February 17, 2011
One of the best — and worst — parts of spending a lot of time online is finding lots of new and interesting feeds to follow. But after multiple sessions of purging our mailboxes, RSS and Twitter feeds, we’ve resolved to seek out quality over quantity. These five tools can help you find sites similar to ones you already love, so you can add to your reader without increasing bulk.
1. Sign up for StumbleUpon
StumbleUpon lets users rate sites with a thumbs up or down as they browse around the web, forming a massive database of recommended sites, and clicking “Stumble” on the site’s plugin bar takes you to a random one of these sites.
2.Type related:url into Google
Google may not yet be sentient but it certainly has a handle on peoples’ search behaviors. Just type related:theurlofyourfavoritesite to see what other people are looking at.
Check out the related:hermanmiller.com/lifework/results.
3. Test your Hunch
Hunch is a user-powered recommendation engine. Users rank stuff they like, Hunch spits out results based on collective user knowledge. Lots of community action and listmaking here, if that’s your kind of thing. Try out the Blogs or Websites when Bored categories.
4. Play Around with SimiliarSites
SimilarSites bills itself as an alternative to fruitless Googling. Users start with the familiar and refine their results as they learn more about what they like. Sites are categorized and rank, making it easier to explore with just a few clicks.
See the SimilarSites results for Herman Miller.
5. Install a Plugin
SimilarWeb is the plugin version of SimilarSites, with the added benefit of working automatically as you browse around the web.
Grab the plugin for Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer here.
By Laura E. Hall
This story appears in partnership with Unplggd, a site for people who embrace technology and design in their home.
February 16, 2011
We’ve written about Discovering Design before – it’s a great collection of pictures, stories and video from the Herman Miller archives. I was particularly taken by the story behind Isamu Noguchi’s glass-topped table. I didn’t know he’d spent time in an internment camp or that there was an early version of the table that existed before George Nelson stumbled upon the design in Noguchi’s studio. Below you’ll find Noguchi’s words excerpted from his 1968 autobiography, A Sculptor’s World, which was rereleased in 2004.
“I went to Hawaii in 1939 to do an advertisement (with Georgia O’Keefe). As a result of this, I had met (T.H.) Robsjohn-Gibbings, the furniture designer, who had asked me to do a coffee table for him,” Noguchi remembered. “I designed a small model in plastic and heard no further before I went west.”
Noguchi with his wife Yoshiko (Shirley) Yamaguchi on the veranda of their house and his studio, Kita-Kamakura, Japan, ca. May–December 1952.
Noguchi was Japanese-American and going west refers to his internment in the Poston, Arizona, concentration camp during World War II. While he was interned, Noguchi said he was surprised to see a version of the small plastic model he had done for Robsjohn-Gibbings published as an advertisement for the English designer. “When, on my return, I remonstrated, he said anybody could make a three-legged table,” said Noguchi. “In revenge, I made my own variant of my own table.”
Noguchi and his wife standing outside Charles and Ray Eames’ house.
The “variant” Noguchi designed was used to illustrate an article, written by George Nelson, called “How to Make a Table.” Nelson had seen the table some months earlier at Noguchi’s studio. Dropping in to see his good friend, Nelson found him working on a piece he intended to give his sister for her birthday. Noguchi had cut a piece of scavenged glass for the top and made a base using two identical pieces of wood fitted together by a single pin. Nelson liked the organic shape. By 1947, the table became part of the Herman Miller product line. It reflects Noguchi’s belief that “everything is sculpture. Any material, any idea without hindrance born into space I consider sculpture.”
“To limit yourself to a particular style may make you an expert of that particular viewpoint or school, but I do not wish to belong to any school,” he said. “I am always learning, always discovering.”
The Noguchi Table with a cherry base.
Photo credits top to bottom: Noguchi at work via Vitra. Noguchi coffee table via Herman Miller Discovering Design. Noguchi and his wife via Unframe. Noguchi outside the Eames house via Architectural Ruminations.
Balance, Design, Products
February 16, 2011
Dear Eames molded plywood coffee table,
Before we even met, I knew who you were. I watched you from afar, admired your shape, your curves, and the way your legs stood arched, confident, and strong.
I knew we’d be good together–so I made you mine. But it wasn’t until I got you home that I found out how great things could be.
