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108 Years in 108 Seconds

To celebrate the launch of WHY, we asked animators Part of a Bigger Plan to answer the big question—Why has Herman Miller thrived for 108 years? We'll take care of the rest, bringing you a new story every week.

At Herman Miller we think, learn, and communicate through design. It is the language through which we share new ideas, address problems, and help people do great things. Before we decide what we do, and how to do it, our conversations about design always begin with the question “why?” It is in this spirit of inquiry that we are proud to introduce WHY, a new digital platform exploring the stories behind what we do at Herman Miller. Check in each week as we turn to a talented roster of writers, artists, illustrators, photographers, and videographers to help bring these stories to life.

For our launch, Dutch animators Part of a Bigger Plan were assigned the Herculean task of answering—in just 108 seconds—the question of why Herman Miller has remained a design leader for over 108 years. We compiled the graphic work of Irving Harper, George Nelson’s 97-year old director of design who, quite literally, put the M in Herman Miller. We also dipped into our archives, to create a bibliography of the many office-space-altering publications we’ve published over the last 70 years. For insight into how design happens today, we sat down with Don Goeman, executive vice president of research, design, and development, to talk about our long-standing relationship with Berlin-based Studio 7.5—designers of the recently minted Mirra 2 chair. Photographer Geordie Wood was tasked with exploring the streets of Manhattan with designer Leon Ransmeier to uncover the thinking behind his new AGL Table Group. With Work Life, we tackle collaboration and share some of the foundational research behind Living Office. Finally, we look to the future by offering an in-depth overview of our Scenario Planning sessions (with accompanying audio clips from renowned political scientists, anthropologists and thought leaders).

At Herman Miller, design is never just about a finished product. It is a narrative that extends from the conceptual thinking that informs a designer’s vision to the people it touches and the places it transforms. We look forward to sharing our stories with you.

I have never met a designer who was retained to keep things the same as they were.

George Nelson

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