Herman Miller seeks info via video contest

February 5, 2010
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Herman Miller is showing up on college campuses in a new way — with a student video contest titled "Hey, Where Do You Learn Best?"

"We are reaching out across the United States to full-time students in two- to four-year institutions and asking them a basic question: 'Where do you learn best?'" said Jeff Vredevoogd, director of education solutions for Herman Miller.

The contest calls for students to make a three-minute video that documents places that students like to study. The contest will run through March 26 and submissions can be entered at hermanmiller.com/studentvideocontest. The top three videos will receive Visa gift cards in the amount of $2,500, $1,500 and $1,000.

"This has really reached out — not only to our typical channels of communication, but to campuses, students and individual blogs out there. The goal of this was to send this out virally," said Vredevoogd. "It was public news (last) Monday, and the interesting thing about it is, it just takes one. You know the proverbial 'You tell two, and then they tell two and they tell two.'"

Vredevoogd received some practice for the effort when he put a rugby fundraiser for his son on his Facebook page. "What started out as a group of 22 people on my Facebook event, turned out to be 800 people that were actually invited," he said.

"This contest is going into places where typically Herman Miller may or may not be. It's been fun to watch, just on that aspect."

While the video contest method may be new, connecting with students and campus leaders has been a part of Vredevoogd's job from the beginning.

"A big part of what we do is connecting with the voices on campus," he said. "One of the very first leaders I ever talked to when I took this role — his comment was to get on campus and spend as much time as you can understanding really what's going on."

Vredevoogd said his department also spends a lot of time talking to faculty. Some of the research gathered through the video competition will make its way into furniture solutions for campuses, but Vredevoogd said the competition is about more than just designing furniture for schools.

"It's really less about furniture technology, but what do they see as vital parts of teaching and learning," he said. "We used to go out, and we still do, with this project we call Campus Snapshot that allows students to go around their specific campus and document what they consider positive learning spaces or less than optimal learning spaces. Then they share that back with their student group, faculty, and in many cases, the leadership on campus."

Vredevoogd acknowledges that some video entries will likely be off the wall or may not seem to fit with HMI furniture solutions, but he stressed the benefits come from content rather than packaging.

"We may get videos where somebody's at a picnic table under a tree next to the library in the fall," he said. "The point is less the location and the things that they're using, but what are the characteristics — what makes for a good learning space?"

Vredevoogd offered his idea of what would define success for the video competition.

"Success is getting in the shoes of the customer and walking in those shoes as best you can," said Vredevoogd. "If I really understand what you're trying to accomplish, my solution can be tailored to you. It's not me going out and trying to give you a product pitch."

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