Better World, Design, What's Up
May 8, 2012
Meridian filing and storage units are one of the first products to use counterweights made from the new cement mix containing recycled powdercoat.
Designing for a Better World means being mindful of the environmental impact of our products. In the past this led us to discontinue rosewood until a sustainable alternative could be found. Today it means eliminating one of our largest landfill items: the overspray from our powdercoating process.
Working in collaboration with a local West Michigan supplier, VanderWall Brothers Concrete, Herman Miller has found a way to recycle leftover powdercoat into a cement mix. The mix is used to make the counterweights that sit in the bottom of filing and storage units, preventing them from tipping over when the drawers are extended.
Testing has even shown the recycled powdercoat improves the binding qualities of the cement, producing a stronger block.It may even have applications in construction products.
Solving an industry-wide problem, we decided to share the new process with all of our competitors, ensuring that maximum environmental impact.
Better World, Uncategorized, What's Up
December 21, 2011
The lords are leaping and the maids are milking, but who’s been making all these stockings?
For the fifth year, holiday stockings hung along the corridors of the Herman Miller Design Yard and multiplied into the hundreds. And they’re not cookie-cutter stockings either—each are one-of-a-kind and handmade out of our textile leftovers. In fact, every once in a while, passersby try buying one for themselves to hang over their fireplace.
However, these stockings were not for sale, but rather made for a greater cause. In the season of giving, Herman Miller employees volunteered their lunch hours for sewing and decorating a total of 477 stockings. All those carefully crafted stockings were distributed to these handpicked charities: Holland Rescue Mission, Urban Family Ministries, Love INC, and St. Jude’s Ranch for Children. These organizations work directly with the families who took the stockings filled with goodies home for the holidays.
Design, Healthcare, Innovation
May 6, 2011
“Companies prosper when they tap into a power that every one of us already has – the ability to reach outside of ourselves and connect with other people, to walk in someone else’s shoes.” That’s Dev Patnaik, author of Wired to Care , speaking. He believes empathy is key to innovation. And everyone from marketing to R&D benefits from a better understanding of their customers and end users.
We agree. Empathy plays an important role in Herman Miller research, design, and development of new products, particularly in healthcare. We gain empathy by engaging with nurses and other caregivers in multiple ways. Facility tours, focus groups, gaming sessions, and job shadowing help us develop insight into the work of caregivers, to really understand what they do, what their work day is like. We then do our best to share those experiences with product development teams through reports, hallway conversations, and workshops.
We believe products like Compass express the empathy we have with caregivers, patients, families, and administrators.
May 2, 2011
Steve Frykholm poses with his students in Aba, Nigeria, 1966.
“Do what I did and join the Peace Corps,” was Steve Frykholm’s answer when asked what advice he had for students. “It was a great experience,” he continued, “I have been working for 41 years. What was two years out of my life? I learned a lot. It helped my self-esteem. It helped my confidence. It also taught me screen-printing. If I hadn’t been in the Peace Corps would I have done [the picnic] posters?”
Wow, Steve Frykholm, whose work is highly regarded and on display in MOMA, may have never learned the skill that made him famous if he had not lived in Africa. What is two years? For Steve, it focused his interest and started his career.
I had a similar experience, having spent a long time living in Japan, and would agree with Steve. The experience I gained was invaluable and really helped me to better understand who I am–I am a much better person for that.
Steve’s advice was great. Really, what is two years in the whole scheme of things? I wish more students would challenge themselves to experience something different. Sometimes you have to leave everything you know to discover who you are.
April 22, 2011
At this year’s Fortune Brainstorm Green conference, some of the most recognized people influencing environmental sustainability took center stage with support provided by our Setu chairs. Bill McDonough and Sir Richard Branson, for example, were among the presenters. They said some wild things. Dave Steiner, CEO of Waste Management, predicted a future where his company will pay customers for their trash because he can extract so much value from it by repurposing, reusing, and recycling it. Or Sir Richard Branson announcing Virgin Oceanic, a super sub designed to take one person to the bottom of the world’s oceans as a way to further our understanding of this huge resource.
