HBI Inc. :: Blog http://blog.hbi-inc.com Thu, 06 Sep 2018 13:01:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.9 Headquarters Invigorates a Company’s Culture and Image http://blog.hbi-inc.com/headquarters-invigorates-a-companys-culture-and-image/ http://blog.hbi-inc.com/headquarters-invigorates-a-companys-culture-and-image/#comments Thu, 06 Sep 2018 13:01:47 +0000 http://blog.hbi-inc.com/?p=19168 Continue reading ]]> Headquarters Invigorates a Company's Culture and Image

Growing a business is essential to success. But as a company expands, other aspects of the organization may lack for attention. Communication and collaboration decline when silos form in the organization. The company’s culture and brand can suffer, too.

Company Culture and Image

As GeoBlue grew from start-up to a major player in the insurance industry, organizational issues began to emerge. “We had four different offices in three different buildings, and we ended up with the little mini-cultures” says Andrew Conn, GeoBlue COO.

“We needed to get all four hundred of our employees back together, not only for efficiency, but to make sure everybody got the benefit of the same company culture. Plus, we needed to be able to handle future growth.”

In a company of this scale, people have varied roles. GeoBlue claims processors are focused on heads down work. Other workers spend the day on the phone, taking calls from customers all over the world. Salespeople are mobile, meeting with companies by phone or in person, and making presentations. Meyer Architecture + Interiors understood GeoBlue’s new workplace had to support a wide variety of work and workstyles and to communicate the company’s organizational culture. “We designed in the new building to create connection points for people, to make it easy for them to meet, work together and continually feel a part of the larger organization,” says Deb Breslow, principal at Meyer.

A New Way of Working

A New Way of Working

Answer systems furniture 120º workstations support task work, collegial collaboration, seated privacy, and more.


Employee workstations in an open plan are a foundational element. Built with Answer systems furniture, the 120-degree workstations “are not like traditional rows of workstations or cubes; they are more dynamic, and it’s surprising how much workspace you have in the configuration,” says Laura Price, Meyer furniture and resource manager.

“People were concerned initially about having such an open workplace, but once they moved in they realized that they do have a level of privacy. We also have small rooms and enclaves where you can go for a private call, or just work closely with someone. Sometimes people work in one of the collaborative spaces because they just want to work in a different location,” says Lynn Pina, GeoBlue’s chief marketing officer.

media-scape collaborative setting001

Dozens of collaborative and private work areas are integrated into GeoBlue’s workplace. This media:scape collaborative setting, with dual monitors and a standard-height table, encourage active engagement between coworkers and content.


media-scape collaborative setting002

media:scape Lounge brings GeoBlue staff together to collaborate. “People marvel at how easy it is to connect,” says Lynn Pina. “They were kind of shocked. ‘Okay, I just plug this in and press this button, and it appears on the screen.’ People love it.”


Throughout the 110,000 square foot workplace, GeoBlue staffers have access to dozens of shared spaces: enclosed conference rooms, collaborative settings equipped with media:scape technology that integrates technology and furniture to bring people, space and information together for a greater collaborative work environment, lounge spaces, pantries with tables and stools, phone rooms, and various open and enclosed spaces for groups of two or six people. “Having so many options where people can work together is important to encourage a collaborative culture,” says Jessica Nixon, Meyer senior interior designer.

Helping People Move, Think and Feel Better

Helping People Move, Think and Feel Better

Booths for dining, meeting or relaxing, built with Regard module lounge furniture. The café connects to a training room via movable walls so GeoBlue can hold quarterly all hands meetings and other events.


GeoBlue’s headquarters reinforces the company’s focus on health and wellbeing with a fitness center, catered lunches in the café, and various spaces for rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. Greenery throughout the space contributes to a healthier environment. Daylight bathes the open plan thanks to exterior glazing and glass fronts on private offices on the perimeter. Employees are encouraged to move and use spaces that offer seated, reclined and standing work postures. Together with a design that encourages interaction, collaboration and teamwork, this is a workplace that reflects one of GeoBlue’s core beliefs: “An enjoyable company culture is central to delivering positive employee experiences.”

Environmental branding tells the GeoBlue story though wayfinding, graphics, color choice and meeting spaces. Large conference rooms are named after the cities around the world where GeoBlue does business. “We have a story to tell about our brand,” says Pina. “This workplace is a great representation of our company, what we believe in, how we work.”

Side-by-Side Collaboration

Collaborative and individuals work, side by side: a conference room with cobi seating, Brody WorkLounges with adjustable worksurfaces and ergonomic seating.


COO Andrew Conn says the company’s new workplace has become an effective marketing tool for GeoBlue. Prospective employees are wowed during building tours. Customers are equally impressed. “We work on a business-to-business basis and it’s a very competitive market. We had a final presentation for a large company and we brought the prospective customer into our new space. We wouldn’t have done that before. This workplace helped us show how we’re a credible contender for a new business project.

Collaborative Environment

An essential element of a highly collaborative environment, informal spaces are used for discussion, relaxation, or just as a change-of-pace place to work.


“Our new space allows us to present ourselves in a very specific and professional way, a way that’s unique, and that demonstrates who we are as an organization.”


Design: Meyer Architecture + Interiors

Steelcase Dealer: A. Pomerantz & Co.

Steelcase Inc. Products:

Answer systems furniture
Elective Elements
media:scape collaborative settings
cobi, Jenny, Scoop and Think seating
Brody Worklounge
Regard modular lounge system
Akira height-adjustable tables
Campfire Paper Tables
Slatwall worktools
FYI monitor arms

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Coworking Redefined http://blog.hbi-inc.com/coworking-redefined/ http://blog.hbi-inc.com/coworking-redefined/#comments Wed, 29 Aug 2018 15:23:00 +0000 http://blog.hbi-inc.com/?p=19114 Continue reading ]]> Coworking Redefined

Atlas Workbase offers a diverse ecosystem where professionals can (really) get work done.

Coworking Redefined

Coworking spaces are hot. There are over 7,000 around the world, and the number keeps growing. Also called shared workspaces, these work environments have proliferated along with the growth of mobile work. They act as outside offices, or even as the primary office, for workers in practically every industry.

But as some aspects of knowledge work become increasingly automated, business professionals are being asked to be more creative, more collaborative, and help spur innovation and growth, and that takes more than just a walk-up desk and good coffee. Workers need coworking places that support individual focused work, shoulder-to-shoulder dyadic work, collaboration that generates new ideas, as well as places to relax and rejuvenate.

Atlas Workbase is built to meet these needs. Located in downtown Seattle, the 20,000 square foot facility, designed by Gensler, features a diverse ecosystem of spaces that gives people great choice and control over where and how they work.

Atlas Workbase

The 20,000 square-foot facility, designed by Gensler, features a diverse ecosystem of spaces that gives people great choice and control over where and how they work.


Early coworking spaces were essentially open, offsite locations for tech workers used to loud, start-up environments, places where you could “forget privacy,” as The Wall Street Jounral put it.

