Bill Stumpf once said, "I work best when Im pushed to the edge. When Im at the point where my pride is subdued, where Im an innocent again. Herman Miller knows how to push me that way, mainly because the company still believes -- years after D.J. De Pree first told me -- that good design isnt just good business, its a moral obligation. Now thats pressure."
Stumpfs association with Herman Miller began in 1970 when he joined the staff of the Herman Miller Research Corporation. After establishing his own firm in 1972, Stumpf created the Ergon chair, the first ergonomic work chair. Later, in collaboration with Don Chadwick, he produced the groundbreaking Equa and iconic Aeron chairs. He also was principal designer for the Ethospace system.
"I enjoy myself, and I do it through design," Stumpf declared in an interview a few years ago. "I love beauty, and I love the availability of beautiful things and useful things immediately around me."
When he looked around, though, too often he saw design that "denies the human spirit," architecture that acknowledged money and not people, offices that were "hermetically sealed in artificial space." He constantly battled against such designed indignity -- a battle that began in the 1960s at the University of Wisconsin.
"Everything goes back to those days at the University of Wisconsin," he said recently, referring to the postgraduate years he spent studying and teaching at the universitys Environmental Design Center. "Everything was about freeing up the body, designing away constraints."
It was there where Stumpf, working with specialists in orthopedic and vascular medicine, conducted extensive research into ways people sit -- and the ways they should sit. In 1974, Herman Miller commissioned him to apply his research to office seating. Two years later, the Ergon chair was introduced.
During his lifetime Stumpf -- a key figure in Herman Millers transformation into a research-based, problem-solving innovator -- received numerous awards for this work. Most recently, he was named the winner of the 2006 National Design Award in Product Design, an award presented by the Smithsonians Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.
ASID Award for Ergon seating, 1976
ID magazine "Designer of the 70s," 1979
IBD Gold Award for Equa chair, 1984
IBD Gold Award for Ethospace interiors, 1985
Time magazine, Design: Best of the Decade for Equa chair, 1990
Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards, Product Design winner, 2006
- from Herman Miller.com