Not only are you good-looking, but you’re also versatile, smart, and hardworking. One minute you’re the star of the room, outshining all the rest. The next, you’re balancing it all–from stacks of unread magazines and hardback books to glasses of wine and steamin’-hot plates full of dinner.
You’ve helped make my house (okay, my apartment) a home. And I can’t thank you enough for all that you do. Happy Valentine’s Day, you gorgeous thing you.
Photo: Mat Sanders
February 16, 2011
Let’s give it up for the accounting department: as soon as Rob Woodbridge, Herman Miller’s Financial Controller for the UK and Middle East, sent us a Playlist, we knew we’d have to post it immediately. Check out his diverse list of songs—a nod to what’s hot on the UK and European music scene at the moment. Thanks, Rob!
What do you listen to while you work? Being an accountant, the need to concentrate is obviously very important. Loud, upbeat music is therefore a definite no-no when I am at work. Some of my tasks need complete focus and I use music such as Cat Power, Federico Aubele, or The XX to help me get in the zone and block out office distractions. I then save the more upbeat music such as Two Door Cinema Club or Vampire Weekend for my journey home.
How do you listen? I use my standard-issue Apple headphones at my desk listening either through Spotify on my computer or my iPod. At home, I stream music through my Marantz stereo or listen through my iPod docking station if we’re outside entertaining in the summer months.
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers? Spotify is my favorite method of streaming music. The “similar artists” feature is especially good for discovering new bands. My wife and I have two young children and their toys are slowly taking over our house. To help declutter, I’ve started buying MP3s instead of vinyl or CD format (something I never thought I would give up). Pitchfork is probably my most visited music website, although I’m always on the hunt—swedesplease.net is one recent find featuring the best in Scandinavian alternative music. US radio stations KCRW and KEXP also get their fair share of airtime.
Does music influence your work? I wouldn’t say that music influences my work, but certainly it can provide a good soundtrack and this is often dependant on the season. Summer evenings I will drive home listening to something from the record labels of Joe Gibbs or Studio One. In the winter, I normally resort to more familiar friends—Elliott Smith, Libertines, or The Walkmen often find themselves on the playlist.
Where do you find music recommendations? Who influences your musical taste? As well as hunting for music myself, I’ve always been surrounded by people with similar tastes in music or those opening my eyes to new sounds. Live music has been a passion and I have been going to festivals and gigs since I was a kid—indie, Scando pop, jazz, roots, hip-hop, bossa nova—anything goes, really. Being exposed to these diverse music tastes has meant my collection has become quite eclectic and there is a sound that suits all moods. I grew up in a house playing the likes of Johnny Cash and therefore the singer-songwriter has always been of significant appeal. I was lucky enough to see my all-time musical hero Elliott Smith play live in London a year or so before he died and I continue to follow musicians in the same vein such as Willy Mason, Ben Kweller, or Norwegian favorite Little Hands of Asphalt.
If your work was a song or a musician, what or who would it be? Wow—that’s a tough question. My work doesn’t really have a creative angle, but I would like to consider my outlook in the office as upbeat and optimistic. I would therefore chose something like Sweet Tides by Thievery Corporation or Mr. Guy by Sharon Bengamin. Both are guaranteed to lighten even the most heavy-going of days!
I Can Talk, Two Door Cinema Club
VCR, The XX
Oslo, Little Hands of Asphalt
En Cada Lugar, Federico Aubele
Mr. Guy, Sharon Bengamin
Boy with the Arab Strap, Belle & Sebastian
Emily’s Heart, Jamie T
Don’t Look Back in to the Sun, The Libertines
We’re from Barcelona, I’m from Barcelona
Images: Rob Woodbridge
February 15, 2011
Part 1 – The Problem
You know how it’s only when addicts plummet to the bottom that they can begin to rebuild their lives? So it goes with my home office. Which I, over the next many weeks, hope to transform into a beautiful, functioning workspace where thoughts will soar and inspiration will flow in like a spring breeze.
I thought the antique sheet music storage would be good for my paper organization. Apparently not.
