Herman Miller’s Latest Innovation Could Change the Way Offices Balance Private and Collaborative Spaces

hmfHerman Miller, the furniture company that brought offices the famous Eames lounge chair, has developed another office furniture product that may change the way business’s design their offices.

Today’s offices are becoming more collaborative environments, with open-air offices becoming a norm for many companies. This option has increased in popularity since the 1960s, when Herman Miller first developed the furniture necessary for these plans.

The company’s most recent innovation allows for even greater variety for employers and the employees who use the desks. The system is called the Metaform Portfolio, which uses stackable blocks, boundaries, work surfaces and tools made from lightweight plastic.

The Metaform collection allows employees to easily mix, match and configure their work spaces based on their current needs for projects. In other words, if employees needs more space for collaborations, they can rearrange furniture into an arc or circle and join desks together to create conference tables.

Later, that same furniture can be rearranged once more into cubicles or any other set-up, for those who prefer independent work.

The system is also useful for setting up additional equipment for meetings. For example, whiteboard can be easily attached to the Metaform walls.

Ryan Anderson, director of future technology at Herman Miller, compared the Metaform system to a set of Lego blocks, which, unlike traditional office furniture, won’t prevent workers from developing their own collaborative spaces.

The walls of the Metaform system can also hold files and other supplies for workers, which could eliminate the need for oversized desks and bulky filing cabinets.

Overall, the system is beneficial for offices where workers might have mixed feelings on layouts. It allows users who are comfortable collaborating to create their own spaces while giving the option for privacy to those who don’t mind cubicle life.

The project’s designers used polypropylene, a type of plastic foam found in packaging, automotive and industrial products. To use it for the Metaform furniture, materials scientists working with the company had to create the largest-ever mold from that plastic.

The advantages of the material include not only looking good in an office environment but also being durable and light enough to be safely moved by office workers.

Herman Miller is currently beta testing the furniture at several firms to find out what other needs and guidance offices may require. The company hopes to make it commercially available by 2015.

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