Atlas recognized people’s need for focus and concentration and addressed it in the development of their work environments. All major interior walls and conference rooms are formed with V.I.A., movable intelligent architectural walls that not only provide true acoustical privacy, but also host technology. V.I.A. creates private, confidential workspaces while giving Atlas the flexibility to reconfigure interior spaces without costly, disruptive construction.

“In the past, demountable partitions didn’t provide acoustic separation. But V.I.A. performs really well from an acoustical standpoint,” says Susana Covarrubias, principle and design director of Gensler Seattle.


Recognizing people’s need for focus and concentration, Atlas used Steelcase V.I.A. movable intelligent architectural walls to build all major interior walls and conference rooms. V.I.A. creates private, confidential workspaces while giving Atlas the flexibility to reconfigure interior spaces without costly, disruptive construction.

Andrew Dombrowski, an Atlas user, enjoys the quiet. “It’s very easy to come here and concentrate. And there are numerous, very innovative spaces to work in that allow you to feel different degrees of either isolation or preferred place. Like you’re in a different space entirely.”

Atlas CEO Bill Sechter says V.I.A.’s architectural, acoustic and aesthetic performance “has proven to be a key differentiator in what we’re offering our members. The environment that they’re working in is a representation of their brand, so the space makes a difference for them, and for us, in the marketplace.”

People can also choose to work in Brody WorkLounges for focus work. Similar to an enclave, these popular semi-private destinations provide adjustable ergonomic support and integrated power and lighting, but are open enough to allow users to keep in touch with the vibe of the overall equipment.

Brody WorkLounge

Brody WorkLounges provide people with a semi-private destination for focus work.


“The functionality of the Brody, the feeling of the comfortable seats, the lighting, privacy, you can put your feet up, have a place for your laptop and phone. They’re just a great place to work,” says Chief Real Estate Officer & Co-Founder Alan Winningham.

Create & Collaborate

Since work is so often projected-based, places to easily connect and collaborate are also prized. Atlas has enclosed rooms for team meeting and brainstorming, as well as open spaces for impromptu discussions. “Access to folks that are launching new ideas, becoming entrepreneurs, or serial entrepreneurs, it’s important to be within those circles and have access to have conversations with those folks,” says Atlas user Nick Jordan.

Creative work can be solo or collaborative, and having workspace options to fit each kind of work is key, says writer Anna Minard. “Here I can go from individual writing or other creative work by myself, to working with someone across from me to a group of six or seven people, with stuff on the wall, and we can go through an editing process in a shared way. And then break out again for relatively private work.

work environment

The work environment includes spaces where people can work alone, collaborate in a team space or easily connect in the open lounge for a quick discussion.

work environment001

work environment002

“This is a great place for someone doing creative work, because the work can be really different from day to day, and I have the flexibility to choose where I need to work.”

The Lounge here is a kind of third place: a casual, open seating area requiring no reservation, based on the concept of an airport lounge.

Spaces like this are often power deserts. Not at Atlas. There’s a power throughout the open and lounge areas here, provided by Thread, a power distribution system that lays underneath carpet and brings power to furniture and users without affecting foot traffic.


Atlas users can rest and rejuvenate in various places, from the Lounge to an enclosed office. There are workspaces that support work while sitting, standing, or reclining. Concierge and IT services give users a respite from any routine business problems.

Atlas’s broad ecosystem of workspaces designed for a range of work needs and workstyles clearly resonates with users (see What’s It Like To Work At Atlas Workbase?).

“I’ve never had a more productive work day in my life.”

“From the start, the objective was a place designed more for ‘grown up’ companies, different than a place for new start-ups,” says Gensler’s Covarrubias. “This is a place to conduct business.”

“Every day,” says Winningham, “literally every day, I have someone tell me some variation of, ‘I’ve never had a more productive work day in my life.’

What’s It Like to Work at Atlas Workbase?

We spoke with several Atlas clients and here is what they had to say:

“I use Atlas because of the thoughtfulness they put into the design of the place. The way they use space to support coworking. It’s comfortable, highly professional, a great environment.”
—Jen Briggs, executive coach

“Atlas is so much different than any other office space that you could experience. The thing that’s always impressed me …is the ability to walk in here and feel the professional environment.”
—Tolis Dimopoulos, managing partner, Sophos Law

“It’s a comfortable, well designed, cool place to work. We like the versatility of spaces, so different people can find a place to work that’s right for their style and the type of work they have to do.”
—Carlee Swihart, vice president of operations, Lumenomics

“There’s a variety of different kinds of space to work in where you don’t have to feel like you’re in a fishbowl, you’re not confined to four walls. You’re not confined to the typical environment. I love being able to move around from space to space and sometimes feel like I’m sitting in my living room. There’s great furniture here, there’s great couches. There’s comfortable lounge chairs. So that also allows me to work more effectively and efficiently as I clear my mind and move from space to space.”
—Tom Woodcock, regional director, Bisnow

“I’d say you probably don’t realize ow big of an effect the place you work has on the way you do work, until you come to someplace like this and really see the difference. I think you can talk about it and what I’ve seen is, until people get in here, they just don’t get it.”
—Nick Jordan, business development, Logic Inbound

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Create Comfort & Your Own Work Vibe with Mackinac http://blog.hbi-inc.com/create-comfort-your-own-work-vibe-with-mackinac/ http://blog.hbi-inc.com/create-comfort-your-own-work-vibe-with-mackinac/#comments Fri, 17 Aug 2018 12:00:14 +0000 http://blog.hbi-inc.com/?p=19096 Continue reading ]]> Create Comfort & Your Own Work Vibe with Mackinac

Mackinac’s robust options let designers craft a unique version.

Mackinac: Make It Yours

Our smartphones are a portal to a world of ideas and inspiration. The minute a new concept is shared online, it spreads with lightning speed to far-reaching pockets of the globe. Our ability to shape our own identities has never been greater. We can instantly access a plethora of styles and determine what feels most authentic. And, it’s never been easier. Some of the biggest retailers in the world are making it incredibly simple to customize items with a touch of a button.

It’s not a surprise people want the bespoke experience they’re used to in other parts of their lives in the places where they work. A diversity of spaces and materials gives people access to things that are relevant to them.

High-performing and beautiful, the cantilever worksurface created for Mackinac (pronounced MAK-uh-naw) puts the person at the center of the design. Mackinac’s microzones let people easily shift from working alone to working with others to a moment of respite, all within a compact footprint. Its visually light, yet incredibly strong expanse invites an array of applications and materials — giving people the ability to create an environment that meets their performance needs and their personal vibe. A shelving tower and shroud also offer opportunities to create a sense of coziness and comfort. Robust materiality options let designers craft a unique vision customized for any space.

Honest + Welcoming

Honest + Welcoming

Like a lighter look and feel? This tranquil, cozy style embraces the Scandinavian concept of “hygge.” A planked maple worksurface, backpainted glass and plywood and Forbo* shelving create this airy experience.

Confident + Luxe

Confident + Luxe

Meet in a stylish, sophisticated space. Authentic materials highlight texture and depth in this luxurious setting. Dark, marbleized corian and a tapestry-like shroud allow for the duality of work — either alone or together.

