No NeoCon Dud for Herman Miller planned This Year

Looks like no duds from Herman Miller this year.

Looks like no duds from Herman Miller this year.

After several years of gelling, it seems Herman Miller’s efforts to blend the office and home are coming together. Though the company hasn’t had a market-disrupting product launch in a number of years — and probably won’t this year either — its collection seems to be taking shape. NeoCon 2016 won’t be a dud for Herman Miller.

Part of its creative mojo seems to be coming from a refined focus that revolves around the idea of prosperity: What is good for the individual is good for the organization. Everyone wins. Herman Miller wants to show there are financial and quantitative benefits of making an office that simply works better.

Herman Miller is offering no sneak peeks of how this will take shape in a tangible product, but it is rumored to have something up its sleeve, a game-changing system that will prove productivity and efficient furniture use. We do know that Herman Miller has partnered with a variety of tech companies, including Microsoft, on “tools and surroundings” that will be able to “sense and respond” to workers.

For now, Herman Miller is simply touting that place is a powerful asset, and the company can prove it. The company has always been good at nebulous descriptions of how an office can and should work. Herman Miller is getting much better at showing how its furniture can work in an office that continues to radically change.

“It used to be that when designing an office, they wanted new circulation space (where employees casually meet and work),” said Greg Parsons, senior vice president and creative director of the company’s work products. “Now offices are creating circulation spaces that take up 30 percent.”

Herman Miller has researched how people work and blended its classics and home products into the mix as the lines have blurred between the office and home. It also has found a good fit for Geiger in its arsenal. “We think this is the year where it all comes together and emerges,” Parsons said.

The company has countless product lines, so it has worked this year on simplifying things for its customers based on how its products might be used. Parsons describes it as the difference between what a jazz band needs compared to an orchestra. In an office setting, a jazzlike group that is creative and improvising might want a product like Locale that creates a neighborhood-like setting for teams. For an office that is more like an orchestra — a large group working together on set tasks— Renew Link might fit the bill.

To support all of it, Herman Miller has created a silo of products that fall under the “key elements” banner. “There is an enormous range and variety of ancillary products (that Herman Miller has now and is developing for the future),” Parsons said.

Again, Herman Miller might not have a home run product at NeoCon, but it definitely has some hits that will help the company, its dealers and customers.

One of the most interesting new products is the Plex modular lounge collection from Sam Hecht and Kim Colin. Hecht said that modularity happens at the base level, and the softness happens up above. That is clear from the Plex pieces that Herman Miller will show at NeoCon this year.

Though modular products can be complex, Plex is not. It consists of left, right and straight pieces, an ottoman and a club chair. Legs come in a dark black plastic or wood. Power is an option. The collection also comes with a table that can be pulled up for laptop or other tech uses.

Multiple textiles can be used on the same piece of furniture, giving designers a lot of options with Plex. It also uses a suspension seat instead of foam-over-plywood found in most lounge furniture and comes in a high-back version.

The Striad Lounge Chair, designed by Jehs+Laub, will make its debut at NeoCon. It comes in low-, mid- and high-backed versions. The name comes from the three distinct layers that make up the chair. It will begin shipping fall 2016.

Herman Miller has a number of new products coming from its Geiger brand, including the Wood Base Sofa Group, Crosshatch side chair, Rhythm Casegoods collection and Saba lounge, ottoman and table.

The company also is launching a Nemschoff Classics Collection, a group of furniture that has a mid-century look from Nemschoff’s furniture archives. The first products include a table, club chair and settee with a classic design, using modern manufacturing. Nemschoff is Herman Miller’s health care furniture brand and has a long history in the segment.

Exclave Performance Tools is back at NeoCon 2016 after a preview last year. Exclave has both “vertical” and “horizontal” tools. Its rail-based wall system uses white boards, tack boards and media support for dual monitors and video conferencing. It is a suite of tools for team spaces. Created for Herman Miller by the Boston design firm Continuum, the line is vast and includes: engagement tables designed in organic shapes to foster collaboration, media tiles, rails that can hold up to 800 pound and rails that can be used to hang the components from items such as two different size display boards. There is an assortment of boards, storage units, easel carts and other accessories.

Exclave is a no-brainer for teamwork, but after getting the product into the field over the last year, the company found its appeal goes beyond that because of the wide range of products offered. These aren’t just fancy whiteboards that hang off rails. The collection includes tables specifically designed for making the most of video conferencing and products that move outside the team areas and into the office.

Exclave is a collection of work tools that help people actually use the space they are in. They also make work mobile by giving users the chance to detach white boards and other accessories from a set of simple rails. What makes Exclave unique is how well thought-out the system is, down to the shape of the tables to make meetings more inclusive.

Herman Miller worked closely with Laura Guido-Clark on its new textile collections. Called the Haberdasher collection, it will be available as cut yardage or COM.

The company is again taking over the south lobby of the Merchandise Mart with its furniture and ancillary products. It is one of the few areas of a building filled with furniture where people actually use it. BoF

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