God—all of these days are so long and so much happens in them that it's pretty much impossible to keep up with it! The thing I will say is that it's wonderful that either through serendipity or amazingly thoughtful design I have ended up finding myself talking in-depth about different parts of every company. This is great because it just gives different insight into different areas of the companies. Also I'm writing this from the comfort of an Eames lounge chair in the Marigold Lodge on a lake. I'm just trying to make you jealous now (I've been indulging in some of Michigan's finer brewed beverages also).
Like I was saying, lots of stuff happened today, and I'll probably end up spending more time on a single topic because I found it so interesting, so maybe a really quick outline and then into the juicy stuff?
I spent this morning with the Herman Miller Archivist, and it was super interesting (this is where the meat will come from later), hearing the story of Herman Miller, seeing publications and advertisements, as well as photos and pieces of furniture which make up the collection. It was also really interesting to consider the future of these types of collections—its all well and good to put together a narrative based around physical correspondents, but how does an archivist approach this in the future? Is it really possible to go up to the executives of the company and requisition their digital transmissions to preserve them for the future? The ways we communicate have changed so much in terms of actual methods, but also in content. How many emails have you written in the last month? How many of those have consisted of less than 30 words? The point is that even with the technological changes which would seemingly make archiving the development of a project easier or the history of a the company more comprehensive, the truth is that there might well be too much information.
Here's another really interesting thought—I've never really thought about archiving my own process, I try to photograph stuff, but honestly, I doubt that the thousands of digital photos that I take, the digital sketches saved Dropbox and scraps of thoughts collected in notes, emails and document would really represent well a picture of the development of a project. Of course they do once I select them, edit them and arrange them for presentation or portfolio, but my point is I don't feel like I've learned really how to efficiently archive—or why I should. It seems so strong in the history of design that when I see it, it astounds me. In thinking about this, I began to wonder: how about a collaboration at education level between archivist and designers to help promote preservation of their work and their process?
As a part of the archive trip. I was lucky enough to take a trip to the Eames designed house around here, because why not, we've got 30 minutes to spare. Its pretty breath taking for a couple of reasons, one of them being that its just totally surrounded by completely regular homes which look almost exactly the same and absolutely nothing like it. Secondly, its pretty obviously an Eames house (if you've ever seen/been to pacific palisades), and there are only a few of those around, and less that you get to just wander around in. One other little tidbit here—so the first time I saw an Eames leg splint I was all gooey and felt really special. They are super fascinating, but here's a secret, they were obviously mass manufactured and not too long ago a stash of a a good few thousand were found. They are currently awarded to very special corporate partners and such—so not quite so gooey anymore.
The afternoon was spent seeing Herman Miller's healthcare offerings, and then seeing a showroom they use for customers, before getting a look at Herman Millers Performance System, which is a derivative of Toyota's. This is a mix of interesting and terrifying (from the outside) in terms of its ability to make a paced manufacturing line produce an Aeron chair every 30 seconds. Basically it is a huge standardization procedure which quantifies the length of time of each action and then ensures that the movement of the line is manageable for the operators. It's not 100% doom and gloom, but is modern manufacturing at its finest where rationality and efficiency is king. I guess one way to look at it is that the chairs are still hand-made, but the process by which they are hand-made is as automated as possible. One thing to note here is that the task chairs are like this—designed and engineered to be mass produced on a line. If you visit other Herman Miller manufacturing locations, you will find a much more pleasing manufacturing process. I also want to say that my feelings around this are totally due to my socio-economic upbringing and background. Seeing mass-manufacturing is unpleasant—I'm naive, I recognize it. Then a quick look at the work floor where I will be working tomorrow (it's huge, scary and obviously I will destroy quite a few pieces of furniture). I'm really looking forward to it actually, having 5-6 hours to actually learn some of the processes and get comfortable seems like more of a reasonable challenge than just jumping on and being able to do something. And so, awake at 4.30 to make sure I'm ready to be there to work.
OH! And why not round off the day with a trip to the Herman Miller office outlet discount store—so tempting, but I'm straight broke right now. I was glad to see this awesome and very apt poster there with a good piece of knowledge with regards to this experience: "Celebrate what makes you different! Be yourself and respect the uniqueness of others."