Herman Miller SAYL chair takes top award

June 10, 2011
| By Pete Daly |
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The SAYL chair, introduced by Herman Miller Inc. last October at the ORGATEC contract furniture show in Germany and a key feature at the company’s booth at NeoCon 2011, won Product Design of the Year in May at the prestigious 2010 International Design Awards in Los Angeles.

IDA, a juried awards program, was established in 2007 as a way to recognize and celebrate the most advanced and sustainable multidisciplinary design. This year there were more than 400 entries in the Professional Product Design category, with designers from more than 76 countries submitting work for consideration.

The other top designs of 2010 were in the categories of architecture, fashion, graphic arts and interior design.

SAYL was designed by Yves Béhar, founder of fuesproject, a San Francisco design house, and was inspired by the way the Golden Gate Bridge carries tremendous loads. The chair is also includes Behar’s “eco-dematerialised” approach, using sustainable materials while minimizing mass to reduce carbon footprint. The SAYL chair has achieved MBDC Cradle to Cradle Silver, BIFMA level 2, and GREEN GUARD certifications, according to Herman Miller.

Herman Miller spokesperson Mark Schurman said SAYL is the first chair with a frameless suspension back, called 3D Intelligent. Freed from a rigid exterior frame, the back suspends and supports much like the principles of a suspension bridge and allows the chair to adapt to a person’s shape and movement, the company said.

“It is a Y-column support but leaves all outside edges soft and flexible,” said Schurman, explaining that varying degrees of tension are molded into the back, providing greater support where required while still permitting use of a softer, more flexible material.

Schurman said the SAYL chair retails at a starting point of less than $400, “but still has all the Herman Miller performance and durability” and a 12-year warranty. The chair can support a 300-pound individual. “I think it’s fair to say we’ve brought Herman Miller quality to a dramatically lower price point,” said Schurman.

Canvas Office Landscape, Compass storage products for health care, and new seating and tables from the Geiger wood furniture division also will be essential parts of the Herman Miller presence at NeoCon 2011.

Canvas is Herman Miller’s largest new product line in office systems this year, according to Schurman. Released in January, he describes it as comprehensive — either a wall-based system for single or multiple workstations or a private office system that is freestanding. Other Canvas lines are in development.

John Lubbinge, Herman Miller’s director of product management, said customers are asking for “holistic, integrated workplaces” that meet the needs of their specific business.

The Canvas design is from a number of individuals, including Jeffrey Bernett and Nicholas Dodziuk of CDS in New York, who built on earlier work of Douglas Ball and Joey Ruiter.

Herman Miller’s intent with Canvas “is to enable a workspace that is appropriate to the needs of the individual, group and organization,” said Tracy Brower, Herman Miller’s director of performance environments. It is “scalable in price and performance,” and includes all of the products from Herman Miller’s Vivo interiors and Intent furniture, with additions including a new filing and storage offering. The company said that while the Vivo and Intent names are being retired, the products remain a vital part of the Canvas offering and are not being discontinued.

Herman Miller’s Geiger International, headquartered near Atlanta with operations in North Carolina, is introducing two new lines in its new NeoCon showroom, under the theme “The World of the Collaborative Executive.” Those lines include the Sotto executive chair, designed by George Simons Jr., and Loophole occasional tables designed by Jay Chapman.

The showroom has been transformed into the C-level floor of a corporate headquarters building, complete with public areas, meeting spaces, a chairman’s suite, enclosed offices and an executive suite, according to Herman Miller. A progression of spaces from public to private, the concept “illustrates the current evolution in the way today’s executives work.” Those types of work are now “less predictable” and require new flexibility. A new palette of matte finishes on ash and oak wood was developed for the display, building on Geiger’s classic colors.

The new showroom was designed by Craig Bassam and Scott Fellows of Connecticut-based BassamFellows.

“The component casegoods are configured to appear as fine custom cabinetry. The new matte finishes reveal the natural beauty and subtle variation of the wood grain. And extensive use of stone, leather and wool flannel add to the ‘high-touch’ nature of the space,” said Fellows.

There also will be a preview of new lounge seating designed by BassamFellows.

Health care furnishings are a relatively new addition to NeoCon, according to Schurman, but “a growing focus for the contract furniture companies.” Herman Miller’s involvement in health care products goes back to the very early ’70s, he said, noting that the company invented modular cabinetry and storage for hospitals and clinics.

Herman Miller has acquired some major players in the health care furnishings industry in the last few years, with those lines being “a very large and growing portion of Herman Miller’s overall business,” said Schurman.

Last year the company introduced its award-winning Compass modular wall system, and this year at NeoCon will unveil a “whole new set of capabilities involving Compass, the result of an ongoing collaboration between the company and Continuum,” a global innovation and design firm headquartered in Boston. The newest features include additional storage that can be reconfigured, allowing for wider applications. New lighting capabilities are adjustable to all user applications, and an ADA-compliant sink option helps users meet the diverse needs of patients.

Compass was the culmination of input from more than 550 individuals, ranging from nurse managers to hospital administrators, who identified the four primary furniture needs of the dynamic health care environment. The attributes ranked most important included accommodating changes in technology, providing patient and family comfort, health care appropriate functionality, and supporting caregiver efficiency. Infection prevention and ease of cleaning were among those priorities.

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