As 2015 is the year ‘Back to the Future II’ heads to, it would be easy for us to spotlight the amazing technological breakthroughs of the past 25 years – and ask if technology has moved in the directions predicted. Technology has transformed our working lives, affecting how we all work massively. As kids we might have dreamed of owning a hoverboard one day, but who would have thought we’d end up coveting the latest mobile phones – and that tablets would not just be something we took for a headache?
This month’s Spotlight, however, will take a look at the innovation that has underpinned those technological breakthroughs – the often overlooked yet game-changing processes, materials and products that support the modern, agile office landscape and the technology it so relies upon.
Our leading manufacturers cannot (yet) offer us a hoverdesk, but what many of them can offer are true advancements – maybe more subtle than a floating desk, but in their own way incredibly innovative.
It is of course easy to get lost in the world of iThingys and smart technology, but some of the most impressive innovations in the world of the workplace have come from the products that support the technology.
Sway2 by KI
KI’s Sway2 is a lounge seating collection, featuring a gyroscopic motion, which self-adjusts to the user’s preferred seating style. This statement piece made its debut at NeoCon in Chicago earlier this summer, picking up a ‘Best of NeoCon’ Award for Innovation.
Sway2 offers freedom of movement, allowing the user to move front-to-back, swing side-to-side and swivel 360 degrees. Its cushion and body support ensure maximum comfort in any position. Both versatile and durable, it is ideal for receptions, collaborative environments and breakout areas.
The chair’s rotationally moulded seat and base is constructed of Linear Low Density
Polyethylene (LLDPE), one of the most commonly used and easily recyclable plastics in the world, and post-consumer recycled plastic.
Thistle Magnetic Plaster by British Gypsum
Leading creative communications agency, Gratterpalm, has transformed its head office in Leeds into a flexible, interactive space, using British Gypsum’s innovative Thistle Magnetic Plaster. The organisation, which provides a range of retailers and brands with digital and creative support, has installed magnetic walls in its ‘Creative Cube’ and ICT office to encourage imaginative thinking and collaboration.
British Gypsum’s Thistle Magnetic Plaster was specified for four walls across the two spaces. Blackboard and whiteboard paint was also used to offer a surface for the team to write down ideas during group discussions.
Gratterpalm employees have made the most of the walls through the use of magnetic vinyl shapes, which are used to section off an area for specific tasks and separate ideas during essential agency activities such as brainstorms and spider diagrams.
Coza by Boss Design Group
Created in collaboration with renowned German furniture designer, Martin Ballendat of Design Ballendat, Coza boasts extraordinary comfort and dynamic support by using the natural flexibility of
a single ribbon of material. Coza unlike other task chairs does not require any user adjustment, multiple components or complex assembly.
By combining a pivot point and flexible Polymer shell to mimic a traditional 2:1 synchronised mechanism, Coza delivers eight degrees of recline from the seat and up to 16 degrees from the back. This provides greater levels of support and improves the way in which people sit.
Zoom by EGGER
Following the successful launch of three synchronised pore decors in 2014, the EGGER Zoom range has been updated with three new Feelwood decors, including one brand new texture, which uses advanced surface technology to align the decor print and texture to create a registered surface finish.
The new texture added to the Feelwood range is Halifax Oak, which is available in two colourways – Natural Halifax Oak and Tobacco Halifax Oak. The finish features deep cracks and knots to meet the increasing demand for more rustic materials.
As well as increasing the number of decors in the EGGER Zoom range, the company is now the first to bring to the market compact laminate with a synchronised pore finish.
Going deeper still, over the past 20 or so years we’ve witnessed incredible changes to the manufacturing process of workplace products – from carpets through to lighting and furniture. Think 3D printing, the embracing of aerospace technology and even the rise of the robots.
Constructed using a mathematical algorithm based on D’arcy Thompson’s Transformation Theory, each set of Morgan’s innovative chairs features a slight variation of the algorithm, making it slightly different, as if it were carved by hand. This is a new experimental process. It uses the versatility of 3D printing and offers quick and low volume production. It enables customisation and variation without tooling costs. Emerging possibilities of 3D printing have also enabled the backrest to maximise its porosity to become almost as light and fragile as possible. It maintained its strength while gaining flexibility for achieving extra comfort by thoroughly understanding the nature of the material.