Optimistic + Fresh

Optimistic + Fresh

Bright pops of color add energy to spaces made for connection. Colors and materials help signal a connection and delineation between spaces.

* This option is expected to be available in 2019.


Explore Mackinac

Make Mackinac your own with our interactive visualization tool.


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Steelcase Helps Design Space to See New Ford Culture http://blog.hbi-inc.com/steelcase-helps-design-space-to-see-new-ford-culture/ http://blog.hbi-inc.com/steelcase-helps-design-space-to-see-new-ford-culture/#comments Mon, 23 Jul 2018 12:00:26 +0000 http://blog.hbi-inc.com/?p=18889 Continue reading ]]> Steelcase Helps Design Space to Se New Ford CultureWhen Jim Hackett held his first global leadership meeting as Ford’s CEO, he called on Steelcase Events to help design a space to signal change.

When Ford Motor Company named its newest CEO, Jim Hackett, the company’s public announcement described it as “extraordinary times” for the organization in need of “extraordinary leadership.” Extraordinary indeed. Today, Ford describes itself as much more than a company that makes cars and trucks. Through innovation and acquisition, it’s accelerating its mobility strategy to delivery products and services to individuals, fleet owners and global cities. The 114-year-old iconic company founded by Henry Ford — the man who brought automobiles to the masses — is following its roots rich in invention and innovation.

Digital transformation is changing the way businesses operate and, at the same time, consumers are trending toward service-oriented business models. To response to charging infrastructure and changing habits, Ford is moving quickly to test, develop and launch new ideas and solutions for the market.


Steelcase Event Experiences

Learn how to create a customized event experience

Learn More

Jim Hackett was appointed the new Ford CEO in May 2017. Described as a “transformational leader,” he was known for bringing design thinking to Steelcase during his nearly 20-year tenure as CEO. To introduce Hackett to the Ford global leadership team, a two-day meeting was planned with several key goals to begin to cultivate a culture of innovation.

Ford Global Leadership Meeting Goals

  • Executive alignment & group discussion
    Orchestrate a shift from traditional meetings where the audience listens to the stage presenter and, instead, encourage the 300 attendees to participate and engage in discussions with peers.
  • Flip the hierarchy
    Provide a premium atmosphere for the audience to let them know they are just as important as the speakers.
  • Signal change
    This couldn’t be like any other meeting. It needed to communicate this was a new kind of exchange.

Hackett’s experience at Steelcase meant he knew the physical environment could be a powerful lever to communicate company culture. Words can only go so far. His team reached out to Steelcase Event Experiences and with a short timeline, the team got to work. They connected with Ford’s event and marketing agency, Imagination, a critical partner as designers began envisioning the space for Hackett’s first global leadership meeting at Ford.

Steelcase Event Experiences was created for just this kind of situation. This service-oriented team uses Steelcase research and insights to transform event spaces through experience design and a broad portfolio capable of creating a diverse array of experiences. They partner with customers to identify objectives and create custom spaces that inspire and encourage.

Ford Global Leadership meeting space

The Ford global leadership meeting space before Steelcase Event Experiences went to work.


The space the Steelcase team set out to reimagine included all-too-familiar conference room arrangements. The prior leadership meeting space included a sea of homogeneous round tables where inevitably, many people, would have their backs to the speaker or have to crane their necks to see. A raised platform and podium suggested whose voice was most important. And, a color palette that lacked inspiration.

Ford Leadership Meeting Design

Ford Leadership Meeting Design001

A variety of seating options gave attendees a chance to change their posture throughout the event while retaining meaningful groupings for intimate conversation.

Ford Leadership Meeting Design002

A tiered seating design ensured everyone a good view of the stage. Access to power, florals and small touches like mints and writing tools sent the clear signal that each setting was designed with the audience in mind.

Ford Leadership Meeting Design003

Attention to detail such as colorful pillows, floral, decor and throws added comfort and inspiration to the space.

Ford Leadership Meeting Design004

Strong swaths of blue and white ensured that the iconic Ford brand would shine through at the event.

Event Reimagined

In order to accomplish Ford’s goals, designers transformed the traditional setting int a vibrant comfortable and welcoming event space.

“We know people are more satisfied with their work environment if they have choice and control over where they sit. We wanted to give each of those 300 attendees the opportunity to sit in a posture that’s comfortable for them and change positions throughout the two days to reenergize and stay connected,” said Tom Condon, Steelcase Event Experiences Creative Director.

Stools and tables, task chairs and lounge seating meant everyone in the audience could choose a posture that felt good to them. Risers and an arced seating arrangement gave everyone a good line of sight to the stage. The stage of blue and white connected everyone to the Ford Motor Company brand. And, colorful and plush accessories like pillows and throws signaled a more informal, conversational setting where everyone was encouraged to engage.

New Tone

Hackett said, “We were able to give pause to the leadership of Ford Motor Company that our meeting wasn’t going to be a traditional leadership meeting because of the space. They applauded when I asked them how it felt.”

“I wish we would have filmed people’s faces as they came into the space. It definitely set a new tone for the two days,” said Clare Braun, Ford CEO Chief of Staff.

The space helped signal to the team in the audience that they were just as important as the speaker. Ford organizers said it helped elevate a new tone where it wasn’t about a new leader, giving new orders, it was about engaging the team in a new way.

“The Steelcase team really opened our eyes to how we could create a meeting setting and atmosphere that communicated to our leadership that we are going on an exciting new journey — and that each member of the team was as important as the presenters,” said Mark Truby, vice president, Communications, Ford Motor Company.

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Comfort for All: Q+A with Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams http://blog.hbi-inc.com/comfort-for-all-qa-with-mitchell-gold-and-bob-williams/ http://blog.hbi-inc.com/comfort-for-all-qa-with-mitchell-gold-and-bob-williams/#comments Mon, 09 Jul 2018 12:00:25 +0000 http://blog.hbi-inc.com/?p=18916 Continue reading ]]> Comfort for All - Q+A with Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams

When Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams, co-founders of the North Carolina-based furniture design and manufacturing company of the same name, say they stand for “Comfort for All,” they don’t just mean a luxurious and beautiful sofa—though that’s certainly true. Comfort extends to their people, their families and their community. Driven by a strong ethos to make the world a more comfortable place for everyone, they’ve grown from a startup of 23 employees in 1989 to a family of more than 900 today—proof that their values make good business sense.

360: How does your company’s sense of purpose manifest itself in your business?

Mitchell Gold: Bob and I want everyone in this company to feel they have equal opportunity. We want everyone to know that at work there’s no such thing as discrimination. We are a family business in the sense that we all care about each other. More than 20 years ago, we told our new head of human resources we wanted him to be an advocate for our employees, not a person they feared. People should know they can come and talk to his team. That’s been a really great part of the company.

360: When you started your business, you considered housing your organization’s corporate offices in a new building. Why did you end up deciding to keep them inside your manufacturing plant?

