Open-access content Tuesday 28th October 2008
28 October 2008
In the same way the show this year benefitted from the product development programmes which would have been set again in better times, budgets were high then and it shows in the commitment of investment that so many companies had made in expanding and diversifying their portfolios, as well as investing in real innovation. For once the length of the product development processes benefitted the visitors and marketplace, and this helped to bolster a show which could have been full of rationalisation and pessimism.
Are you sitting comfortably?
So what were the innovations? What were the highlights of the show? Well, there were a lot of new chairs, from task seats and lounge furniture through to the sublimely fun (more later) but the biggest hype around the show was the global launch of the new Herman Miller chair. Now the Aeron has been around for over 13years, Bill Stumpf's design has stood the test of time well, becoming iconic and one of those few products from this industry that the general public could actually recognise and name. That's no mean feat and designing its successor was always going to be a tough task.
It took over six years of research, development, user trials and countless millions of dollars to come up with the new chair - Embody. It's worth mentioning that I'd seen images of Embody before its launch, I'd even discussed it with one of Herman Miller's sales guys in a bar the night before I saw it in the flesh, ultimately he surmised the public feedback to date as being "like Marmite, you're either going to love it or hate it." I love Marmite, but prejudiced by the images I'd seen of Embody (and, for the record, I've never liked the Aeron) I wanted to hate it. And yet the following morning I fell in love.
It's clever, far too clever for me to describe in 900 words, but most importantly for a chair it was adaptive, comfortable and really easy to adjust. Visually it's more quirky than pretty and, in my view, it looks rather bottom heavy given the size of the mechanism, but, like the Aeron, it's distinctive. Just don't expect it to be cheap,
Interstuhl, another of the true innovators, launched no less than six new seating ranges, the highlights being the competitively priced Hero that utilises a second generation of knitted mesh technology which provides a ribbed effect, each rib having a more supportive elasticity than "normal" mesh. And the beautifully stylish and slightly retro Goal which has probably the best automatic weight adjustment mechanism I've yet experienced.
K+N introduced the Sensona task chair, apparently a first in combining an automatic weight adjustment mechanism with a synchronous mechanism - it was great to sit and no doubt its price will reflect its complexity. At the other end of the price spectrum Boss got their timing right with the launch of two new and well-priced task chair ranges, Lily and Moneypenny.
Take a bite
While the trend for sound-deadening panels and now more modular storage continued, Bisley launched one of the nicest storage innovations, the Bite mobile pedestal which fits over and under a desk - it was fun and funky, and breathes some life in to what can be a dour part of the market.
Senator was one of the few companies to launch a new desking systems range - Crossover - which was beautifully simple and well executed. But what was more prevalent as a trend for working surfaces was the rise was of folding-leg tables. In the past we've seen a couple of these and they've always seemed rather rudimentary but now, given the versatility these products can provide for allowing spaces to be used flexibly and effectively, they seem to be coming in to their own with some simple non-tool mechanisms and neat nesting, many with integrated cable management. And they've had a designer's lick in terms of styling; some versions, particularly Kokuyo's Epiphy, really were very elegant in their execution.
There was a huge amount of height adjustable desks this year too, whether gas lift or electric it seems that having standing meetings at counter height is the way of the future - we'll see.
Have a fit
Finally, back to the sublimely fun - if there was an Orgatec accolade for most fun product then Interstuhl should have won it with Fit. Just watching the wonder on people's faces as they approached this seat and the trepidation as they cautiously tried to sit in it was great entertainment. And whilst the novelty was enjoyable the reality is that this was also one of the greatest innovations of the show as it has taken mesh and knit technology to a whole new technical and structural level. When you can generate a "wow" from a generally apathetic audience then you know you're on to something good.
Simon Bond runs Hub Communications, a marketing consultancy specialising in the office Interiors sector. Contact [email protected] for an indepth report of the event