March 14, 2011
Anxiety, nerves, and a 20-second shot clock. Sounds more like the final minutes of a closely fought basketball game, right? But it has more to do with collaboration than competition, and the only athletic feats on display are of exercising jaws and vocal chords, and, of course, that big muscle on top.
I’m describing the 17th edition of Pecha Kucha night at Martyrs’ in Chicago. I shared stories about the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and Herman Miller’s environmental commitment, all with the idea that if you do stick to your beliefs, even in the face of doubt, good things will happen. I joined nine other presenters speaking to a sold-out house of about 400 people.
Pecha Kucha, which roughly translates to “chit-chat” in Japanese, refers to gatherings in over 390 cities around the world where creative types, activists, entrepreneurs, designers, and just about anyone else can share their “passion not portfolio” with an engaged audience. The format limits all presentations to 20 slides, 20 seconds per slide, with the slides running on auto-advance.
This lack of control over the slides keeps the presentations brief, the speakers on track (or not), and contributes to a collective sense of “you can do it” emanating from the audience to the presenter as they roll through their presentation. This fight against the clock is part of the fun for the audience and the anxiety/excitement for the speaker.
You should be sharing what’s important to you at a local Pecha Kucha event. Check out the Pecha Kucha website to find one near you.
Photo credit: Visualized Concepts
January 31, 2011
Herman Miller has received the top rating for a fourth consecutive year in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s eighth annual Corporate Equality Index.
We are one of only 337 companies recognized for employment policies and practices that include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) workers and their families. The index evaluates non-discrimination policies, benefits, diversity training, and other internal resources for LGBT workers, as well as external support for the LGBT community.
At Herman Miller, inclusiveness is one of the Things That Matter to us and one of many ideals that helps us succeed.
In fact, Brian Walker, our President and CEO, says, “When we are truly inclusive, I believe we go beyond toleration to really understanding what makes us unique and what unites us as human beings.”
January 28, 2011
Within its sphere of influence, Herman Miller works hard to stay true to its ethos of environmental stewardship and to fulfill its commitment to zero waste by 2020. But whether it’s environmentally friendly facilities or responsible manufacturing processes, companies like Herman Miller can only move ahead as fast as the science that undergirds these techniques and processes.
One place where research is happening on a large scale is Biosphere2 in the desert north of Tucson, Arizona. Biosphere1 is our Earth.
Managed by the University of Arizona, Biosphere2 is a scientist’s dream. It’s a 3-acre Star Trek-like greenhouse of glass and steel completely sealed from the surrounding desert. Within this sealed environment, five mini-biomes, such as mangrove wetlands, a savannah grassland, and a coral reef, have been created. Because these environments can be minutely controlled, science can proceed on a large scale.
Studies are underway, for example, to compare the effect of drought on native grasses like tanglehead versus invasive species like buffelgrass. Or to examine how fast carbon dioxide is absorbed in a rain forest.
Ultimately, the kind of research that’s happening at Biosphere2 should result in a better understanding of how our planet works, as well as nuts-and-bolts ways to preserve and protect our fragile biosystems. That’s the kind of research that companies like Herman Miller might find useful in the future.
January 7, 2011
Herman Miller’s independent contractors are an important part of our community, and just before the holidays transcriber Jodie Alexiev surprised us with a wonderful gift–a donation in our name used to stock a health clinic for those in need.
Alexiev considers herself an altruistic person by nature. For example, following her dreams meant she had to give up her job at a travel agency to serve with the Peace Corps in Bulgaria. And later she created her own transcription business so that she could stay at home with her kids.
Her altruism showed through in her Christmas gifts to Herman Miller and the rest of her customers, many of which are healthcare organizations in West Michigan.
Their reaction? “They’ve been tickled and honored,” she notes.
The idea came from a gift catalog published by World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization.
“It ignites your imagination,” says Alexiev, “and you know where your dollars are going.”
January 3, 2011
Herman Miller has always led the charge in environmental stewardship for corporations. In fact, in 1995 Herman Miller’s Greenhouse helped develop the U. S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) first LEED standards. Now, achieving LEED certification for a commercial building has become a mark of distinction and achievement.
But what about residential buildings? What about your home? Private houses vastly outnumber commercial buildings, and they consume the biggest single chunk of energy (22 percent).
Well, houses can indeed achieve LEED certification, just like commercial buildings; however, seeking residential LEED certification is the decidedly less-traveled road. At this point, only a handful of residential construction firms nationally have on-the-ground experience in the many options for building green homes. “There’s a lot of information available,” says Doug Selby, president and co-founder of Meadowlark Builders in Ann Arbor, one of the few construction companies that specialize in green building. “But it’s hard to put it all together and create an action plan.” Selby’s customers tend to be highly motivated, willing to experiment, and eager to get involved in their construction project.
In the end, economic stewardship is reason enough to build green, but as Herman Miller and other companies have discovered, there are some potent economic motivators as well. Meadowlark Builders recently renovated an 1837 historic home that achieved LEED Platinum certification The monthly bill for heating and cooling this 1,850-square-foot home? $42 per month on average, and it uses 70 percent less water than conventional homes.
Straw bale house, anyone?
December 31, 2010
Herman Miller has established several sustainable practices to help it reach its Perfect Vision goals, but what are others doing to create a better world? I recently traveled to Germany and witnessed the country’s commitment to sustainability. Potsdamer Platz is one area that stands out.
