Interview: Sam Grawe from Herman Miller

Jun 23, 2014

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We’ve referenced WHY, Herman Miller’s online essay series, a number of times on the blog. Through a collection of stories, interviews and videos, the essay series invites readers to discover why Herman Miller does what they do. Herman Miller has managed to make WHY playful, yet meaty - publishing a 4,000 word essay that doesn’t feel daunting, and a 108 second video that covers 108 years of design history.

 

Curious about the work that goes into developing these stories, we interviewed Sam Grawe, Editorial Director at Herman Miller, and the man behind the WHY series. Grawe has been interested in design since a young boy. In college, he studied art and architectural history, and it was there that he learned about 20th century design. Grawe went on to be the Editor-in-Chief of the popular architecture publication Dwell Magazine. After 11 years with the magazine, Grawe began working for Herman Miller, first as a consultant, and then as the full-time Editorial Director.

 

It comes as no surprise that he’s a modernist at heart, with Eames, Nelson and Girard topping his list of personal design heroes.

 

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Cover designs of Herman Miller’s WHY publication (print)

 

EQ3  What prompted you to move from consulting to working full-time with Herman Miller?

 

SAM GRAWE  There are very few truly design driven companies in the world, no less the United States, and Herman Miller has one of the most storied histories of design with Nelson, Eames, and Girard. All are longstanding personal heroes of mine, especially Nelson and Girard, with Nelson having been a magazine editor prior to being a furniture designer and working as the Creative Director at Herman Miller. I think it was the opportunity to work with such an incredible legacy, and to think about how to communicate that today.

 

In addition to that, just being a part of an organization that is really dedicated to problem solving design, and what that means in the 21st Century and moving forward.

 

 

EQ3  Have you always had an interest in design? Do you have a specific background in it, or is it something that has just come naturally to you?

 

SG  Actually, if I go back to my youth, I think I was pretty obsessed with Lego. Whether it was my parents telling me, or whether it was myself learning about it, I always thought I was going to be an architect. I studied architecture and architectural history, and I ended up ultimately studying art history. But, as I was studying art history, I got a little bit of 20th Century design history too.

 

Then I moved to the Bay Area in the late 90s and I became more and more interested in industrial design and furniture design. I knew that I wanted to work somehow in design. I was thinking at that time that I would go back to school for a design degree, but I ended up working for a guy named Bruce Burdick, who actually did the Burdick Table for Herman Miller in the early 80s. I worked for Bruce for probably 2 years in San Francisco, and then I started at Dwell (Magazine) in 2000, right after the first issue had been published.

 

Obviously, I had an amazing education at Dwell – eleven years there – and great exposure to contemporary architecture and to contemporary design. I had the opportunity to meet so many people and be exposed to so much. That was one of the great pleasures of that job.

 

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The Living Office is Herman Miller’s framework for understanding the future of office design.

 

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EQ3  Now, in your role at Herman Miller, what does a typical day look like for you as the Editorial Director.

 

SG  I don’t know if there is a typical day, but I am involved in a lot of different projects. I am in charge of all of the writing, but I am also in charge of my own editorial projects.

 

I also work really heavily with the brand design team that consists of all of the designers internally doing our spaces, our graphics and our digital work. “How are we conveying the messages that Herman Miller should be conveying? And, what medium are we going to use to convey it best?” And then, “How are we going to bring it to life?”

 

I’ve also been really heavily involved in the core team that has put together Living Office, which is the framework for Herman Miller’s understanding of the future of office design and work. I think anyone would tell you, at Herman Miller, that we’re kind of a meeting-based culture. There are a lot of cross-functional teams, and things happen in a pretty organic way amongst those teams.

 

 

EQ3  You mentioned about the variety of mediums that you work with. Is there a particular medium that you find most gratifying to work with?

 

SG  I think there is something, ultimately, always satisfying about print. It’s sort of finite. You can hold it in your hands, and it’s an object. Once you’re done, it’s done.

 

On the other hand, right now I have sort of an unabashed love for Instagram. I think Instagram is, for me, probably the most satisfying of social media, from both from a personal standpoint and I think we’ve been having a lot of fun with the Herman Miller Instagram account, as well. But it’s just because it’s visual, and in a way it feels less promotional than some other formats.

 

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“Alexander Girard: An Uncommon Vision” pop up celebrating first archival re-introductions of Girard’s furniture and screen printed fabric panels (New York Design Week, May 2014)

 

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EQ3  Do any particular projects, then, standout in your mind as a favourite?

 

SG  I’d have to say the recent work that we did with the pop-up showcase for Alexander Girard in New York.

