Herman Miller’s Research Influence on Design

Herman Miller arguably make some of the best furniture money can buy today, with a high price tag on their products Herman Miller values operational excellence. In order to achieve this excellence Herman Miller heavily relies on their research of many aspects to create their best products. However Herman Miller’s research has surpassed just the design of products, Herman Miller’s research now spans to many topics which include making ones life easier based on designs and flows of living spaces and offices, Once again showing Herman Miller’s Emphasis on Research.

Brief History

Implementation of Research

On Herman Millers website the say “Every real design solution begins with research”, Here is a specific example of how they used research to create a solution for a problem that many people face.

Aeron Chairs

Herman Millers redesigned Aeron Chair is a response to many ergonomic problems that people tend to face when it comes to sitting down especially for long periods of time. Their research first starts out by recognizing problems that users have from using unconventional chairs such as “Unsupported sitting leading to a static, slouched posture that can cause physical pains and, consequently, negative cognitive effects” (Herman Miller, 2017) Herman Miller also states that back pain is something 80% of American’s experience where it causes problems for them, missing work or costing The Centre for Disease Prevention billions of dollars.

Secondly they conducted research on problems with unconventional chairs which allows them to properly fix them, Herman Miller determined that most of these problems come from being too static while sitting because “Movement is human nature, and moving between supported positions helps the muscular and skeletal systems”.

Now with the insight on these problems from the research it allowed for Herman Miller to implement and design the solution. The first aspect having to do with the replacement of additional foam and fabric construction with a breathable, elastomeric woven suspension material — the proprietary performance textile known as Pellicle which revolutionized sitting by allowing efficient micro-movements and altering the distribution of pressure in the seat and backrest. This then allowed then to distribute these new materials in specific areas based on whether the back needs support, stabilization or softness. Herman Miller also focused on improving posture with the Aeron chair in order to promote natural, unforced spinal alignment and muscle balance.

And Because there are many different types of body Herman Millers provides different sizes and allows for the chair to be very customizable so it fits each person to their liking.

With research and a solution must come results, the Aeron chair is made to “combat the harmful effects of prolonged sitting, delivering the support your body needs to avoid physical issues like fatigue, spinal disc compression, and general discomfort”.

How this relates to this weeks reading

this weeks reading was based on researches relation with design, which is something that Herman Miller highly values even stating “Every real design solution begins with research”. Even though the two areas are still developing in how they overlapping Herman Miller has been a strong user and implementer of research since the 1960’s and has now become a leader in designing furniture, work flows and life flows. Because Herman miller deals with very human centered problems they typically use Design informed research

They use activities of observation, measurement, interview, literature review, analysis, and validation in order to create their solutions thus closing gaps in ergonomics they observe.

In this following video you can see Herman Millers use of Artifacts, prototypes and design practices when creating these product showing how research plays into their project.

In conclusion Herman Miller provides the perfect example in how design research plays an important part in design with them solving problems not based off their own ideas and thoughts but instead using real objective research in order to create the best possible solution.

Discussion Questions

  • Who Believes comfort in as an important aspect when working for long periods of time?
  • Are Herman Miller’s costs worth the price in order to gain this comfort?
  • Would you be more inclined to use a Herman Miller chain knowing their products are based off real research?

Sources

STAPPERS, PIETER, and ELISA GIACCARDI. The Encyclopedia Of Human-Computer Interaction. 2nd ed., 2018