Historic Potsdamer Platz in the center of Berlin has seen its share of turbulence. Razed during World War II and bisected by the Berlin Wall (an unobtrusive brick line still runs through the center of the square marking where the wall once stood), it once was a cement-covered no-man’s-land.
Within the last two decades, however, the square has been reborn, and it has a green story to tell.
Meandering through the square, an “Urban Waterscape” of pools, canals, and gentle cascades create “an oasis of calm and beauty,” according to design firm, Atelier Dreiseitl. Naturalized landscapes (“purification biotopes”) surround and filter the water that passes through it.
Besides the aesthetic benefits, the Urban Waterscape is a sophisticated rainwater management system. Over half of the buildings surrounding the enormous square have green roofs. Rainwater from the buildings supplies flushing toilets and fire systems. The remaining rainwater fills the pools and irrigates the landscapes.
Almost subliminally you are drawn to the vista of natural grasses, ducks, fish, and even a crane peacefully co-existing between a highway and the bustling city center. Add the environmental story, and Potsdamer Platz becomes an impressive part of Berlin’s renaissance.
Better World, What's Up
December 13, 2010
This holiday season, Herman Miller is partnering with architects, designers, and suppliers for its annual We Care event. In 25 cities across the U.S. and Canada, volunteers will help children from the Boys and Girls Clubs of America make holiday gifts for their loved ones—everything from tree ornaments to photo frames, holiday placemats, and felt scarves.
It’s the 14th year of a great tradition that brings some very deserving children a day of seasonal good cheer.
Better World, Design
December 9, 2010
This week our Setu chair earned a prestigious Design of the Decade Gold award as “Best Sustainable Design Solution.” The Industrial Designers Society of America holds the Industrial Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) annually, and then a larger, comprehensive and multi-category review at the turn of each decade.
The jury selected Setu, which was designed by Studio 7.5, as the best example of sustainable design for its positive impact on business and broader society. As both wrestle with environmental demands, and as Herman Miller looked to support the ergonomic needs of mobile workers and their technology, Setu created a new benchmark for sustainability and comfort.
Always in good company, Setu appears with Method Laundry Detergent with Smartclean Technology and Nike Considered Footwear to round out the top three finalists in its category.
And it joins Herman Miller’s impressive list of previous Design of the Decade winners, including the Equa chair (80s) and the Aeron chair (90s).
It’s a great example of our commitment to problem-solving seating design and anticipating the needs of our society.
Better World, Design, What's Up
December 8, 2010
If you’ll be in New York City soon, visit the Cooper-Hewitt to see the “Why Design Now?” exhibition before it closes on Jan 9. What an important exhibition, and what an uplifting experience! I was energized by the array of innovative design solutions to fundamental world problems—including environmental degradation.
For decades, Herman Miller has been working to systematically minimize its impact on the earth. Environmental advocacy has always been one of the pillars of the company, and it always will be.
In 2010, it announced a goal of being carbon neutral by 2020. Not easy, but given the company-wide commitment and passion for the cause, I bet we make it.
Of course, we don’t hear much about all the positive work that’s making an impact on large and small scales. “Why Design Now?” shows that smart people are designing solutions to human and environmental problems all over the world, making life better, safer, and healthier.
It’s hard to pick a favorite display. They are all amazing in their own way. Maybe it’s the solar-powered LED streetlight that’s part of a living tree. Or maybe the device that converts ocean waves to electrical power. Or the web-based world-health map that displays and tracks disease outbreaks. Or the “Return to Sender” artisan eco-casket.
So if you think the world is beyond hope and problems are too huge to even think about, get to the Cooper-Hewitt. Or buy the beautiful book Why Design Now?, the catalogue created for the exhibition. It’s all good.
December 6, 2010
Derrell Jackson does not miss opportunity when it knocks. In this case, opportunity not only presented a chance to showcase Herman Miller product on ABC’s highly popular “Extreme Makeover,” but also to do some good in the process.
“Lately, the show’s producers have focused on choosing families who need help but who are also trying to help others,” says Jackson, a member of Herman Miller’s Presence Marketing team. The Anderson’s, a Cleveland mom and dad who were chosen for this episode, are both visually impaired, and one of their two sons is hearing impaired, but the family has started a home-based nonprofit to help others who are similarly challenged.
The family asked that their new home be furnished with modern classics because the simplicity of the furniture is easier for the couple to navigate. And who does modern classics better than Herman Miller?
So, the show’s producers contacted Jackson and “asked for the world”—and they darned near got it. With help from Brian Scharp, Retail Marketing team, and Genesis Seating, a Herman Miller supplier, Herman Miller was the main furniture provider for this house, donating some of its most recognizable classics, such as Eames lounge and Aluminum Group seating, Nelson swag leg chairs, a Goetz sofa, and various ancillary tables and chairs.
On move-in day Herman Miller’s big, red truck pulled up in front of the new, Tudor-style home in a Cleveland neighborhood. Members of the Retail Marketing team, Genesis seating, and APG Office Furnishings, Inc., the Herman Miller dealer in Cleveland, joined the 2,000 or so local volunteers who had been working nonstop to finish the house for its new occupants.
“Our retail team and the vender really pulled together to make this work,” says Jackson. “We all loved the fact that we were helping a family who deserved it. We rented a van and carpooled down a day early and not just to watch, either. Our team was fully engaged in making sure the furniture reached the home in good condition.”