Founded in 1983, Humanscale has cultivated a solid reputation as a design and innovation leader in the world of ergonomics. Humanscale made its first significant mark as an innovator with the introduction of high-performance articulating keyboard systems in the late 1990s. Over the past twenty years, Humanscale has added lighting, seating, and other ergonomic accessories to their selection.
Humanscale took the contract furniture industry by storm with the introduction of the Freedom Chair in 1999. Designed by ergonomics pioneer, Niels Diffrient, the Freedom Chair broke new ground by combining functionality with minimal manual controls and utilizing mechanisms that respond to the requirements of each end user automatically. The Freedom Chair solidified Humanscale's reputation and has remained at the top of the industry for over ten years.
In wake of the Freedom Chair's success, Humanscale has introduced an entire line of ergonomic seating including the Liberty Chair and Diffrient Chair. Humanscale's seating solutions have become so notable they have gained attention from Hollywood, gracing the sets of hit television shows and films.
Humanscale abides by the philosophy that good design achieves more with less. By striving to design products that are functional while consuming fewer resources, Humanscale demonstrates a commitment to the environment and sustainability in every step of product development, from inception and design through manufacturing and distribution. Whenever possible, Humanscale uses 100% recycled aluminum, saving energy and carbon dioxide emissions. All Humanscale products are designed for easy disassembly to encourage recycling and divert all solid waste from landfills.
Don Chadwick isn't one of those designers who say that their "real" studio is in their mind. Chadwick's real studio is in Santa Monica, thank you, and anyway, he prefers to call it "an experimental lab."
"We're set up to get dirty and take chances," he says.
His lab apparatus includes saws and grinders, lathes and drill presses and vises--and not one computer-numerically-controlled anything. Computer technology, Chadwick allows, is great for some things, but when he hears someone suggest that a new chair could have just as effectively been designed by computer, he says, politely, "You're out of your mind!"
"The only way to be sure a chair is comfortable is to actually sit in it and make changes along the way," Chadwick says. "A computer can't deal with the subtleties of chair design. Good chairs are too complex."
Too complex? Yes, and not just for computers.
"Most industrial designers don't take furniture design seriously," he says. "They're not trained to get into that kind of detail. It's too personal, too much like surgery. And besides, you have to be in love with this kind of work."
Chadwick's love for furniture design goes back to his childhood, when his cabinetmaker grandfather taught him how to use the tools of the trade--hand tools that required skill, precision, and patience. Later, unlike the other industrial design students at UCLA in the mid-1950s, he focused on furniture. And after hearing a Charles and Ray Eames lecture there, Chadwick was convinced: Furniture offered designers, even industrial designers, the chance to use materials in new, innovative ways--and to make a "real difference" in people's lives.
He attributes at least some of this optimism to the "LA recklessness" he's experienced as a lifelong resident of Southern California. "There's less fear of failure out here, so people are more apt to take risks. It's fertile ground for innovation."
For over two decades now, Chadwick has had a partner in recklessness. "Herman Miller isn't afraid to take chances on new ideas. That's why the company's been successful for so long, and that's one reason why it's challenging to work for them."
The Santa Monica-Zeeland connection continues, the experimental lab whirling with the sounds of belt sanders and power saws. That, after all, is what real design studios do.
Award for Design Excellence, ID magazine, 1970, 71, 73, 74
The Governor's Award, Design Michigan Exhibition, 1977
IBD and IDSA awards for casegoods, 1980
IBD Gold Award for Equa chair, 1984
Time magazine, Design: Best of the Decade for Equa chair, 1990
- From HermanMiller.comView other products by Don Chadwick