Bob Williams: We wanted everything that we do, whether it’s finance, product development or marketing, to work together. People have to talk to each other. It’s really worked for us. When you’re in the cafeteria, everybody’s together. In fact, in 20 years, I’ll bet we’ve only had a lunch meeting in a conference room three times. When we have guests or board meetings, we all go the cafeteria because we want to be together.

360: As your business has grown, you’ve emphasized investing in your people, adding benefits like an on-site clinic, a gym and scholarships for employee’s kids. Do these benefits help you realize business objectives?

MG: We respect our employees and, in turn, they respect us. We have really low turnover. Our motto is “Consistently Good Quality, Consistently On Time.” We can only do that with employees who know their job and are here. If you have high turnover, you’re constantly training people. We are able to run very lean because we have a consistent workforce.

BW: How can you justify the cost of some of these things? Instead of looking at them as expenses, we see them as assets because of what they add to the bottom line in terms of productivity.

We are a family business in the sense that we all care about each other.

360: You have an on-site daycare center as well. Why did you decide to take that on?

MG: I was meeting with an employee at 4 p.m. one day and realized halfway through she wasn’t paying attention. I asked why? She said “I have to pick up my son at daycare. If I get there past 5:30, they charge by the minute.” It made me say, “We need a daycare here. We shouldn’t have employees at the end of the day who can’t concentrate.” Lawyers, accountants, insurance people all had reasons why we shouldn’t. But, it’s good for business. It’s one of the best things we’ve done in our career.

BW: The daycare even attracts people who don’t have kids. We’ve had job candidates say, “I figure if you have a daycare, this has to be a good place to work. That’s why I wanted to come here.”

360: You’re both fierce advocates for the LGBTQ community and have received accolades for your bold marketing campaigns featuring diversity. How have you seen this inclusive culture impact your business?

MG: We get incredibly positive comments and I believe we do a lot of business because people have seen our advocacy and philanthropy. They want to buy from a company like ours. Even the bank we borrow money from, our investors, our business partners, they all want to be part of doing good in the world. And, they see it’s helped our profitably. At the end of the day, we want to be role models for vulnerable kids.

360: Do you see evidence that opens an inclusive culture you foster in the workplace  encourages your people to contribute ideas and take risks?

MG: We think it’s really important for people to feel comfortable failing. Work is a social activity and that takes trust. We let people know their voices and ideas matter, and ask them to speak their minds. We’re always striving to do more of that, and I think that’s a good thing. And, without a culture that breeds trust and a diversity of ideas, people aren’t going to feel safe trying something even if it doesn’t work. We believe we build on success by learning from failure.

360: You’ve committed to using sustainable materials since you started your company. Why was that so important?

MG: Within a month of starting the company, I read an article able how the ozone is being depleted and that the furniture industry in North Carolina was one of the biggest abusers. I remember calling Bob saying, “We’re going into a business that’s hurting the environment!” That led us down a road to understand what we could do. We tested new kinds of foam, rethought packaging and started sourcing wood from quick-regrowth forests. We wanted to be part of the solution.

360: You’ve said you wouldn’t put anything in your office that you wouldn’t also put in your home. Why is comfort such an important factor in workplace design?

MG: One of our mottos is, “When a home has been furnished successfully, just walking in the door is like getting a hug.” That’s what we think a lot of offices want to be like.

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How Will Artificial Intelligence Shape Our World? http://blog.hbi-inc.com/how-will-artificial-intelligence-shape-our-world/ http://blog.hbi-inc.com/how-will-artificial-intelligence-shape-our-world/#comments Mon, 25 Jun 2018 12:00:34 +0000 http://blog.hbi-inc.com/?p=18718 Continue reading ]]> How Will Artificial Intelligence Shape Our World

The FORWARD Fellowship guides designers to explore the possibilities.

The field of design is ever-evolving. Today, designers must address new client expectations and desires, all while integrating new technologies and producing creative outputs at swift speeds. The majority of technology influencing business in the next 5-10 years hasn’t hit the market yet, and if it has, little is known as to how deeply it will impact our lives. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the perfect example — it has immense potential to shift every industry but remains ambiguous for most. What will AI look like for design? How will it shape the environments we create, live in and work from? Gifted designers from across the globe have intriguing ideas.

“Design-thinking is where the future is going in business,” says Jerry Holmes, principal with Steelcase Design Alliances. Steelcase Design Alliance’s partnered with Steelcase researchers and Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Design Management Program to create the FORWARD Fellowship. Tom Hardy, Design Management professor at SCAD, believes Steelcase and SCAD are great partners in this mission. “There is something about Steelcase and the people who work there. They have the insight to do this. We’ve been focusing since the first fellowship with Steelcase on the concept of design-thinking.”

In its second cohort term, the team invite a diverse group of designers from competing firms and various countries to participate in the global design-thinking fellowship aimed at providing the design community with new methods and ways of thinking to solve the complex challenges clients face today.

The Central Question

Each tasked with solving the central question — “How might we design environments that optimize the combined capabilities of people and machines?” — four teams worked throughout the year juggling time zones and full-time jobs to research, analyze and define solutions.

Each team viewed the central question with a lens that interested them. The lenses of discovery were:

  1. Reduce stress and anxiety in the workplace
  2. Promote a positive work experience through a focus on positive behaviors and wellbeing
  3. Enhance human connection in the workplace
  4. Add value to the student experience by using AI

A Crash Course in Design-Thinking

A Crash Course in Design-Thinking

Starting off as strangers, the participants gathered for the first time last summer in Rome, Italy for a week akin to a design-thinking summer camp. Designers attend workshops co-designed and co-facilitated by SCAD’s Design Management Professors Tom Hardy and Billy Lee, and Steelcase researchers, Melanie Redman and Vanja Misic. The four leaders guided the fellows through the subjects of AI, emerging technologies and design-thinking research methods like scenario planning and the STEEP (social, technological, economic, environmental and political) framework. Once back home, fellows had access to Steelcase professional across the organization to help them navigate questions and roadblocks.

The Future of AI


The innovative ideas the fellows developed on how to leverage AI highlight how deep and wide design-thinking guides research and solutions. Teams showcased how AI personas could work intuitively to turn on a social mode for email so people get the human connection we all need to work. AI could also signal the need for team meditation and infuse biophilic elements like plants into the office when workers are stressed and wellbeing is low.

AI can do more than make things easier and shift environments based on personal preferences. The future of artificial intelligence has the potential to remove cultural and socioeconomic barriers. Speaking different languages is no longer an issue with automatic translation. Learning environments in the future can reach anyone, anywhere with immerse campuses through contact lenses and connect students with tutors and professors worldwide based on interests and needs.

The fellows demonstrated the immense positive impact AI can have on the future. It can make the world more democratic and unbiased. It can help us become healthier, happier and capable of more connect and creativity.

Closing Ceremony

Gathered in Munich for the final week of the program, fellows visited the IBM Watson to IoT Center to learn about IBM’s Augmented/Artificial Intelligence direction as well as how they are leveraging enterprised design-thinking in their business. Host, Dawn Ahukanna, along with Laura Dohle and John Vasquez guided the group. Both Ahukanna and Dohle attended the closing ceremony to hear the fellows’ final presentations and offered insightful feedback.

