For 100 years, Herman Miller has authored design that is beautiful, useful and made to endure. In celebration of this anniversary, we are talking to some of the legendary designers from our roster.
Studio 7.5 is a Berlin-based design firm that has collaborated with Herman Miller for more than two decades. In that time, an impressive list of work chairs (amongst others) were introduced, including Zeph, Cosm, Setu and Mirra (later, Mirra 2). Read along for a conversation with the designers behind Studio 7.5, including founders Carola Zwick and Burkhard Schmitz, and partner Roland Zwick.
What does 100 years of Herman Miller mean to you?
Carola describes the connection between Herman Miller’s 100-year history and the studio’s values: “Good design, not beautiful design. Good is a moral category, which reflects on the deeper responsibility of designing as a process of contributing in a positive way.” Burkhard explains: “The German expression is ‘die Gute Form’ (or ‘good form’) – again a moral definition and not an aesthetic one.” Roland adds: “A continuity of 100 years of innovation is amazing. I am proud that we are part of that history for more than a quarter of a century now as well.”
What is your personal definition of design?
Carola: “Everything humans make is design. It’s artefacts, but also processes, rituals, laws. Not everything is well-designed or even intentional, but we are responsible for it. After all, the time we are living in is called the Anthropocene.”
Burkhard: “There is the famous Eames definition of design: The best for the most for the least. It covers quality, audience and economy/ecology in one stride. Although today’s narratives seem very different from the post-war era, these early concepts still feel contemporary when looking at the socioeconomic disparities, the ecological challenges and the pace of technologies we are facing today.”
Roland: “The best design is the simplest and the first design is never the simplest.”
As designers, why work with Herman Miller?
Burkhard: “In retrospect, it was almost inevitable. Studio 7.5 was conceived in Ulm where we worked in the office of our professor, in the building of the former Ulm School of Design – an attempt to establish a post-war version of the Bauhaus. Although the school was closed in 1968, the place was still visited by design enthusiasts from all over the world. Nick Roericht (our former professor and employer) shared with us his admiration for Herman Miller as a company, which pioneered and redefined design in the 20th century. So, when we received a call from Herman Miller, we felt thrilled and somehow prepared.”
Carola: “As designers we strive to do good work: creating something meaningful, that contributes to the well-being of people. Fully aligning with the ethos of a company helps in being fully engaged and thus surviving extremely stressful development cycles pushing everything to the maximum possible. In that sense, Herman Miller is trusting and sharing our vision and vice-versa.”
Roland: “Our mantra is ‘EMC’ (Every Molecule Counts), so can I embrace industrial processes creating designs that fully utilise the inherent properties of the material. Herman Miller is willing to risk and invest to bring those challenging design concepts to life.”
What problem do you hope design can solve for in the future?
Roland: “Doing more with less: to reduce the use of resources is a constant learning process, even if gravity on this planet is constant.” Carola: “I hope designers can always position themselves to be part of a solution, not contributing to the problems humanity faces. For my students I frame the task of our profession as transforming technology into culture. Which means to ask tough questions about the sense and the purpose of technology in solving problems and enriching the world. Design at its best can help to facilitate change. Designers need to reflect, be informed, and have a responsibility to use their energy and passion for good.”