Meet the MakersHow HON and designer Brian Kane transformed the way people work.
It takes a multifaceted approach to bring a furniture collection to life-research, customer interaction, design collaboration, prototyping, testing and eventually manufacturing. It’s a process HON has been perfecting since 1944. To gain the insight needed to innovate a breakthrough collection like Flock, we invited industry leaders and members of the A&D community to share their perspectives on workplace trends, worker behavior and client desires for a changing workplace. This input was exactly what HON Product Business Manager Chad Zeck and designer Brian Kane needed to initiate the Flock collection.
Home: San Francisco, CA
Studio: Kane Design Studio
Education: B.S. in Industrial Design University of Bridgeport
After graduating from college, Brian worked with several New York City design studios before spending a year in Milan, Italy collaborating with famed architect Silvio Coppola on various projects. Returning to New York to join the Metropolitan Furniture Corporation, he soon became Vice President of Design and Product Development. He eestablished Kane Design Studio in 1989, and since then his team has been creating award-winning furniture designs that can be found everywhere from contemporary offices to museums of modern art.
Q. Research shows businesses lose nearly $500 billion a year because of disengaged workers. How can companies get proactive with a solution?
A. Chad — Well, that research also tells us that people aren’t limiting their work to private offices and conference rooms these days. I mean, have you ever tried sitting at your desk for eight hours straight without losing focus? We knew that by turning every area into a desirable work space, we could turn that half trillion-dollar deficit into a 6% increase in productivity.
Q. With offices shrinking in size, how does adding furniture solve anything?
A. Chad — It’s true that the average square feet per worker has been cut in half in the last decade. But to us, this is an argument for collaborative open solutions like Flock. Companies are reducing the number of private offices and fitting more people into open office plans. So instead of dedicating space for private offices, innovative companies are opening up the entire office to support individual “me” settings and collaborative “we” spaces where people can migrate as needs change throughout the day. This transition in space planning is exactly what Flock is designed to support.
Q. Were you surprised by the instant success of Flock?
A. Brian — Well, yes and no. I knew that with the work and research we put into it, we had a winner on our hands, but I didn’t expect it to be the most successful product launch of my career. From the very beginning, my studio workedvery closely with the HON team to align their expertise with what the market was demanding. This collaborative partnership was really the key, because since the product was introduced HON has been the one to push for new ways of reinventing and reshaping the collection. For example, when they wanted a serpentine addition, they could’ve easily created a new lounge collection. Instead,they added this valuable functionality to the existing Flock line to create a consistent product offering.
Q. Speaking of the recent Flock expansion, what is your design approach when expanding a collection?
A. Brian — My approach was to support the long term goals of both space planners and end users. To accomplish this, we added wedge components to navigate and divide larger spaces with flowing serpentine layouts that defined “me” and “we” settings. The team decided to integrate power units that are adaptable vs. fixed, so they can be retrofitted to evolve as needs and technology change. And while simple, the addition of a swivel base made it easier for people to turn and join the conversation. Design is about enhancing performance, and that’s exactly what the Flock expansion delivers.
Q. Without giving away the “secret sauce”, what provided the inspiration that helped guide your design process?
A. Brian — Whenever I start a project, the first step is research and observation. I was teaching at the California College of Art, and after class I spent time observing how students were using the furniture. I quickly realized that the environment changed constantly, based on different group sizes, activities or time of day. The students broke up the space and turned it into whatever they needed it to be. It dawned on me that is how the next generation of workers were going to get work done. As a result, this discovery sparked the idea that furniture not only needed to be stylish and comfortable, but also needed to be fluid and mobile to transform as needs and group sizes changed throughout the day.
Q. How did you decide on the scale and dimensionsfor the collection?
A. Brian — Scale and dimensional proportions played a big part in the development. We knew we wanted to create a minimal footprint, but while also maximizing the personal sitting area. You will notice that the seating footprint for the lounge chair is 26” square, but the top flares out on those chairs to add 4” total width. Also, the height of every lounge table and seat is 17” off the floor, which creates a consistent horizon throughout a space. Meanwhile, all the arms, backs and high tables are 29” high, which creates a second common horizon.
“We listened to our customers to understand the needs of small to mid-sized businesses. It became clear immediately that there was a need for a collection that supported the new ways and spaces where work was getting done.”
- Chad Zeck HON Product Business Manager
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