Herman Miller: The Changing Work Environment

Interactive Media Workshop: Networked Cities

Networked Cities: Herman Miller Workshop

AHerman Miller Workshop Closer Look at Modern Work Environments

During the Fall semester at ID, the Interactive Media Workshop was sponsored by client Herman Miller. The coursework provided me with first-hand experience in many areas of the design process. One of the more interesting facets of the class structure was the fact that we had both scholastic assignments, such as class presentations/ readings/ discussions, and also structured collaborative meetings with the Herman Miller organization several times throughout the semester. Moreover, these meetings – in the form of co-analysis workshops, co-creation workshops, and multiple presentations both at ID and their headquarters in Holland, MI – gave me knowledge in the use of design research, how to effectively organize the data, and communicate the findings in a comprehensible manner.
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Project Objective

The semester long goal of the workshop was to gain a better understanding of changing work environments. Since digital technologies have enabled emergent forms of collaboration, organization, and innovation, work is increasingly project-based and embedded in complex socio-technical systems. As a result, cities around the world have heralded the economic potential of new spaces of innovation such as entrepreneurial incubators, innovation labs, media labs, living labs, coworking spaces, and Hackerspaces. As the client, Herman Miller was most interested in the future of the new work environments, who occupies them, what distractions exist, how the organizations are structured, and many other related issues that shape the overall workplace experience.


Major Learning Experiences

The class, taught by Professor Laura Forlano, was comprised of 10 multicultural students spanning countries of S. Korea, Japan, India, Peru, Italy, and the United States. The breadth of cultural and professional backgrounds brought together by our small team was a learning experience itself.  Additionally, the act of getting out in the field to conduct our own user research was highly influential both to the project and my personal learning experiences. Not only did it provide our team with essential first-hand accounts, meaningful stories, and unique interactions with the actual work environments in Chicago, but as a new resident to the city, it allowed me to meet a diverse range of young professionals and explore modern work/ cultural realms. The final influential factors were the interactions between our team and the stakeholders at Herman Miller. Throughout the semester we held 3 major presentations, a workshop, and a visit to Herman Miller headquarters. We learned much about their history, the market in which their business operates, where they are looking to advance, and what is happening currently in the field.


Design Process: Research, Analysis, Synthesis

Design ProcessDuring the 15 week course, our team of students conducted primary/ secondary research, analyzed the data sets, and synthesized ideas for Herman Miller. We split the process up into 5 week sections. During the first 5 weeks, we carried out over 25 interviews (40 minutes+) and 67 hours of ethnographic observations concurrently while reading and discussing available academic papers on the subject. The second 5 weeks allowed us to analyze the information we recorded and organize it into easily understandable themes and subsets. During  the last 5 weeks period – following the class visit to Herman Miller HQ to hold a co-creation and co-analysis workshop – we returned to generate clear design principles.


Process Photos: