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Ayse Birsel on Her Design Philosophy, Work With Herman Miller, & More

Ayse Birsel on Her Design Philosophy, Work With Herman Miller, & More

WDM’s Elise Shapiro lately interviewed Ayse Birsel to study extra concerning the improvement of Herman Miller’s Overlay and her general design philosophy.

Herman Miller’s Overlay product line

Some of the photographed, instagrammed and shared pictures from this previous NeoCon occasion was a vignette from Herman Miller’s new Overlay product line. We adopted up with designer Ayse Birsel to seek out out extra concerning the evolution of the product and her design follow in apply with Bibi Beck: Birsel + Seck.

Designer Ayse Birsel – Picture courtesy of Herman Miller

Having benefited from a process-oriented design schooling myself, I instantly tuned into the tagline on Ayse’s e-mail signature and tagline on the Birsel + Seck web site: “Design the Life You Love!” Our dialog was not a lot concerning the particular product, however extra about the way it got here to be as a part of her lengthy relationship with Herman Miller. Everyone knows that evolutionary merchandise don’t simply drop out of the sky, absolutely shaped and executed. Design assignments aren’t solely about creativity and creating one thing new, however extra about fixing an issue. On this case the issue is the on-going points with working in open environments.

The place did the Overlay challenge begin?

Twenty years in the past, once we first began working with Herman Miller, Don Goldman informed us that “our role as designers is to be the provocateurs – there is a mutual trust that is inherent in the relationship between the designer and manufacturer.” That is in direct alignment with the unique imaginative and prescient of Herman Miller founder D.J. De Pree as the corporate engaged with visionary designers early on, comparable to Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson. That is an integral a part of Herman Miller’s DNA – to hunt out the unique and push the envelope.

Over time, issues evolve and because the work surroundings modifications, the furnishings options want to vary as nicely. Recognizing the necessity to adapt product choices to satisfy the wants of staff in an open setting, and an organization’s want to offer area to allow productiveness, the dialogue started over 4 years in the past. It’s now extra about fixing the complicated issues that give the “open office” such a nasty rap, not simply creating one thing new for the sake of creating a brand new product introduction. The mandate gave us the liberty to be artistic and to assume each inside and out of doors the field.

How do you even start?

In a nutshell, it’s all concerning the course of. You want to analyze the issue. We’ve a really clearly articulated course of we name Deconstruction: Reconstruction. This system permits us to look at all of the shifting elements and items of a problem, analyze the elements, and develop options to satisfy the wants and desired end result requested by shoppers. On this case it was assembly the necessity to present alternate options to help work within the open workplace with out resorting again to the enclosed, mobile construction offered by enclosed workplaces and huge seas of cubicles.

Picture courtesy of Birsel + Seck

When you outline the issue how do you go about fixing it?

Let’s return in time for a second. Our preliminary engagement with Herman Miller started with the Resolve system. It was launched in response to the necessity for open techniques that fostered collaboration balanced with a way of enclosure and privateness. The product was additionally based mostly on a 120 diploma angle versus the extra inflexible 90 diploma techniques which might be most prevalent. There’s a direct relationship to the design standards for each Resolve and Overlay although they’re separated by virtually twenty years of office evolution!

The Resolve system – Picture courtesy of Herman Miller

The important thing connection is that with elevated know-how choices you’ll be able to work anyplace. Individuals additionally like to return to the workplace to be a part of a group, to study from one another. There’s a want to have particular person but related areas, however individuals don’t like to take a seat in a field. We discover that there’s the idea of being in a village and being related to your group. In these situations, there’s alternative for social interactions and studying moments to occur organically. Work is inherently communal, however there are some circumstances when privateness and isolation, whether or not actual or perceived, could also be desired. The problem for furnishings design is to offer choices to create areas on an intimate and extra human-scale, locations that present visible resting factors and remove distraction.

Overlay is a product that builds on that premise. Individuals like a way of enclosure. The problem as designers was about creating a spot that’s open but closed, clear however creatively messy, resolving (no pun meant). These opposites, that’s the place the innovation lies!

So, how did your course of allow you to get from Resolve to Overlay?

That is the place the Deconstruction comes into the method. Taking aside the difficulty and analyzing the elements to assist construct new situations the place the Reconstruction can happen. Contemplating the idea that a image is value a thousand phrases, the method consists of considering by way of the problems with graphic notations, analyzing the issue, and brainstorming attainable options. It may be a holistic and natural course of that touches on all points of analyzing the issue to provide you with potential pathways to designing an answer. My foremost device is a sketchbook for mapping out concepts.

  • We needed to determine and examine the issue.
  • Open workplaces have grow to be virtually too open. We all know there’s a want for area for heads down, artistic or reflective work. The query is, how can we accommodate these actions? Herman Miller gave a mandate – because the designer of Resolve, how are you going to you convey present observations on solo work into the realm of the open environments individuals are creating. Assist us take into consideration what individuals want for solo work.

  • What’s fascinating about open workplaces is that there’s a backlash – two key objections to extra open areas are disruption to worker sight view and focus.
  • Additionally fascinating to us – in deconstructing the issue, visible noise is extra distracting than acoustic noise. How do  you reply to that? The opposite key piece is thru our work, the design turned targeted on how customers take into consideration design.
  • Most producers take into consideration product whereas customers take into consideration their life. I see my position as extra about designing anyone’s life. That connects Herman Miller’s philosophy of being user-centric and our apply which emphasizes human-centric design.
  • You will need to take into account that there’s not one consumer – techniques have to work for a number of customers with a myriad of character varieties and quirks.
  • Particular person customers, managers, firms, architects, and designers who use the product: In a approach, when you consider this, our perspective whenever you deconstruct is what do the people want?
  • We visited totally different workplace environments, from “fab labs” to start out ups, to very established locations like GE, Google, and Microsoft and talked to individuals. Individuals like to work on planes, trains, and cafes. All these environments. Alone but collectively.