Some background: I live in a delightful two-bedroom 1947 condo in Southern California with my über-supportive and well-meaning husband, Steve. We are not terrifically messy people, but we’re not completely compulsive either. What the architect intended to be a dining room is my workspace, open for all to see. There’s a desk and several bookshelves. And in an attempt to be organized, I have purchased many holdy-things: snappy cardboard boxes in attractive colors and prints, a file rack that goes on the wall, desk organizers and under-desk storage. I thought it was a genius move to commandeer a cedar hope chest as a filing cabinet and stick one of those press-on lights to the inside of the lid, but I have not opened it since I tucked away papers I apparently can’t live without two months ago. Steve tried to put up a shelf but ended up with a precarious installation that seems like it’s trying with all its might to escape the wall and go back to Ikea. There is a lot of glue where I think screws are supposed to go.
This shelf is defying all known physical laws as it pulls away from the wall and still stays up. Hopefully there will be no animals or people nearby during an earthquake.
I think I may have all the tools for effective organization, but there is a user-error issue here. My office is where I write magazine stories and work on my blog. There is always an impending avalanche of paper. My tax guy told me to save all my receipts, but I honestly do not think that the IRS cares that I spent $26.29 on sheep’s milk gouda, Valrhona chocolate and lavender-scented laundry detergent at Trader Joe’s. My desk is covered with menus and brochures from travel story research, “inspiration” pages torn from magazines, photos that are not important enough to frame but too dear to toss, mortgage re-fi paperwork, postcards from the vet reminding me that my dog is due for a dental cleaning – you get the idea. Pretty much everything.
I found this perfectly good inbox in my neighbor’s trash. I put wedding invitation stationary in it. I got married in August so I hope I won’t need it again any time soon.
Once I hired a woman to help me organize my office, and after her two-hour show of folding and tossing and filing, I thought, “Well that was easy enough. I didn’t need to pay anyone, I could have done that.” And then everything went to hell the next week.
These are my desk drawers. I like to play a little game called “find the scissors.”
The issue is that I need a system. I need to know what to do with each piece of paper, each electronic accoutrement, each business card and bank errata that passes my way.
How do you do stay clear and organized in your workspace so that you can actually produce? Welcoming all suggestions, and I thank you in advance.
February 15, 2011
Dear Nelson Swag Leg Work Table,
We’ve been together now for the past six months, and yet I still get butterflies when I see you standing there each morning. Sure, you’ve got great legs, but behind that walnut veneer lies a solid foundation—one upon which we shall surely write history together. Happy Valentine’s Day.
February 15, 2011
For the last few months, I’ve had access to both a Mac and a PC. While I’ve been migrating my files over to my new Mac, I still use my PC most of the time. Each computer has different functions and they allow me the best of both worlds, without having to sacrifice much.
If you’re wondering how to transfer files quickly over to your new laptop, then using a direct cable connection is the fastest way. Here is how we transfered over gigabytes of files. One of the main perks of having both at home is that you never have to find compromises to get your stuff to work. For example, we ran into trouble when trying to find Microsoft OneNote equivalents on OS X. MS OneNote is Windows only for now. If you still have a PC at home, it’s not really a problem.
We prefer the way that OS X handles Apps, maybe because it’s a new way of going about things, but in comparison with the PC, it simplifies things. The new MS Office on Mac also has some improvements, including the fullscreen mode, which is excellent to use for creative writing since it allows no distractions.
Main Uses for a Mac
1. Twitter Client The new Twitter client that’s available for free from the Mac App store is easy to use, and its features make up for the lack of a zoom.
2. Creative Writing Although we do research with both computers, we’ve found that unplugging the Internet and taking the MacBook to bed is a very productive way of writing creative fiction.
3. Reading ebooks The new free Kindle app for Mac allows you to read a lot of free ebooks on it. That and a variety of PDF reference books makes the Mac the only way to do this.
4. Image Edition From Lightroom to Aperture, including the latest Photoshop, we’ve got them all installed on the Mac. The PC is another story.
5. Gaming While gaming has never been a strong suit of Macs, the only games that we have currently installed on our computers are on the Mac: Angry Birds and Civilization V.
Main Uses for Our PC
1. Internet Whether it’s checking up on things on Wikipedia, or writing up facts and important details in files, our main way of navigating the Internet is the PC.
2. Email We rarely use the Mac to check our email, as the PC is the computer we consider using for most work-related tasks. The Mac is used more for leisure.
3. Watching Movies & TV Shows Most of the time, we use the 24-inch Widescreen Viewsonic display to watch movies and TV shows. The resolution if fine, and although the screen is going to be replaced this year, it’s still suitable for this.