This has resulted in a fluid and a complex form, which is only producible using 3D printing and other fabrication technique. The 3d printed part is created only in one piece, including integrated connections pins to the rest of the furniture. The Rio chair is only producible through 3D printing and no other technique and this enables a new aesthetic based on additive manufacturing as opposed to the subtractive CNC process.
Harry Foster, Specialist Products Business Manager for Johnson Tiles, has been working within the ceramics industry for over 30 years, and he’s happy to tell us a little about the company’s innovative processes. ‘Innovation ties into the Johnson Tiles philosophy of refusing to pigeonhole products by processes but instead embracing the challenge of finding new ways to produce exactly what a designer wants.
‘The Hawaii Rainbow Tower is a great example of taking an existing technology, digital transfer printing, an area where Johnson Tiles already has well over a decade of expertise, and then pushing the boundaries further to fulfil a specific brief. The iconic Rainbow Mural at the Hilton Hawaiian Village beach resort has been a Waikiki landmark since 1968 and when the time came to restore it to it’s full colour glory we provided more than 31,000 bespoke tiles to create an exact replica. We used new coating methods, new art working methods, new firing curve and more – whatever it took. ‘The talent and calibre of new designers is what continues to raise the bar. Our culture of innovation is the only way to ensure we are able to keep the pace they set with their exceptional imagination.’
Incorporating recycled jute fibre into its product range, Century required innovative new product development. Modern day coffee culture ensures that there’s no shortage of the hessian cloth sacks used to transport cocoa and coffee beans. Made entirely from jute, this waste material can be reprocessed back into raw fibre through mechanical recycling machines. Blending this with wool at Camira’s Huddersfield spinning facility, the company has been able to manufacture an industry first textile using a sustainable resource.
On its journey to zero landfill Camira has made vast improvements in resource efficiency and as part of this has developed an innovative relationship with its polyester yarn supplier. Waste selvedge and yarn remnants are returned and re-extruded into new yarns as part of a circular system – X2 and The Halcyon Collection are just two of the fabrics that contain up to 25% closed-loop recycled content.
Just when we think we know where we are and what’s coming next, new trends emerge. But what comes first? Do the latest products and processes drive the latest trends – or do the trends drive the development of new products? We’ve asked a few industry friends to give us their take on
where the latest rafts of innovation are taking us next.
The partnership between the desk and task chair in the workplace remains steadfast. Over the last 50 years, task chair design has focused on improving the ergonomic quality of the workplace and supporting the wellbeing of employees. Thus, more sophisticated chairs featuring increasing manual adjustments with a greater dimensional range have prevailed. Despite this, back, neck and shoulder complaints caused by sitting and postural-related issues have continued to rise. The development of a new generation of task chairs has sparked a trend that replaces the overly sophisticated office chair with chairs that provide revolutionary dynamic support through fluid movement. With a simple and refined aesthetic, they do not require user adjustment, multiple components, complex assembly or even training, and they even lend themselves to touchdown and meeting spaces too. These chairs improve the way in which we sit, and can be specified across multiple areas of the workplace.
Boss Design Group
Trends witnessed in the last 50 years include the adoption of self-supporting components and mesh fabrics in furniture as an alternative to traditional upholstered foam coverings, saving on materials. Also, the concept of workplace wellness has gained momentum in response to concerns over health and this has influenced innovations in both design of furniture and finishes, with a greater preference for natural materials and fabrics with acoustic properties.
I believe that today there is as much a trend for new materials as there is for hand crafted, tactile products. Craft is back and new ways of creating it will be a very interesting development in product design. One of the biggest additions in manufacturing is 3D printing, which today offers low cost, ‘instant’ products, soon to be printed in local 3D shops or even at home. Copyright protection will become a little more challenging for all designers!
Katerina Zachariades, Design Director, Morgan
It is the lack of mobility in our physical facilities that is the most stubborn laggard in offices.
A great many of our irritations stem from services and facilities that respond too slowly, or not at all.’This statement feels very current, but actually comes from Robert Propst’s book The Office: A Facility Based on Change in 1968. Propst was the inventor of Herman Miller’s Action Office, the original open plan office system, which was aimed at creating a ‘kinetic, active, alert and vigorous environment’. Despite the ultimate misuse of his system (which gave rise to the office cubicle) Propst’s original ideas still resonate nearly 50 years later. Propst identified that a workplace needs to adapt to the needs of the workers. This tenet, then as now, underpins office planning, architecture