After final presentations, participants discussed the benefits of implementing what they learned at their individual firms. Julia Leahy noted that the STEEP framework helped her engage teammates. “I gathered a cross-disciplinary team, and we went through STEEP with post-it notes, asking, what are the drivers and coming up with imagery inspiration? It kicked the project off with really good team synergy and optimism.” James Merchant agreed, saying scenario planning, made a big impact on clients. “I’ve introduced scenario planning to my team. It gets people into the human experience, doing a storyboard and day-in-a-life scenarios. I really like doing it now with clients as well, taking them through the experience has made a huge difference.”

Redman highlights the benefit of the fellowship with, “The fellows are able to apply this process to their daily projects. It’s a chance for them to explore something completely different than what they regularly do and make new friends with people they would have never otherwise met.”

Holmes echoes Redman by emphasizing the takeaways of the program. “The richness of what we hope to accomplish is learning the skills of design-thinking. The design industry is under an assault of being commoditized. If you can elevate the game and approach critical problem solving in a different way, you have the potential to fend that off and have a new strategic approach.”


The fellows and leaders met at the Steelcase LINC in Munich, Germany for the closing ceremony.



  1. Aline Browers – HLM ARCHITECTS – Glasgow
  2. Christie Giemza – LITTLE – Raleigh
  3. Dewi Schönbeck – CSMM – Munich
  4. James Merchant – AECOM – Los Angeles
  5. Julia Leahy – IA – Boston
  6. Katie Lin – IA – London
  7. Laura Langlois – ARP ASTRANCE – Paris
  8. Lonneke Leijnse – HEYLIGERS – Amsterdam
  9. Yelena Mokritsky – HOK – NY

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Data Privacy. By Design. http://blog.hbi-inc.com/data-privacy-by-design/ http://blog.hbi-inc.com/data-privacy-by-design/#comments Mon, 11 Jun 2018 21:42:26 +0000 http://blog.hbi-inc.com/?p=18670 Continue reading ]]> Date Privacy - By Design

The benefits of a connected world—greater innovation, growth and prosperity—will not be realized unless people can trust that data being collected is managed and analyzed responsibly.

“As data becomes the key resource for every business, the security and privacy of data becomes every organization’s concern.”

STUART BERMAN | IT Security architect at Steelcase

Data Privacy in a Connected World by Design

The Smallest Actions Can Have the Biggest Implications

Every day we trade private communication about ourselves inreturn for digital devices. We make an online purchase, use a search engine, or download an app, and Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and others harvest data about where we go, what we buy, who we interact with online.

For many people this is a reasonable trade, data for services that make life easier, more interesting, more fun. Others are less comfortable about this tradeoff. Yet everyone expects their personal data to remain private and secure.

“Privacy in the workplace used to be about audio privacy, visual privacy, territorial privacy and informational privacy,” says Steelcase Senior Design Researcher, Melanie Redman. “These are types of privacy people say they need in order to focus.”

“What’s changed is how we think about informational privacy: now we think about data privacy and about psychological privacy, because our perception of privacy impacts all of our other experiences. Privacy is more contextual in the workplace, more personal and a topic of growing importance in every organization.”

Privacy in a Connected World

Privacy is not a new issue for Steelcase. The company has conducted research on privacy in the workplace for over two decades, and three years ago began to study digital privacy issues.

“Organizations have made assumptions about digital privacy, but those assumptions had never been tested. The assumption was that people are willing to trade personal data in return for services, such as web searches or connecting with other via social media, so they would be willing to make the same trade at work. In other words, they would allow the collection of data in return for helpful business services. We wanted to test those assumptions,” says Redman.

Date Privacy. By Design.

Date Privacy. By Design.

Steelcase surveyed 3,000 people around the world about privacy concerns in the workplace. A major finding: employees’ attitudes about privacy are remarkably consistent across geography, gender and demographics. This calls into question popular notions about privacy, such as assuming younger workers, who constantly share information via social media, are less concerned about data privacy. It turns out that privacy attitudes don’t vary age; they vary by the type of organization people work in, and by the ways people work.

Attitudes about privacy differ, for example, based on how mobile a worker is, how readily they adopt new technology or how collaborative they are in their work.

Two dimensions of privacy have moved to the forefront for employees. One is being able to control stimulation and distraction, a fallout from more open workplaces and the use of mobile devices. It’s hard to find quiet, private time and harder to disconnect from work. Controlling stimulation can be accomplished through the physical workplace and Steelcase has many strategies to help companies provide places for privacy, rest and rejuvenation.

Privacy in a Connected World003

Space measurement and analysis tools designed to improve the workplace must include leading-edge privacy protections that anonymize user data.

The second ascendant issue is controlling information. The proliferation of data and the increased ease of aggregating and deriving value from it mean it’s harder to control who has our information and what’s done with it. Losing control over your data causes anxiety because controlling your information is essential to privacy.

“The world is increasingly digital and data driven and we’re rapidly entering a future where everything will be connected. As data becomes the key resource for every business, the security and privacy of data becomes every organization’s concern,” says Stuart Berman, IT security architect at Steelcase.

To ensure the responsible collection, analysis, and management of data, Steelcase designs all of its technology products to strict privacy and security standards. “We know how important it is for companies, and individuals, to control their information. So before we developed any digital products at Steelcase, we establish company principles of privacy by design, and data security by design,” says Barbara Hiemstra, Steelcase privacy engineer.

Meet Steelcase’s Privacy Engineer

High-profile security breaches, social medial user tracking, protecting and securing data from cyber attacks: The realities of the connected world have led to an emerging profession, the privacy engineer, an increasingly common position at web and software companies. Barbara Hiemstra is one of the first privacy engineers in the office furniture industry.

“I’m part of the IT security team that interacts with researchers, designers, software developers, legal experts and others to help ensure that privacy is an integral part of the design process. We recommend privacy-enhancing technologies to mitigate privacy risks, conduct privacy-related risk assessments and help integrate privacy into the software engineering lifecycle,” says Heimstra.

Her team also informs users in cyber hygiene: individual behaviors to maintain a “healthy” (secure) online presence. This includes password maintenance, software and virus protection updates, data backups and other strategies. The content is made available to Steelcase dealers, who in turn can offer it to customers.

“Big data is an awesome tool, but it comes with a big responsibility,” warns Hiemstra.

Steelcase Workplace Advisor

Steelcase’s Workplace Advisor collects data about how the workplace is used in order to help organizations understand how to best use their real estate.

 User-Centric Design

This approach stems from Steelcase’s longstanding user-centered design process for developing new products. “We don’t create a chair, for example, based on what we believe the customer wants. We talk to them first, we go into the field, we observe how people work, the issue they have. We draw insights from those observations, and we engineer and design around those insights. So we do the same work before we develop our digital products,” says Redman.

One of Steelcase’s first digital products, introduced in 2017, is Workplace Advisor. It collects data about how the workplace is used in order to help organizations understand how to best use their real estate and create more effective workplaces.

