Design, What's Up
August 21, 2012
George Nelson was passionate about design and when he joined Herman Miller he quickly set about transforming us from a small manufacturer of residential furniture into a company driven by design. In his introduction to the 1948 Herman Miller catalog, Nelson articulated a set of principles that continue to guide us today: what we make is important; design is integral; the product must be honest; we decide what we make; a market for good design exists.
In 1984, George Nelson sat down and reflected on his time at Herman Miller. The resulting essay is insightful, honest, and full of stories told with keen recollection. We decided to share the essay with FastCompany, which began publishing it as a series beginning this week. Check it out and let us know what you think.
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.
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.
June 28, 2011
A sketch by Ayse Birsel from Design the Life You Love. Photo: birselplusseck.com
We’re all designers, busy designing our own lives. Powerful stuff but sounds a bit cliché, doesn’t it? Designing Is About the Decisions You Make Every Day, a recent article on Fastcompany.com, got me thinking, and before I knew it, the questions were popping up.
The problem is that design has become a fantastical buzzword invoked to change the world, heal your woes, and make your life easier. But if you were to ask people on the street the meaning of design, you would receive a new defintion with each person you stopped. And, too often, design is associated with aethistics. And even if you throw function into the mix, what difference does it make? Does advocating a designed life equate to filling your life with good-looking, functional widgets? Is that how design can make your life better?
The key is to divorce design from any assocation with consumption, which is exactly the direction Ayse Birsel takes in Design the Life You Love, a recent project challenging us to stop and “think about [our lives] for a moment.” Conceived as a recipe, Birsel proposes a simple and thought-provoking way of examining the complexity of your life and to ask what’s next. It’s so simple, in fact, you could do it over a cup of coffee.
Birsel recoginizes that design, at its essence, is decision-making—and good design means good decisions—whether that manifests itself as a cool product, choosing to riding your bike to work, or deciding to go back to school—you’re designing your life when you make a thoughtful decision about what is right for you and for your life. And that doesn’t sound like a cliché.
Herman Miller Journal, What's Up
February 24, 2010
Fast Company has once again put together its 2010 list of Most Innovative Companies—an assessment of innovative practices throughout the business world spanning creative models to real-world impact and far-sighted risk taking.
Of more than 250 companies, Herman Miller has been recognized not only as one of its Most Innovative Companies, but also as one of its “Innovation All-Stars”—a group of 59 global companies that “fought a dour economy with renewed creativity and bold initiatives.” We’re the only Michigan-based company to appear on the All-Star list and the only representative from the contract furniture industry.
Fast Company cited several of our award-winning products as examples of innovation: the Embody chair, the Setu chair, the Twist LED task light, and Teneo storage furniture system.
September 14, 2009
Designers are creative thinkers who often venture far outside the proverbial box. What a wonderful world it would be if more of us could think like they do.