Our remark additionally included that there have been different locations the place we noticed comparable environments to the office – the place individuals have been working, akin to libraries, espresso outlets, airports, and parks. We began deconstruction by analyzing the widespread parts of those areas. The reconstruction was that we noticed that these locations created an “alone together” setting. This allowed us to provide you with a brand new type of acoustic standards – what individuals want and demand to not be utterly remoted, however they need to have some background noise with some factor of privateness. There’s an ambient sound envelope – you possibly can’t perceive particular person conversations however the buzz, it’s not distracting. We additionally wanted to think about a solution to handle the visible distractions and create design parts with boundary qualities – backdrops that provide visible aid on your eyes.

And the evaluation confirmed…?

The 18 years since we first conceived Resolve has modified the work panorama (as beforehand famous) because of the speedy advances in know-how permitting individuals to work anyplace – the untethering of individuals to their desks.

The design intent for Resolve was to create a distinction to cubicles. It was a system about connecting individuals the place they’ve their very own area, nevertheless it was inside the bigger village or neighborhood enabling groups to work collectively. “Your space” and “my space” is juxtaposed. Nevertheless, it’s nonetheless a mobile product.

We additionally needed to think about the materiality and development of no matter our new product would develop into. Resolve was revolutionary in that it was economical in weight and scale in comparison with extra conventional techniques furnishings. There have been fewer shifting elements and items wanted to assemble a workstation. As we began to consider what would grow to be of Overlay, we thought-about the kind of supplies we needed to make use of, with an emphasis on selecting supplies with an elevated sustainability profile and ease of development.

Conceptually we included the specified function of flexibility and selection that’s informing so many modern work locations. What if we designed our product to be like a theater set to help efficiency at work? We determined that the product wanted to be easy to maneuver, change, carry and adapt to totally different conditions. Like Resolve, the query was how can we make extra with much less items. The answer yielded a product that may be configured simply by the customers in a number of methods. Inside two hours, two individuals can create an area for what they need to do subsequent.

How did you get from idea to actuality?

Within the reconstruction part we obtained into analyzing the emotion of solo work and the circulate of creativity and contemplation. It was necessary to match these feelings to an architectural answer that permits individuals to share a versatile area.

We thought-about that in actual life, work wants change every day, and that there might be a brand new staff created, employees modifications, or new venture wants. We realized that we had to determine a solution to meet the issues concerned in altering up work environments and the time and supplies required to impact these modifications. It takes seconds to obtain an app or replace your telephone with present know-how. What’s the equal in structure that’s seamlessly quick and agile? A telephone and workplace area will not be the identical, but expectations to facilitate change are simply as excessive. We additionally considered this from the power supervisor perspective the place there’s a want to maneuver individuals round with minimal disruption.

Overlay envisioned as half of a bigger work surroundings – providing a versatile solution to handle area relying on what must occur within the ebb and movement of day by day work – Picture courtesy of Herman Miller.

This outlined our standards: make extra with much less, create a small package of elements, have to be straightforward to maneuver. Herman Miller weighed in with the two-hour, two individuals benchmark that led us to the free-standing architectural framework and answer. The weather needed to be mild sufficient and straightforward to maneuver round, but wanted to really feel substantial when you’re sitting in it. We knew at that time we would have liked a vertical aspect to create the visible boundary and sense of enclosure. This is able to help the necessity to have writable parts, cling venture boards or mount know-how. Drawing and diagramming are a part of our work instruments.

Our new concept has roots in an previous custom. Overlay conceptually is aligned with the inspiration derived from the Japanese shoji and folding screens. Screens are light-weight, and you may create a wall or sense of enclosure with this easy but practical design parts. Initially designed as safety towards the wind, within the conventional sense, they serve to divide giant open areas into extra intimate and personal areas. The adage, “everything old is new again” illustrates that a design answer might present in one other realm. On this case, conventional Japanese structure has been implanted into an workplace methods furnishings answer.

Overlay as exhibited at NeoCon 2018 demonstrates using supplies and development that make the product distinctive within the office – Picture courtesy of Herman Miller.

Ultimate Ideas

It’s all the time enjoyable and fascinating to learn how merchandise come to market. We all know there’s a life-cycle to the evolution of latest product choices. Within the second of seeing the ultimate product introduced, we will lose sight of what it takes to conceptualize, design, fabricate, and introduce it. In our quickly altering and shrinking world, it may be refreshing to cease and take into consideration how and why issues change. All of the market evaluation on the earth can’t predict what is going to occur. Ten years in the past, who would have predicted the impression WeWork would have on how workplace area is procured and used? Twenty years in the past, who would have predicted that we might run a enterprise from the telephone in our pocket or purse?

The roots of open workplaces lie within the unique analysis and product improvement by Robert Probst and Motion Workplace at Herman Miller. The continued analysis by Herman Miller and their colleagues within the contract furnishings realm proceed to push the envelope to satisfy the wants of at the moment’s workforce and anticipate and meet the wants dictated by the advances in know-how that drive a lot of enterprise at the moment.

By sharing the story of how Overlay got here to be and the designer’s perspective on that journey reinforces that on the finish of the day it’s about individuals and assembly the very human wants which are required to be met in all of the areas we occupy. That is the a part of the story illustrates how the product solves the design drawback in a method that’s distinctive out there.

Remember to take a look at Ayse’s podcast, “Design The Life You Love with Ayse Birsel.“