“We are completely transparent about all the customer data Workplace Advisor collects, how we use it, how we secure it. We want our customers to completely understand the process,” says Shawn Hamacher, assistant general counsel at Steelcase.

“Privacy by design means we build privacy into the product. You don’t try to bolt it on afterwards. Privacy is part of each digital product’s DNA.”

To safeguard the confidentiality and privacy of the data collected by Workplace Advisor, Steelcase uses the Microsoft Azure IoT platform with its strong security and privacy guarantee. In addition, Workplace Advisor systems will be audited against the Service Organization Controls (SOC 2) framework. Developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, this includes third-party audits and reports available to Steelcase customers who use Workplace Advisor.

Workplace Advisor

“We are completely transparent about all the customer data Workplace Advisor collects, how we use it, how we secure it.” – Shawn Hamacher, Steelcase Assistant General Counsel


A Global Standard

Privacy standards evolve, of course. For example, Europe recently has taken the lead in digital privacy by establishing the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, which went into effect in May. GDPR increases privacy protection for all individuals in the European Union. Steelcase will comply with GDPR for all of its digital products customers, not only those in Europe but around the world.

“It’s the most stringent standard globally for data privacy and security, and we’re using it for all our customers’ data. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Steelcase customer in Europe, Asia, Africa, North or South America, any country—our digital products will comply with GDPR,” says Berman.

Product DNA

“Privacy by design means we build privacy into the product. You don’t try to bolt it on afterwards. Privacy is part of each digital product’s DNA.” – Shawn Hamacher


“We want all of our customers to understand that privacy and security by design means transparency in how we operate, how data is gathered and used, and how we protect that data,” adds Hamacher.

The same applies to all Steelcase digital products, including Steelcase Find, a mobile app that helps people quickly locate workspaces and colleagues, which makes it easier to connect and collaborate the core work of the innovation economy.

“High expectations and tough requirements have always been part of the development at Steelcase,” says Steve Rodden, who heads the development team for Smart + Connected products. “As a company, we’re used to dealing with regulatory guidelines, quality standards and different compliance issues for furniture. We want to not just meet basic standards. We want to be excellent in those areas, so we set even higher design, engineering and manufacturing requirements of our own. It’s the same with digital products. We want to lead in data privacy and security, so it was an easy decision for us to set stringent data privacy and security standards as part of our development process.”

Business runs on data. Every time we trade information for a digital product, we help fuel the new global economy. Users must be able to rely on organizations to be fully transparent about how they collect, store and analyze that data.

It’s important that our customers understand that the everyday transactions of data in exchange for helpful services rest on a foundation of privacy and security,” says Hamacher. “We’ve stood behind our products for over 100 years and that’s going to change because it’s a digital product. How we operate is how we’ve always done business. It’s all about trust.”

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Four Ways TED2018 Will Make You Think http://blog.hbi-inc.com/four-ways-ted2018-will-make-you-think/ http://blog.hbi-inc.com/four-ways-ted2018-will-make-you-think/#comments Mon, 21 May 2018 11:00:45 +0000 http://blog.hbi-inc.com/?p=18580 Continue reading ]]> Four Ways TED2018 Will Make You Think

TED2018 tackled the future of artificial intelligence, the fate of humanity, the design of cities and its own Audacious Project.


Eighteen minutes. That’s just 1080 seconds to capture the attention of your audience and inspire them to do great things. This year, TED2018 invited people behind “jaw-dropping AI, glorious new forms of creativity and courageous advocates of radical social change” to take the TED stage for its marquee conference titled “The Age of Amazement.” As Steelcase vice president of strategy, research and digital transformation, I was among the audience in Vancouver. A number of clear themes emerged as the conference unfolded.

Artificial Intelligence

It’s no surprise that one of those themes artificial intelligence. Spectacular tech demonstrations have always been a feature of the TED stage, and that was true again this year. For example, I watched Google’s Supasorn Suwajanakorn show incredibly realistic videos of former President Barack Obama speaking — videos created entirely by an AI model (Visit “Synthesizing Barack Obama“).

This year at TED, however, an even bigger theme than AI was what role AI should play in our society. Suwajanakorn’s video raised the question of how we’ll know in the future what is real and what is not if AI can create realistic video, audio and images. Yuval Noah Harari posed the question: Could AI threaten democracy? If information is concentrated in the hands of a few, could AI be created that knows an individual so well, it can manipulate that person and his or her views and feelings without the person knowing it. In light of recent debates about the role of social media in society, the question of how we can avoid allowing ourselves to be manipulated by those who control data is a timely one.

Jeron Lanier’s solution to the challenge surrounding data control is to rewind the clock. He believes the single biggest mistake made in the development of the modern Internet was to make the internet free and public. The only way to have a free and public internet that also supports viable business models is to adopt the advertising model We get free access in exchange for tech companies using our data to facilitate advertisers’ targeting of ads. Jeron argues that what started in the 1990s as advertising has now become behavior modification on a mass scale that he sees as a threat to society as we know it. The solution Lanier proposes is to adopt a paid model for search, social media and other online tools. He suggests television is the model to follow – where many argue the best content being created is supported through paid models such as Netflix and HBO.

MIT’s Cesar Hidalgo took the conversation about AI in society a step further. He asks: Could AI by used to automate politicians? Hidalgo argues that representative democracy has a very bad user interface, which means we don’t use it as much as we could. What if the future of democracy is a direct democracy, where all citizens participate in decision-making through our individual AI agents? These agents would know us so well they could represent our views and make votes on our behalf.

The Survival of Humanity

While the future of AI and its impact on society is enough to keep us up at night, TED also tackled an even bigger question: How do we ensure the continued survival of humanity?

Will MacAskill, a moral philosopher at Oxford, said that effective altruism and philanthropy should be aimed at big, solvable and neglected problems. He argued that among the issues that fit these criteria are existential risks such as global warming, pandemic, or nuclear war that threaten humanity’s survival.

Writer Charles Mann challenged the idea that people are special relative to all other living creatures. Many would argue that our specialness comes from our ability to develop collective knowledge and to work collaboratively to solve problems. If that’s true, Mann asked, are we authentically using our knowledge and ability to collaborate in order to ensure the long-term future of humanity? He feels that humans could do better.

Economist Kate Raworth pointed out that going forward and upward is the most basic human instinct. Whether it’s a baby’s desire to sit, stand and then walk or a parent’s hope to give her child a better life, we have an innate human obsession with growth. Why? Raworth argues our economies and entire way of life is now dependent on unending growth. Whether it be a company’s quest for more revenue, a country’s desire to increase GDP, or an employee’s hope for a raise, she believes this is an unsustainable addiction. She offered ideas for how we might create economies that are regenerative and distributive by design to help end structural dependence on growth.

Lastly, Stephen Webb, a physicist, looked to the stars and all of the scientific work that suggests the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe and asked: “Where is everyone?” If our universe is vast and there are other life forms out there, why haven’t we found them or vice versa? Through a compelling set of facts and a scientific argument, Webb shared with us his conclusion: “I think we are alone.” If the human race is the only life in the universe, then all the more reason to get to work on tackling the issues that threaten the survival of our species.

