Design Firm Wins NeoCon Silver

June 21, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Chuck Saylor says that in 1975 the focus of office design was the 8-by-10 mocha-beige cubicle.

Saylor should know because a quarter century ago he helped design the earth-tone cells. But today he believes those designs reflect a pyramidic corporate structure with an oppressive command-and-control mentality that the march of events has caused to all but disappear.

And in its place, he says, is the more horizontal firm arranged electronically rather than by partitions, furniture and physical locations.

Perhaps there’s something in what Saylor says, because recently the founder and president of izzydesign came back to his offices at 80 Ottawa Ave. NW, with a silver NeoCon award.

The company received the award for a folding table that, in Saylor’s view, is a piece of equipment for the modern employee in a changed world, where “work happens any time and everywhere.”

Saylor sees the modern worker as a kind of tourist who sets up to earn a living in the campsite of his or her choosing, be it home, the office or whereever. During NeoCon, Saylor discussed the notion at length in a presentation called “The Challenge of the New Work Styles.”

In his presentation, Saylor holds that current styles of work are less about structure and more about people. “There’s a new and different function that’s required now. Whether or not we engage with it is the challenge.

“In a corporate setting,” Saylor added, “’campsites’ are open, flexible, wired or wireless, people-focused work environments.

“They could be departments within a corporation, specialized ‘cafes’ or tech works, small to mid-sized offices — or even home offices.”

And the table — izzydesign calls it Jack — fits right into Saylor’s scheme of things because it’s a light fold-up, roll-away table that can be used for training, conferences, computing or gaming at home. The firm’s design director, Dan West, and Saylor designed the table.

Made of steel, the table base is of Japanese manufacture. The top is offered in medium density fiberboard, with a soft polyurethane edge, and also in veneer.

“I think of it as a cross between training table, school desk for the home and a TV tray,” says West. “You can use it anywhere from the office to your home’s family entertainment center and even in dorm rooms.”

Izzydesign also earned an award for creative excellence from the IIDA and Contract magazine for its show room at NeoCon.

“We were very excited to earn awards of excellence for both Jack and our new showroom at The Merchandise Mart — especially since this is just our second NeoCon,” Saylor said.

The firm named the table Jack after a member of the firm’s staff — likewise, the firm also designed chairs named Gracie, Nelson and Neill. All the products are engineered and manufactured by JSJ Corp., of Grand Haven, Mich., a privately held corporation of diversified companies with global operations.

The company at this point has two client firms that it will discuss: Structure Interactive of Grand Rapids, and Diamond Hill Investment Group in Columbus, Ohio.

Structure Interactive, a media firm, recently moved into an unconventional two-story space with a wide-open floor plan in the McKay Tower.

The 11,000-square-foot space has eight large white marble pillars and izzydesign furniture forms a work cluster at the base of each.

The downtown Columbus setting is 8,500 square feet enclosing a trading area with six offices, 15 private offices, and a reception site for managers of mutual funds, hedge funds and other accounts. The need for furniture changes constantly with the mix of clients and visitors, and the firm needs to interchange tables, storage units and chairs constantly.

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