Another great—and practical—addition to this year’s conference came from AT&T. The company provided a charging station powered by wind and solar energy. This was a relief to many tweeters and bloggers who had the power they needed to make their posts accessible to everyone.
New this year, Herman Miller offered attendees a chance to nominate a 501c3 non-profit organization of their choice for the chance to win $25,000 worth of Herman Miller furniture. And today we’re pleased to announce Urban Prep Academies as the recipient.
Based in Chicago, Urban Prep operates a network of all-boys public schools including the country’s first charter high school for boys. Urban Prep’s mission is to provide a high-quality and comprehensive college-preparatory educational experience to young men that results in graduates succeeding in college.
Urban Prep Academies was selected at random from the entries submitted by conference delegates at our onsite mobile station. The new Herman Miller products will help Urban Prep Academies do its good works even better—and make a better world for all of us.
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
Better World, Design
April 8, 2011
When TreeHugger asked its readers to vote online for the 2011 Best of Green in Design and Architecture, our SAYL chair came out on top. The popular blog, which focuses on driving sustainability mainstream, includes the Best of Green Readers’ Choice online voting is part of its annual Best of Green awards.
Designed by Yves Béhar, the SAYL chair is unique for its Eco-Dematerialised design, which means we used fewer materials in inventive ways to make the chair attainable for more people. Fewer parts and less material ultimately mean less cost and a smaller carbon footprint needed to make SAYL chairs. And, we produce them on three continents to cut the distance between factory and buyer.
TreeHugger points out that it’s a great time for green and we agree.
Congratulations to all the Best of Green winners and thank you to everyone who voted for SAYL!
Better World, What's Up
April 6, 2011
We’ve been working to get to zero operational footprint by 2020. Right now we’re 91 percent of the way there. People have recognized us for our effort and, on Friday, March 25, I accepted an award on behalf of Herman Miller for Best Sustainability Performance at the Social Innovation Awards. It was an unusual experience because, unlike the other eight or so award recipients in other categories, Herman Miller had no opposition! There were no other nominees in our category, no nail-biting seconds of silence, no exciting build-up of tension. It was only us.
The audience of CEOs, CFOs and VPs from major blue chip companies, such as Coca Cola, Cisco, Nokia, Nestlé, Walmart, all heard there was just one company so far ahead of the game there was no need to ask for other nominations. And if they want to understand how to make a real difference and get that message to stakeholders, then they would do well to take notice of what Herman Miller is doing.
At that moment, I understood how far Herman Miller has come and how much people respect us for doing the right thing.
Better World, Design
March 22, 2011
We’ve been observing, too. Our connections there began with George Nelson, Herman Miller’s famous design director. Here he is taking music lessons, flanked by his teachers. The photo is probably from his two-month tour of Japan, late 1957 to early 1958. A guest of the Japanese government, Nelson lectured in several cities and met with designers, manufacturers, and students.
Nelson first traveled to Tokyo in 1951, and became enamored of the city. He was fascinated by the care he observed in the design of all things. Even the most ordinary items received an attention that he found fascinating, as did the noted Japanese graphic designer Hikeyuki Oka. Nelson added a foreword to Oka’s book How to Wrap Five Eggs, a mid-60s classic of Japanese design.
Writing in the foreword, Nelson said that “what we have lost for sure is what this book is all about: a once-common sense of fitness in the relationships between hand, material, use and shape, and above all, a sense of delight in the look and feel of very ordinary, humble things.”
A sense of delight continues to energize us, as does a real connection to Japan. Fast forward 60 years after Nelson’s first trip there, and you’ll find our latest touchpoint: the Herman Miller store in Tokyo. Opened in January of this year, the store makes great design available to consumers, from chairs and desks to games and toys.
Photo 1 Copyright Jacqueline Nelson
Photo 2 Weatherhill Publishing
Help Us Act
As with everyone in Japan and the world, we are preoccupied with helping the country rebuild after the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit the Sendai area. The disaster has prompted us, and our employees, to make donations to the relief efforts. Find out more about what we’re doing and how you can help make a difference. Thank you.
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.”