 

I’ve always had a supreme passion for Alexander Girard, since a friend of mine introduced me, in probably 2001, to his work. It was less known than Nelson and Eames, at that time. In a lot of ways, his work was more ephemeral. He did textiles, and he did restaurant interiors and office interiors. Those are the kind of things that get changed or go away. I think, also, he did so much work that until you start digging, you don’t really realize that he was such a polymath and really did do everything. But when you start to discover his world, it’s just kind of amazing. It’s this endless trove of treasure.

 

In some ways it’s unfair to just put a table by him into the world, especially to a world that doesn’t know him as well as Eames or Nelson, without giving more context to what he accomplished in his lifetime.

 

 

EQ3  We’ve talked about the WHY series a fair bit on our blog and we really love it! We’re curious how this particular essay series developed because it’s a slightly different twist on a blog.

 

SG  My colleagues Steve Frykholmand Clark Malcom did a magazine called “See” in the mid 2000s, which was this beautiful high production value magazine that I think they did a total of 6 issues for, back in the day. They were just re-launching a new magazine called WHY, and that was one of the first projects that I worked on. We’ve done 3 print issues of WHY.

 

The idea is “Why does Herman Miller do the things that we do?” If there’s not a strong why, there’s kind of no point in doing it. And that’s, definitely, very much the ethos of how we approach things at Herman Miller – from our products, to our marketing, to everything. We want stuff to very much have purpose, and WHY is really the mechanism for bringing that conversation to life, whether it’s in print or it’s on social media, or in digital format. We launched last July online and I think we’ve produced something in the order of 35 stories in the last year.

 

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EQ3  Where do the ideas for stories come from? Where do you draw inspiration from?

 

SG  We work in a somewhat programmatic way with the marketing organization, so we base what we are doing on WHY with what the business is doing at the base level.

 

I’ve been able to bring in some great folk – my colleagues Amber Bravo and Everett Pelayo – that have a really good sense for editorial and for how to bring a story to life. Then we’ll take what is happening in the world of Herman Miller and we have editorial meetings. It’s a process almost like at any magazine. You have pitch meetings and you have creative meetings, and you sit around and you shoot around ideas. The one that kind of hits the nail on the head, or gets closest to it, is the one you pursue. But again, it comes back to “What’s the best way to bring this content to life.” We’re not married to any one approach. So sometimes it might be a video, sometimes it might be a photo essay, sometimes it might be a 2000 word interview.

 

 

Image Source: All photographs courtesy of Herman Miller

Work Crush: Ashley Werbel

Jun 18, 2014

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Inhabit wants to introduce you to the staff that work hard to make your EQ3 store visits great. We spotlight one store employee each month. Get the deets on their role in the company, learn fun facts about them and discover which EQ3 furniture or accessory product they’re currently crushing on.

 

Today, we’re heading southwest to join Ashley in sunny California!

 

Employee: Ashley Werbel

Store: EQ3 Emeryville

Job Title: Lead Designer

Years at EQ3: 2.5

 

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EQ3 Clyo Chaise in Marimekko Frekvenssi fabric

 

Ashley’s Work Crush:

 

“I love the clean lines of the EQ3 Clyo Chaise. It is such a versatile and classic piece that could be used almost anywhere – as an accent piece in a living room, bedroom, reading nook or even a walk-in-closet. The Clyo looks especially great upholstered in the Marimekko Frekvenssi fabric. It pairs well with the chaise’s clean lines yet keeps it fresh, edgy and modern.”  - Ashley

 

Fun Facts about Ashley:

 

When not consumed by design and furniture, Ashley likes playing outside in the warm California sunshine, practicing cool nail art and hanging out in her Oakland loft with cats Kage and Rikki.

 

 

The Clyo Chaise can be custom upholstered in any of EQ3′s fabric options. Make this crush yours here.

#YYC’s Sled Island Music and Arts Festival

Jun 13, 2014

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Like many cities in the Canadian Prairies, Calgary’s downtown area is more populated by cars than it is by people. Inspired by the street life generated out east during Pop Montreal, former music venue owner Zak Pashak founded Sled Island (2007), an annual music & arts festival.

 

The festival is less than a decade old, but don’t let it’s young age fool you! Sled Island has already been named one of 14 music festivals to check out in North America by Time Magazine.

 

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Pashak’s goal for the festival was to break down the barriers between different businesses, music fans and age groups, and to fill the downtown core with as many different types of people as possible. And he’s done just that. The festival now takes over 35+ venues and features a wide variety of music, film, art, comedy and more. There’s something for everyone – some of it familiar, and some of it new and waiting to be discovered!

 

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EQ3 Calgary is excited to return as a community partner of Sled Island. Festival pass holders will receive 15% off all regular priced items from EQ3 Calgary (offer excludes Herman Miller) during the festival. Plus, those who purchase their pass by June 15th can enter for a chance to win a $1,000 EQ3 Credit.

