At #NeoCon09: Herman Miller Then and Now

Having to write a review of Herman Miller in the space of a standard 3rings review is like trying to fit an elephant into a matchbox. The furniture GIANT has an enormous showroom at NeoCon '09 of course, where they dwarf much of the attendee activity taking place in neighboring showrooms. Given Herman Miller's size, I've developed a strategy for encapsulating them—one product from the past and one product from the present.

Nelson Swag Leg Desk. Designed by George Nelson for Herman Miller.

Going back in time to 1958, designer George Nelson contributed to Herman Miller with his Nelson Swag Leg Desk. The desk gets its name from the treatment of its metal legs: Swagging uses pressure to taper and curve a metal tube. The resulting legs lend the desk its signature curves, something someone once likened to "four tree roots" that unite "into one strong upward thrust." The iconic legs of the desk were not Nelson's only innovation. The Nelson Swag Desk was also an assemble-at-home piece meant to save on shipping costs, and its size was intended for efficiency. Still large enough for work yet small enough to be unobtrusive, the Nelson Swag Desk measures about 28" deep x 39" wide x 34" high. Its colorful cubbyholes keep you organized, and its white laminate or walnut veneer surfaces keep you in high style. Thankfully, Herman Miller still produces the Nelson Swag Desk, preserving mid-century flair.



Recently, I covered the Generation Chair by Knoll. In an act of blasphemy, I mentioned that the Generation Chair was stealing away some of the Aeron Chair's thunder. Not to be outdone, Herman Miller now gives us the Embody Chair, designed by Jeff Weber and Bill Stumpf. Embody "mimics the spine," transforming our fabulous track of vertebra into a supportive office chair. Since each human has a unique form, the Embody Chair adjusts to everyone's body. The back of Embody is "alive, adapting to the shape and movement of your spine." The result of such ergonomic precision is testament to the mind/body connection. Herman Miller explains that "your mind works best when you move freely and stress is minimized on your muscles, bones, and tissues."

All this fabulous attention to the body makes the brain work better, which in turn makes the economy work better, since "innovation drives success and people get paid for their thoughts and creativity." Besides doing wonders for the back, the Embody Chair does wonders for the office space: its anatomically-based design looks great—the spine translates well. With a wide array of upholstery colors such as mango, chartreuse, and blue moon, and various finishes—white or graphite frame, black or translucent casters—Embody even heightens the appeal of the human physique. Reticulation never looked so good. How fitting that Herman Miller states that their design "gets into your bones." If you can't be satisfied with my modest treatment of Herman Miller—really, I've committed a sin by boiling it down to two pieces—then swing by their exhibit at NeoCon '09. In the meantime, I'd like to know this: if forced to choose, what two products do you think epitomize Herman Miller?

Posted June 17, 2009 by Alicita Rodriguez

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