Design, What's Up
October 15, 2012
Studio 7.5, composed of designers Burkhard Schmitz, Claudia Plikat, Carola Zwick, and engineer Roland Zwick, is a close-knit group. So it’s no surprise to hear them describe design as a team sport.
Close collaboration has been the studio’s hallmark since it began more than 20 years ago in the back of a 7.5 ton truck where the members made their first office. While the truck didn’t last, their teamwork (and the number) did. Today, the members of Studio 7.5 work as one, anticipating each other’s thoughts and tackling complex problems with creative thinking—evident in designs like the Setu’s flexible spine, which uses material innovation to eliminate the complexity of adjusting an office chair.
“In our world today the answers are complex, and it’s hard for just one person to answer all that complexity,” says Plikat—an observation surely supported by her teammates.
Check out Studio 7.5’s contribution to Why Design, a new video series featuring stories from Herman Miller’s creative network. There are eight videos in total, with a new one debuting every Monday. Next week is graphic designer Steve Frykholm.
June 5, 2012
A body at rest tends to stay at rest. Just ask T.J. Allen. His research of communications and its relation to collaborating led to the idea of the Allen Curve: the more distance there is between people, the less they will communicate. The effect really kicks in at 50 meters, or 150 feet.
Designing offices to be more compact is one way to counter an aversion to taking a walk at work. This ends up being a win-win for the business: People talk more (coming up with better ideas) and real estate costs go down.
Smaller offices and places for people to gather or bump into one another, as J. Michael Welton writes about in The New York Times, shared offices, compact conference rooms equipped with technology, quiet spots to get away from it all, choices in where to work given the task at hand, all these are elements in creating the right balance. That’s key. Intelligent remixing between individual offices and group and community areas, as opposed to simply shedding real estate, is necessary for enabling one of the organization’s largest resources—its human talent.
January 24, 2012
More than ever, working together defines how we get things done. And more than ever, getting things done often takes just two people. Recent research we’ve conducted at companies around the world found that nearly half the time collaborative events involved two to three people.
But no matter the number of people collaborating, companies are committed to making it happen. One approach they’re taking is to give their employees flexible workspaces. In a recent survey, 50 percent of corporate real estate executives said this flexibility enables collaboration.
All this focus on collaboration shouldn’t obscure the fact that people also need privacy and freedom from interruption. Research also suggests that some people, and especially introverts, are more creative when they can work on their own. Maybe the best way to get the creativity we’re all after is to design places that give people more choices for when, where, and with whom they work.
September 19, 2011
You know the old saying that two heads are better than one.. But it may be that only two heads are better for collaborating. Recently, we conducted research at our Design Yard facility, which was recently equipped with our Canvas furniture. Fully 68 percent of collaborative events were between two people versus larger groups.
Findings like that raise another question: How are people really using places at the office? Getting a clear, accurate picture of usage is essential to intelligently remixing available square footage. A better mix of settings can include microenvironments that enable these ad hoc gatherings.
Places that promote a few people “swarming” around a problem-solving challenge can accelerate the creation of new knowledge. And this sort of knowledge remains a key concern for organizations. A recent survey of the London Business School’s Future of Work Consortium found that “deep collaborative working” was rated a top factor in ongoing effectiveness. In a word, let’s get together—but not too many of us—and work it out.
July 19, 2011
The answer depends on your perspective. Certainly, the daily distractions and interruptions we experience in the office are annoying. They can be costly, too. According to one estimate, distractions cost American businesses $650 billion annually. And a recent poll of office workers found that 53 percent said distractions affect their productivity.
Distractions affect the one commonality we all share—our minds. And in a work world increasingly focused on ideas, we need uninterrupted time to think and concentrate. But, in many ways, distractions are not only unavoidable, they’re desirable. “Fortuitous encounters”—those hallway, coffee-station, and copy-room conversations—allow people to get work done.
Then, too, there is the fact that so many of us are working together more than ever. “The collaborative nature of knowledge work involves socializing, sharing, and connecting,” says Herman Miller’s Ginny Baxter, “and that in itself can be distracting. Even so, people in today’s collaborative work environments need to be involved and accessible.” So how do you balance concentration and being connected? Some think glass walls may do the trick. We’d love to hear your ideas.
Design, What's Up
June 13, 2011
People work together–in pairs and groups large and small–collaborating in the workplace is a way of life. And it happens everywhere in the office, not just at the workstation. This year, our focus at Neocon is supporting the places–formal and informal–where people are working together.
NeoCon is the annual contract furniture tradeshow held every year at the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago. Today is the first day and our showroom is packed with well-dressed people sitting, standing, and meandering as they check out our latest products.
Stop by if you’re in the area, Neocon runs June 13-15, and see what we have to offer, or just have a seat and rest your tired feet–we have lots of good choices. The Herman Miller showroom is located on the third floor of the Mart, or visit the Herman Miller Lounge on the first floor in the south lobby.
April 8, 2011
What better way to explore the question of collaboration than by collaborating? I recently participated in a Design Storm with 20 students from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, as they tackled this real-world issue over a period of two and half days.
For Herman Miller, this was an opportunity to ask the next generation of designers about the workplace, about collaboration, and about how they envision the two melding in the future.
Brainstorming, discussion, sketching, and critique; round after round, the students worked through their ideas toward a final concept. The atmosphere was awesome. The results were even better, ranging from the intangible “office as a second skin” and “implicit boundaries” to the tangible “mobile work pods.”
The experience left us wishing we could replicate that spark back at the office. We value our partnerships with universities and colleges of all kinds; they provide us a fresh perspective, all while connecting with future innovators. Who better to create the future with?