 

“With pretty much all of the venues a short bike ride away, and with a festival wristband, you can see as little or as much of the festival as you want,” says Dom Adam, EQ3 Calgary’s Store Manager. “You can plan out all of your shows at SledIsland.com, which lets you build a custom schedule, or you can just wing it and maybe see some acts that you’ve never heard of. Chances are you’ll meet some good new people and see some good bands.”

 

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You can get the full 2014 festival schedule here, but first, check out these Sled Island show recommendations from Dom!

 

TUESDAY 

01. Sled Island Kick-Off Party at the Commonwealth Bar & Stage

 

WEDNESDAY

02. Shaani Cage (at Central United Church)

03. Rhye (at Central United Church)

04. Disappears (at Commonwealth Bar & Stage)

05. Young Braised (at Local 510)

06. PS I Love You (at Broken City)

 

THURSDAY

07. Get To Know: Calgary (at The Palomino)

08. East Village Block Party curated by The HiFi Club

09. Chelsea Wolfe (at Commonwealth Bar & Stage)

10. Royal Canoe (at The Palomina)

11. Killer Mike (at Republik)

12. Old Man Markley (at Ship & Anchor)

 

FRIDAY

13. Joel Plaskett Emergency curated by The Sport Network’s (TSN’s) Dave Hodge (at Flames Central)

14. Blitzen Trapper (at Olympic Plaza)

15. Neko Case (at Olympic Plaza)

 

SATURDAY

16. Touché Amoré (at #1 Legion – Downstairs)

17. St. Vincent (at Flames Central)

18. Rocket From the Crypt (at Olympic Plaza)

19. Spiritualized (at Olympic Plaza)

20. Shannon and the Clams (at The Palomino) *One of the best shows I saw in 2012

21. Bob Mould (at Republik)

22. Jay Arner (Saturday at Tubby Dog, or Friday at Commonwealth Bar & Stage)

 

SUNDAY

23. Pig Roast (at Republik) *Yes, there is an actual pig roast on Sunday that’s free at the Republik Bar.

 

Image Source: Photographs used with permission by Sled Island

 

Sled Island runs from Wednesday June 18th to Sunday June 22nd, 2014. Visit Sledisland.com for more details and to purchase your festival pass. Purchase by Sunday, June 15th and you can enter to win a $1,000 EQ3 Credit.

Introducing: Anchler

Jun 13, 2014

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Designed in-house, EQ3’s new Anchler entertainment and storage collection was inspired by the possibilities of simplicity in form, function and material.

 

Each piece is constructed of solid wood and American white oak, and finished with a natural sealer to bring out the wood’s natural variation in colour and pattern. The collection includes a coffee table, bookcase, sideboard and media storage unit – all of which have been pared down to only the essential design details.

 

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Prop your feet or a drink on the Anchler Coffee Table. It’s smaller scale works well with sectional sofas.

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The Anchler Bookcase features a versatile open back design, allowing it to double as a room divider.

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Hide house clutter with the Anchler Sideboard and Media Storage Unit.

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Shop EQ3′s Anchler Collection in-store or online at EQ3.com.

EQ3 San Francisco: The Bloggers Tell All

Jun 12, 2014

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We were thrilled to partner with three of San Francisco / Oakland’s top design bloggers to spread the word about our new EQ3 San Francisco retail showroom. Victoria Smith from SF Girl by the Bay, Erin Hiemstra from Apartment 34, and Gabrielle Blair from DesignMom all stopped by the showroom before the official launch to see and photograph the space.

 

New store openings are a busy and exciting time for EQ3 staff, and sometimes we’re too immersed in our work to take it all in. So it’s been really fun for us to see EQ3 SF in a new way, through the eyes of these talented bloggers! Each captured the showroom in their own personal way. Victoria described her interaction with the showroom’s design, and the feeling of being in a modern art gallery. Erin wrote about her first encounter with EQ3, back when she was searching for smaller scale furniture for her former condo in Seattle (the original apartment #34). And Gabrielle reminisced about the Marimekko fabric in her childhood home.

 

Read all 3 posts here:

 

SF Girl by the Bay posted: Welcome to San Francisco, EQ3

 

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Image by Cindy Loughridge for sfgirlbybay.com

 

 

Apartment 34 posted: Retail Therapy: EQ3 Comes to San Francisco

 

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Image by Aubrie Pick for Apartment 34

 

 

Design Mom posted: EQ3

 

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Image by Gabrielle Blair for Design Mom

 

Many thanks to Victoria + Cindy, Erin + Aubrie, and Gabrielle for the beautiful features.

 

Image Source: credited as shown above

Shop EQ3.com For Modern Furniture and Accessories