, solving problems with good design is a prerequisite for Herman Miller.
Consider Aeron, designed by Bill Stumpf and Don Chadwick. Radical when it launched, its transparent style has inspired numerous copies. But foam and fabric wasn’t replaced with Pellicle because it looked good. Research showed that the suspension material allowed air to reach the body, preventing heat and moisture from building up—keeping the sitter comfortable much longer.
Solving a problem in an original way provided Aeron its distinctive look as well.
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.
March 7, 2011
Bill Stumpf, who would have turned 75 on March 1, wouldn’t have cared. He’d have loved it that a design student at his alma mater, UW-Madison, used reclaimed barn wood to recreate the Aeron chair he and Don Chadwick designed.
The student’s inspiration came in part from the traveling exhibit Good Design: Stories from Herman Miller. It’s now at the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin, and will be there until April 3.
A whole group of UW grad and undergraduate students are looking to the exhibit for inspiration. They’re focusing on the design process and how finished works suit the human body. Something Herman Miller knows a thing or two about.
One student looked at Alexander Girard fabrics and designed a coffee table from wood pieces formed to reflect one of his patterns. One design includes collapsed fabric and raises to become the Eames molded plywood chair.
Take inspiration from everything is the creative person’s mantra. And we love it when creatives take it from us.
Photo 1: Chris Reinstad, Aeron Chair Organic Oak, 2010
Photo 2: Emily Rich, Perception, 2010
Photo 3: Heather McCalla, LCF (Lounge Chair Fabric), 2010
Design, What's Up
February 15, 2011
Have you seen one of our products in a movie, television show, or commercial? Have you elbowed your neighbor and pointed out an Aeron chair or Eames lounge and ottoman?
We know how you feel. And we want to hear from you.
Beginning today, you can share your product sightings with us on our Facebook page. For the next five weeks, we’ll post a photo of one of our products and we’d like you to tell us where you’ve seen it.
So, what’s the first product to kick-off this campaign? The Aeron chair, of course. Look for the Show & Tell post and photo of the Aeron on our Facebook page and include your comment about where you’ve seen it (Hint: You might have seen it around the office or maybe you could ask your brothers and sisters?).
And if you’ve seen another product that’s not on the list, please post that on our Facebook page as well.
We’re looking forward to your participation!
Products, What's Up
April 16, 2010
Researchers at Yale’s School of Engineering and Applied Science are working toward their goal of making machines compliant to humans. In Professor John Morrell’s laboratory they have developed the Vibrotactile Posture Feedback Chair, which uses cell phone vibrators to alert a person when he or she is sitting incorrectly.
Showcased at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Haptics Symposium last month, their prototype is actually an Aeron chair retrofitted with six force-sensitive resistors, or tactors, and one distance sensor. Morrell says he hopes the device will prevent people from slouching.
“The vibration is supposed to be an annoyance,” says Ying Zheng, who is working with Morrell. When a person slouches, leans too far forward, or crosses his legs, the tactors in those regions vibrate or pulsate as a reminder to use the right posture.
Morrell said he was first inspired to pursue the idea after visiting a physical therapist due to pain from sitting at a computer for long periods of time. He said he was constantly forgetting his therapist’s instructions, which led him and Zheng to evaluate the use of touch to remind people to sit upright with their spines in a neutral position, as recommended by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
In addition to the chair, Morrell’s laboratory is developing a robot that can open doors for the disabled or in dangerous situations.
Photo credit: Brianne Bowen/Yale Daily News
Technology, What's Up
March 24, 2010
Social media tools like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can be frivolous or useful. Frivolous: More than 724,000 kids (my son included) are Facebook fans of “Don’t complain about grading 140 essays over the weekend, you assigned it.”
Powerful: 18,000 people bypass the hype-steria surrounding the H1N1 flu by following the Center for Disease Control on Twitter. The CDC provides factual updates as information becomes available.
For most people, social media lies between the two extremes.
According to Forrester Research, almost 60% of Internet users use social media. Other research shows that a third of social media users are quite active, updating their statuses at least once a week. Their reasons vary, but 54% say they do it to stay in touch with friends and family. Less than five percent report they “regularly” use it to make buying decisions.
That will likely change. Nielsen says global consumers spent more than five hours on social networking sites in December 2009. That’s an 82% increase over December 2008. With that kind of growth, more and more companies are using social networking. They see an opportunity to build their brands and strengthen their connection with customers.
Carnival Cruise helped an unhappy customer locate the t-shirts he thought the cruise line stole from him. They only way they knew he was unhappy about it was that he tweeted about it. But companies like more than just broadcasting via social media. In fact, for the individuals who actually tweet for a company, the best part is hearing from followers.
Herman Miller uses Facebook and Twitter to share good news (such as its inclusion on FORTUNE’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list), product information, and job openings, and to find out what’s on customers’minds.
What is on their minds? Sometimes it’s their chair’s warranty, but other times it’s a pet. Take the tweet from @stacyharmon: Apparently my cat finds my Aeron chair as comfortable as I do. http://post.ly/KL10. All of it helps “humanize the brand,” social media experts say.
Social media—especially Twitter, which doesn’t allow tweets to be longer than 140 characters—also forces companies to be clear, concise, and clever. That’s good news for consumers. If they don’t have us at hello, then we say buh-bye.
Photo via: Harmon Enterprises
Better World, Design, Products
March 15, 2010
Have you tried one of those online carbon footprint calculators yet? According to this one, my family of three is adding around 51 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year. But another online tool gauges my annual household emissions at 36,411 pounds (about 18 tons). Clearly, calculating carbon footprints is not yet an exact science.
That doesn’t stop our Design for the Environment (DfE) group from trying, though. They’re working to gather the information required to determine the carbon footprints of Herman Miller’s products. No easy task, given that most are made of multiple parts–the Aeron chair, for example has around 200–and you have to know the composition and manufacturing process of each (and how it’s shipped and where from) before you can factor in the energy used to assemble the chair and translate the result into carbon emissions.
In a recent interview with Metropolis magazine, DfE manager Gabe Wing, explains that the challenge is “finding a standardized way to determine carbon footprints. Right now there is no single standard.” Still, if it isn’t yet possible to measure carbon emissions exactly, Wing says, it is feasible to lower them by setting benchmarks for new product designs, choosing materials that have inherently low carbon footprints, and encouraging suppliers to use renewables in their own manufacturing processes.