We love design, but our focus is less on impacting the design world and more on impacting your world.
Our design legacy includes things about which books have been written. The products our parent company made decades ago are still sought after today. And their new products will endure for decades to come. See here are some of our newest classics...
People at their best live unframed, going beyond expectations to surprise and delight us. With SAYL, we set out to design and build a chair family that gives form to that spirit. Inspired by the principles of suspension bridges, the frameless back of the SAYL work chair encourages a full range of movement while the suspension back material keeps you cool—all with an extremely small environmental impact. It is everything a Herman Miller chair should be. At a very attainable price.
3D Intelligent Suspension Technology?
Our work with Yves Béhar achieved a breakthrough in seating technology. Support is molded directly into the 3D Intelligent back material. The suspension material is stretched from the Y-Tower at the back of the chair just as cables are stretched from the towers of a suspension bridge. The tension is greater in the transition areas, from the thoracic to the lumbar areas and between the lumbar area and sacrum. "Hinge points" allow these areas to flex and support the healthy, forward rotation of the pelvis. At the same time, less tension in other parts of the back encourages a full range of seated movement.
The Design Challenge
We asked designer Yves Béhar to design a highly affordable chair that would incorporate everything Herman Miller is known for—beautiful design, first-class ergonomics, elegant engineering, and respect for the environment. Béhar, who calls San Francisco home, began by looking at designs that deliver the most with the least. And then he took a look at his city's best-known landmark: the Golden Gate Bridge.
It was one of those aha! moments. Béhar wondered, could the engineering principles of a suspension bridge be applied to a chair? It turned out that, not only was it possible, but using a suspension tower to support an unframed back would reduce materials, weight, and environmental impact. The flexible elastomer suspension material could be stretched in a way that provided the greatest tension at points where support is needed and the least in areas that would allow for the most expansive range of motion.
So why "Sayl", rather than, say, "Bridge"? Take a look at the chair from the side. See the resemblance to a full mainsail? The name reflects the sailing vessels that pass beneath the bridges that inspired the original design. Replacing the "i" in "sail" with a "y" is a nod to the innovative Y-Tower structure of the work chair.???
By rethinking every part of the chair, Béhar and our development team were able to create a better, smarter chair that sets a new reference point in its class for performance, quality, and appearance.
Canvas landscapes are designed to mirror an organization's culture and raise the level of its performance. A simple set of elements creates surround, structure, surface, storage, and support for the complete range of workspaces. Canvas results from Herman Miller's holistic perspective on work environments and the collective experience of work.
The Back Story
Herman Miller has been involved in workplace design since the 1930s, with desks designed by Gilbert Rohde. George Nelson and Charles and Ray Eames designed desks, files, and other workplace furniture for us in the 1940s and 1950s. In the 1960s, the Quickborner Team in Germany developed the radical concept of Burolandschaft, or office landscape, as an organizing principle for workspaces. And in 1968, Robert Propst and the Herman Miller Research Corporation completely changed the paradigm of office furniture with the groundbreaking Action Office system.
Over the next few decades, we developed other systems furniture solutions, each with its own characteristics, each based on the changing needs of our customers. With the new millennium came the realization that our customers needed a new kind of furniture solution, one that was holistic and integrated and that provided a simple way to furnish all the usable space on a customer's floorplate. Our research between 2001 and 2003 concluded that systems furniture met the needs of workers in assigned spaces pretty well but had difficulty providing good solutions for unassigned spaces.
In addition, we found that systems furniture wasn't always allowing designers and architects to express the differing characters and cultures of organizations. Office space needs were changing, as they always do. The importance of community spaces was growing rapidly, and the needs of work teams were increasing and going pretty much unmet.
The Design Inspiration
Out of that research came the beginning of the idea behind Canvas, which started as a combination of the research we had done, existing systems designed by Doug Ball and Joey Ruiter, and new designs from Jeffrey Bernett and Nicolas Dodziuk of the New York firm Consultants for Design Strategy. The challenge for Bernett and Dodziuk was to incorporate two existing Herman Miller lines to create a cohesive "kit of parts" solution for individual workspaces, ranging from private offices to open plans. Bernett and Dodziuk were an ideal team to tackle the assignment. The two have worked together for many years at CDS, and their backgrounds include a wide range of projects, from airline seating to graphic design to consumer products. And they both love working on furniture. Bernett says that with any project, "The end-user needs always come first: Who is going to use or want this and why? Of course, there are performance criteria as well; and then the question becomes: How are we going to manufacture what we are working on?"
Both designers have always had a keen interest in how things work. Bernett says, "I knew my way around a machine shop from the time I was 10 years old." Dodziuk credits his parents—his father was a mathematician and his mother an artist—with giving him the genes to tap into both sides of his brain. "Furniture problems are complex, but they require simple solutions," he says. But a specific kind of "simple." Bernett quotes this statement, attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes: "I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity." In other words, to achieve a workable simplicity, you have to first understand complexity.
"I believe design helps us understand the world we live in and connects us to one another," says Bernett. "The best products anticipate and define future needs and behaviors and ultimately promote balance, harmony, and simplification of our complicated lives."