Designing Cities

TED wasn’t entirely about questions of existential proportion. Designers and artists had their moment as well.

Architect Vishaan Chakrabarti highlighted a tension. He said living in a city is most healthy for the planet (city dwellers have a fraction of the carbon footprint as do those in more rural areas), but city living is being beset by a creeping sameness. The office building or apartment block being put up in your city is almost indistinguishable from similar towers going up in cities around the world. Chakrabarti offered ideas for designing cities that are more prosperous, sustainable and joyous.

Curator Nora Atkinson discussed the Burning Man festival and treated us to a fantastic photography of what happens when people are inspired to create art for themselves rather than to satisfy the art market. And, engineer and bridge builder Ian Firth, made structural engineering more interesting than I could have ever imagined and shared photos of bridges around the world that took my breath away.

The Audacious Project

Lastly, this year TED introduced an initiative called The Audacious Project, aimed at making concrete progress on the kinds of issues that are often raised at TED. The Audacious Project team has been vetting ideas to solve big problems and working with a group of philanthropists to identify the projects with the best plans and likelihood of success. The TED organization is leveraging the TED community and its network to raise massive dollars to put behind these projects, $406 million committed to date. That’s philanthropy on a major scale!

The founders or leaders of the five projects being piloted in this program presented their ideas and I found their collective work truly inspiring. The five are:

  • GirlTrek is the United States’ largest public health nonprofit for African American women and girls. In a country where 50% of American American women are obese and dying premature deaths at an alarming rate, GirlTrek encourages women to use walking as a practice first step to inspire healthy living, families and communities. With the support of TED, GirlTrek plans to mobilize and train 10,000 community volunteers to create GirlTrek chapters in their communities.
  • Sightsavers’ Caroline Harper is an advocate for the visually impaired. She shared her plan to create an army of community health workers in a handful of African countries to eradicate trachoma, a painful blindness-causing infection that can be treated or avoided with simple measures.
  • Environmental Defense Fund and its president Fred Krupp announced a plan to use The Audacious Project funding to help combat global warming by stopping leakages of methane from a variety of sources.
  • Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and ocean scientist Heidi M. Soski are receiving a grant to study and preserve a unique layer of the ocean known as the twilight zone. Not only is the work compelling, but Heidi shared amazing (if somewhat scary-looking) photographs of creatures that live in the deep, deep ocean.
  • The Bail Project | Poverty is not a crime and Robin Steinberg opened our eyes to what she describes as a bail system out of control in the United States. While bail was first introduced centuries ago for a specific purpose, she believes that system has turned into something else: a two-tier system of justice in America, where those who cannot afford bail are incarcerated. The Bail Project aims to combat mass incarceration by disrupting the money bail system.

All of these people and projects were inspiring, and you can read more about The Audacious Project on TED’s website.

To learn how a TED Talk inspired a recent Steelcase innovation, read Steelcase Unveils Limited-Edition SILQ Chairs for TED.

Written By:

Sara Armbruster

For Steelcase


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A Two-Part Equation for Active Learning http://blog.hbi-inc.com/a-two-part-equation-for-active-learning/ http://blog.hbi-inc.com/a-two-part-equation-for-active-learning/#comments Fri, 11 May 2018 22:00:28 +0000 http://blog.hbi-inc.com/?p=18559 Continue reading ]]> A Two-Part Equation for Active Learning

Three recipients of the Steelcase Active Learning Center Grant share ingredients fro implementing a successful active learning initiative.

Active Learning’s Two-Part Equation

Active Learning Center results included fewer poorly-performing students, more highly-rated teachers and, at one school, 100 percent of the teachers surveyed wanted to use the Active Learning Center again. These are just a few of the positive results three former Steelcase Education Active Learning Center Grant (ALC) Grant) recipients shared at this year’s ELI Annual Meeting — a place where higher education institutions and organizations committed to advancing learning through information technology innovation come together everyday.

Connecticut’s Fairfield University, California State University Los Angeles, and St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas were already developing active learning pedagogies when Steelcase Education awarded them ALC Grants in 2015. As they shared their learnings with fellow educators at ELI, they concluded active learning can be boiled down to a simple equation:

Mobile Classroom + Active Pedagogy
Positive Student and Teacher Outcomes

Mobile Classroom

In Fairfield’s active learning classroom, students face each other toward the center of the room. Verb whiteboards and Thread portable power distribution provide places for group work with technology throughout the room. The mobile Node chairs and Verb tables let students easily work in groups and the Verb easel helps display ideas.

CANISIUS 9 from Fairfield University on Vimeo.

After Fairfield University installed their ALC classroom in 2015, professors began to adapt to the mobile and flexible spaces that had no traditional ‘front.” The active learning classroom eliminates the front-and-center instructor station, abolishes standard rows of students, and integrates whiteboards and technology tools throughout the space. By being able to move tables and chairs, they could create configurations that engaged students, and with no ‘front’ to the classroom they could increase student involvement.

“There is no front and no back. Nobody can hide,” says one professor. Fairfield now gets rid of the traditional classroom ‘front’ in nearly every classroom on campus and recommends this as a great first step for any active learning initiative.

“The furniture is an essential component of the classroom that really grabs people’s attention and creates a fluid environment for learning,” said Jay Rozgonyi, Fairfield Director of Academic Computing & Learning Technologies. “The furniture has become a catalyst for this whole project which when combined with technology re-imagines teaching.”

Active Pedagogy

While mobile classrooms can enhance and encourage active learning, it’s the second element of the equation that shifts teaching practices – active pedagogy. Cal State LA, another ALC Grant recipient, set up a pilot classroom to test mobile furniture. But, they found educators left to their own devices weren’t maximizing the classroom’s potential. Cal State LA established a faculty development strategy that included an active learning workshop to help faculty feel comfortable moving around in the active learning classroom, teaching in a room with no ‘front’ and integrating tools and technology into their classroom activities.

“My goal is for them to feel like an active learning rockstar so they can get up at the end of this workshop and comfortably orchestrate active learning activities in the active space,” said Beverly Bondad-Brown, director of Academic Technology at Cal State LA’s Center for Effective Teaching and Learning (CETL). Workshop exercises included designing an ideal active learning classroom, sorting a deck of cards with active learning exercises and brainstorming on an active learning session planning sheet.

“Faculty may try something, and if one little thing goes awry, then they may feel like they’re just don with active learning altogether,” said Bondad-Brown. “The (planning) sheet prompts them to consider all aspects of their activity so that they won’t miss something, have a poor experience and abandon active learning. They walk away more confident.”

Positive Student and Teacher Outcomes

Positive Student and Teacher Outcomes

Dr. Tricia Shepherd brought years of experience with active learning to St. Edward’s. Along with her fellow panelists, she sees a positive change in attitudes and behavior since implementing an active learning classroom. She says students are very thoughtful about using the space to improve their learning. At the ELI Annual Meeting, Shepherd and the other educators shared how the sum of these active learning initiatives resulted in a successful active learning experience for teachers and students.