4. Uploading & Downloading Whenever we do any uploading (photos) or downloading, we use our PC, mainly because the PC serves as a hub for all of our photos and media files, since it’s got a lot of storage available.
5. Media Hub Most of our current photos, music and video files are located on the PC. All of our external USB hard drives are plugged into it.
(Images: Flickr member Stéphane Soulat licensed for use under Creative Commons, Flickr member Pablo Bigatti licensed for use under Creative Commons)
February 14, 2011
1. BookBook, $79.99 – $99.99 Store your MacBook Pro with love in a one-of-a-kind, vintage-book leather case. Get it: twelvesouth.com
2. News Paper Collector, €54.00 Stack up your recyclables in style. Get it: Creatables
3. Music Balloon, $45 Perk up your playlist with this portable and rechargeable USB speaker. Get it: Poketo
4. Leaf Personal Light, $379.00 Position the lovely Leaf for task lighting, fold it to create ambient light, or straighten the arms for dramatic wall lighting—all without burning your fingers. Get it: Herman Miller
5. LOVE Paperweight, $75.00 (Naturally.) Get it: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Images linked to their sources within the numbered text
Balance, Design, Products
February 14, 2011
Happy Valentine’s Day! I’ve got a soft spot for this holiday, especially now that my kids are old enough to get it. This past weekend was spent making cards and talking about love. Is there anything finer? We will be celebrating all week here at Lifework. I’ve asked our contributors to write a love letter to their favorite piece of Herman Miller design (inspired by a sweet post over on Unplggd devoted to Evernote). Today we start with Jordan and his yellow Eames molded plastic chair. You’ll have to stop by to see which pieces we’ve chosen. Cerentha
The furniture in my apartment (a typically small-ish Brooklyn one bedroom) is carefully curated, which means I’m fond of each piece; but the piece I love the most is a vintage Eames plastic side chair with a stacking base. It was a birthday present given to me several years ago from my wife and father-in-law; of course, though that might be the main reason I like it so much, that’s only one of the reasons that it’s my favorite chair.
Because I use it at my desk, it is probably the chair I use the most in my apartment. Even though it must be at least 35 years old, the chair is still sturdy, incredibly comfortable, and clearly designed and built to last.
I find the design particularly satisfying because it immediately communicates exactly how it was made, hiding no materials or articulations. Its organic shape, contoured to the body, is playful, smart, and elegant; it adds a beautiful burst of color to the room; it is lightweight and easy to move; and, most importantly, the cats love lounging in it.
Two last reasons to love the Eames molded plastic side chair: it is currently manufactured in environmentally friendly materials and is 100% recyclable; and, after over 60 years since it was first designed, it remains terrifically affordable.
February 11, 2011
David Shirley has been working with computers in one capacity or another for a very long time. Here we get a tour of his home office and learn about the two sides of his business. We will be hearing more from David over the coming months. He will be posting on all things tech and will be happy to answer any of your questions. For all us working from home I think we just got our own IT department!
How long have you worked in your field and tell us exactly what your field is?! I have worked with computing technology since 1982, so nearly 30 years! I have two main fields of work now. I show corporate professionals how to be better organized by being smarter about how they use their technology tools such as Outlook, BlackBerry, iPhone, etc…which will allow them to save time and focus on their high priority tasks. The second stream focuses bringing the power of technology to the home - I help families transform their home in how they watch, listen and view their movies, TV, music and photos.
You’ve been on the road for a year travelling with your family around Australia. What is it like to be back home settling into a new home office? I’m loving being back in our home. My office has a beautiful outlook to our leafy front yard – this maintains the peace. I’m also really happy to have some space back after a year in an RV…..and my Aeron chair, of course!
How did you choose the furniture for your office? What did you keep in mind when you were setting it up? The environment has to work. For me – comfort, good lighting (my eyes are getting old) and space.
As far as comfort goes I’ve got my Herman Miller Aeron chair, say no more. Space is taken care of with a simple large (5’ x 3½’) desk with 4 legs which gives plenty of legroom.
And for light I’ve got an Artemide Architectural PAN light (designed by Ernesto Gismondi in 1997) hitting a white ceiling.
What question are you most often asked about running an office from home? How do you keep motivated and focused?
What’s your favorite piece of technology? There’s not just one. There’s Sonos for my music, MacBook Air for its beauty, Lenovo Tablet for its flexibility and my amazing BMC Trailfox mountain bike.