Integrated Workstation

Matthew Plumstead’s Integrated Workstation has all the trappings of a typical workstation--a work surface, shelves, a chair--plus a daybed for midday power naps.

Integrated Workstation

Matthew Plumstead’s Integrated Workstation has all the trappings of a typical workstation--a work surface, shelves, a chair--plus a daybed for midday power naps.

Integrated Workstation

Matthew Plumstead’s Integrated Workstation has all the trappings of a typical workstation--a work surface, shelves, a chair--plus a daybed for midday power naps.

Tri-fold Bench

This ash hardwood bench, by Douglas Leckie, has three layered upholstered panels that can be configured to accommodate various restful postures.

Tri-fold Bench

Like this…

Tri-fold Bench

And this.

Office Lounge

Made of bent plywood and leather, the Office Lounge has side panels that can be folded up or down, allowing the sitter to shift from an upright to a resting position. By Damee Hong.

Office Lounge

Here’s the upright position, good for concentration work.

Office Lounge

Here’s the resting position. Zzzzzzzzz.

Private Rocking Chair

Move over, granny! Kyle Fleet’s rocking chair is super stylish, with its wood shell and wool upholstery, plus it’s big enough to give harried workers visual and acoustic privacy from the rest of the office.

Private Rocking Chair

Move over, granny! Kyle Fleet’s rocking chair is super stylish, with its wood shell and wool upholstery, plus it’s big enough to give harried workers visual and acoustic privacy from the rest of the office.

Stump Ottoman

A cutout in this simple, steel ottoman works as a footrest…

Stump Ottoman

And so does the pad. By Yukyeong Lee.

Alcove Chair

Mike Haley’s oversized Alcove Chair is like a couch, a daybed, and a chair rolled into one, with a nest-like shape that makes the sitter feel like he’s in his own little world.

Alcove Chair

Haley was inspired by his own experience working at a carpet cleaning call center, where he was so desperate for privacy, he’d spend breaks sitting in his car.

Herman Miller Taps Students To Rethink Our Workplaces

What do students know about the soul-sucking problems facing office workers today? More than you’d think.

Michigan furniture manufacturer Herman Miller has tapped a handful of industrial-design students to take on some of the biggest challenges facing office managers today: How do you offer workers privacy in an open-plan workplace? How do you encourage balance between working and living, when digital communication has rendered that once-rigid divide obsolete?

Herman Miller has built an empire on addressing, if not exactly solving, these kinds of problems through smart furniture design. The company also has a rich history of collaborating with the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where Charles and Ray Eames--the furniture giant’s most famous designers--met in 1940.

Recently, Herman Miller selected six out of 16 original seating and workstation concepts, designed by students in Cranbrook’s 3-D Design Department, and helped turn them into full-scale prototypes for an exhibit at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York. The concepts are aimed at encouraging “rest and concentration in the workplace” and include everything from Kyle Fleet’s wooden rocking chair covered in sound-dampening wool to Douglas Leckie’s bench with blanket-like upholstery that can be configured various ways to accommodate different resting positions. Earlier in the week, Cranbrook was announced the winner of the 2012 ICFF Editors Award for Best Design School.

You’d be forgiven for wondering what a bunch of a students know about the soul-sucking trials and tribulations of the 21st-century workplace. More than you’d think. Take Mike Haley. Haley, 26, used to work in a carpet-cleaning call center laid out like most call centers: with cubicles, cubicles, and more cubicles. “It was just like Office Space,” he tells us. People were constantly passing by his desk, shattering his concentration. Worse, there was nowhere comfortable to which he could repair during breaks, so he’d just sit in his car and listen to the radio. “That drew me to the idea that you need a place where you can take a break and remove yourself,” he says.

The Alcove Chair

His design, the Alcove Chair, is an oversized upholstered shell that supports a range of postures for reading, chatting, or sleeping. Extra-tall armrests work as a visual and acoustic barrier against the rest of the office. In a way, the chair is the high-design equivalent of the inside of Haley’s car. Now all it needs is a radio.

Check out our slideshow for more student designs.

[Images courtesy of Cranbrook Academy of Art]

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