Cal State University Los Angeles

  • For some classes, Cal State LA also saw a dramatic decrease in DFW (grades D, F or withdrawals) rates, from 18.1 percent to 3.45 percent, when teaching a course in the active learning classroom.
  • Students with an instructor trained through the Cal State LA workshop were two times more likely to rate the instructor highly effective in helping them learning course material.
  • Students reported an increase in comfort, collaboration, engagement with content, as well as more stimulation and interest in the new active classroom.
  • Teachers reported feeling “more energized” and students didn’t want class to end.

Fairfield University

  • 100 percent of teachers who taught in the active learning classroom said they wanted to teach their again.
  • 35 percent of class time now spent with students actively engaged in small group work, whole class discussion or presenting to classmates.
  • Teachers noted a stronger classroom learning community and enhanced student relationships since not all eyes were directed toward the professor all the time.
  • Professors reported increased satisfaction and motivation for teaching in the updated classroom.

St. Edward’s University

  • DFW rate went from 29 percent to 22 percent with the only changed variable being the active learning classroom.
  • Professors used more active learning practices than in previous years simply by having access to the active, mobile room.

These outcomes were all attributed to the successful implementation of each factor in the active learning equation. Find out more research and outcomes from previous grant recipients.

Steelcase Education awarded grants to another 16 schools in the most recent Active Learning Center Grant cycle. Learn more about the program and sign up to be notified when the next cycle begins.

Written By:

Tylee Bush

For Steelcase


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Global Trends Influence Seven New Colors http://blog.hbi-inc.com/global-trends-influence-seven-new-colors/ http://blog.hbi-inc.com/global-trends-influence-seven-new-colors/#comments Mon, 23 Apr 2018 12:00:20 +0000 http://blog.hbi-inc.com/?p=18433 Continue reading ]]> Global Trends Influence Seven New Colors

No matter where we live, technology allows us to experience the world like never before. Our innate curiosity can be satisfied on a whim. We can connect to people, pictures and live video from almost anywhere. We can import portions of the world at will and it’s exciting. We live in an age of plurality — a world full of color, texture and inspiration.

Julie Yonehara, Steelcase surface materials designer, works with teams based in Michigan, Munich and Hong Kong to understand why certain design directions are gaining traction and what people need in the workplace. Yonehara is seeing connections emerge between the broad themes of culture and identity, globalization, biophilia — people’s innate desire to be close to nature — creativity and how technology is influencing every aspect of our lives, tying everything together. The intersection of the drivers making up these big trends informed the creation of seven new accent color palettes for furniture recently added to Steelcase’s growing portfolio.


Aubergine is a subtle, sophisticated and tinted neutral. (Photo courtesy: Zara Walker)


In today’s workplace, people are seeking places that make them feel happy, comfortable or inspired. Demands are higher because people are spending more time with technology and working longer hours. They’re also growing more sophisticated in what they like as a result of what they experience through technology and social media. More than ever, it’s the perfect time to add more color choices for workplace designers.

“The colors represent the cultural shift in how and where work is taking place. There’s more informal spaces where people can feel good like they do at home,” says Yonehara. “Color and materiality can reinforce the mood and intended use of a space. Color helps communicate permissions of the space.”


New Accent Colors

Discover how materiality can make a difference in the workplace download inspiration.

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As the Suface Materials team explored what colors to add to their portfolio, they captured inspirations from around the world.

New Color Palettes

New Color Palettes

Paint, plastic and textiles render color differently because of texture and the material content in them. The Surface Materials team took care to make sure each color is applied in a way that it appears its most beautiful on each material.

New Color Palettes002

Peacock is inspired by nature and more sophisticated than existing alternatives. Celebrating the prominence of blues and greens in design, Peacock strikes a powerful balance and is a fan favorite among designers.

New Color Palettes003

Lagoon is inspired by the environment. It’s sun faded quality is influenced by wabi-sabi, a Japanese aesthetic based off nature and imperfection.

New Color Palettes004

New Color Palettes005

Aubergine is a subtle, sophisticated and tinted neutral. It offers a darker option for respite and pause without being overly saturated.

New Color Palettes006

Merlot has its roots in biophilia, yet pairs well with futuristic settings as well by providing a darker accent. It’s rich sophisticated sets it apart creating a moodier feel.

New Color Palettes007

Honey is inspired by nature as well as cultural roots tied to the culinary arts. It creates a feeling of warmth.

New Color Palettes008

Saffron communicates authenticity. It’s replicating sunbaked colors and referencing spices as well as trends using terra cotta in interior spaces.

Technology + Culture

Yonohara is seeing the intersection of technology and culture contributing to the themes of culture and identity, globalization and creativity.

“Dynamic culture tribalism is happening through technology,” she says. “We look at social media to assemble our own identities through an emotional response. This mesh of culture and technology is defining a shared language and point of view.”

At the same time, traditional craft is being rethought and reinvented with new materiality and technology elevating what we know about making. There’s a layering of past, present and future. Earthy colors are being paired with synthetic accents to create a jarring juxtaposition.

Physical + Digital

Technology and artificial intelligence are becoming more empathetic and emotional. The boundaries between the physical and the digital are starting to blur to create a new breed of hybridization. We’re already seeing the visualization of people to create an emotional response — consider emojis. And, robots that make us smile or care for us — think of Jibo, a robot that dances. This synthetic reality is another driver impacting the theme of creativity, according to Yonehara. She’s seeing colors derived from nature being dialed up. And, brilliant hyper-natural colors evolve from palettes found in nature.

Biophilia + Authenticity

Biophilia + Auntheticity

Inspired by nature, Peacock celebrates the prominence of blues and greens in design. It strikes a powerful balance and is a designer favorite. (Courtesy: Andre Mouton)


In contrast to trends driven by technology, Yonehara is seeing an elevation of environmental consciousness. People are seeking authenticity and are drawn to biophilia. This equating to quieter, calmer spaces connecting people to materials and elevating recycled goods as luxury items — consider beautiful reclaimed wood such as Planked Veneer or closed loop textiles such as New Black. Sunbaked, raw and faded colors synonymous with nature embrace bringing the outdoors inside and help connect people to materials as they evolve over time in nature.

Wellbeing + Respite

As people work longer hours and engage more frequently with technology, luxury is being defined by privacy and being able to turn off. Attention spans are shortening, reducing productivity and damaging wellbeing. Finding time for self is crucial. Decluttering the mind benefits creativity and helps people feel better. This is leading to an evolution of biophilia and hygge (pronounced HOO-gah), the Danish concept of coziness, in the workplace. Colors emerging from this driver or amplify light and how spaces can reflect or absorb sound, for example. Spaces are being designed to create tactile environments that help people feel centered and calm.

It’s this layering and plurality of trends, themes and influences that are informing the broader color choices now available for today’s workplace.


New Accent Colors

Discover how materiality can make a difference in the workplace and download inspiration photography.

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* Lead photo courtesy: Peter Gabas

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