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HON HQ - Office Insight

HON HQ - Office Insight

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Published by crestdavid

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Published by: crestdavid on Mar 30, 2011
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Business savvy 
is becoming an important subject inthe A&D community, even if for some it only means
nding a job or re-thinking a career. Out-of-work de-sign professionals are encouraged to beef up theircredentials, learn BIM, etc.
This advice is, hopefully, a projection of what A&Drms are telling themselves. But useful businesssavvy has to go much deeper than developing skill-sets. What is required is the development of new atti-tudes and perspectives that will distinguish designersand design rms from other professionals. That will
require a realization that, for the most part, becoming
a little more inventive or creative in traditional designskills will not do the trick. A 10-25% improvementin this area may well be noticeable to designers andtheir colleagues – and maybe the magazines whichthey hope will publish their projects – but most clientswill not notice the differences and, even if they do,these differences will probably not be deemed mate-rial. Most people cannot tell the difference betweengood design and great design, except that a gooddeal of the population will nd great design repug-nant. (See the San Francisco Federal Building by
Thom Mane
and Morphosis.)The task ahead in these difcult times (and thoseto come), therefore, may not have the curb appealthat invites designers to explore, but once a footholdis established, most design professionals will seethe points of interest and the challenge of develop-ing new business perspectives. My rst suggestionis to understand that the rst, and perhaps the only,objective of a business is to create a customer. To dothis, one must understand the interests, concernsand values of your clients. While there is much talkabout educating the public about design, in its aes-thetic sense, that is pretty much a dead end. Not all,but most of your clients will be pretty much left-braintypes, both by natural inclination and experience, andtrying to get them to see the world as a designer doesis pretty much a triumph of hope over experience,and it certainly is not going to happen during a proj-ect pitch. You might as well try teaching them to sing.(This is not to say that clients and their employees willnot be able to appreciate the work, when completed.Anyone can enjoy good music.)
Sadly, architects and designers will have to spendthe time and effort learning their clients’ language,and like any other language, it takes a lot of workand effort. But we do have some suggestions.Read
The Wall Street Journal 
The Financial Times 
and your local
Crain’s Business 
-tion, every business day. The value of this cannotbe over-emphasized. Just out of law school, I wasinvited to a partners’ luncheon to become ac-
Return To Muscatine
by Brad Powell
quainted with members of the rm atwhich I worked; it was a big one. Theconversations were
Greek to me 
The Wall Street Journal 
was the RosettaStone, since that day’s news was whateveryone was talking about. (I startedreading the WSJ; well, not the wholething.)
The HON Compan
Another valuable resource can be
summed up in a single word, some-
thing familiar to most:
, The
 companies, generally, but
The HONCompan
is a great place to start. Again,
I pass along my experience with HON.I have learned many things from manycontract furniture manufacturers, but Ihave learned more about business andmarkets from HON. Also, the degree towhich the HNI companies are willing totalk about their business methods, atleast generally, is extraordinary.
Since HON is still the big revenueengine of HNI, the second largestU.S. contract furniture manufacturer, I
usually assume that most commercial
designers are familiar with the com-pany. But, recently, I spoke to an ex-perienced and well-regarded architect/ interior designer who had never heard
HON. Amazing! That’s sort of like aJaguar designer never having heardof Toyota (or maybe that’s been theproblem). Of course, many architectsand designers are aware of HON, butmay not be much interested in thecompany or its products. At the sametime, HON historically hasn’t expendedmany resources to enable designers tobecome familiar with it. I think that’s
going to change.Designers frequently tell me that
they could create a great space with afew buckets of paint and some orangecrates. Having seen several of themat work, I tend to accept that notion,at least guratively. A logical follow-upquestion to the design community is:Assuming that you could obtain goodquality furniture, how would you like to
see a greater percentage of a project
budget allocated to design services bydiminishing the amount allocated tofurniture? Then again, how would youlike to see your revenues increase by50 - 100% by servicing the hundredsof thousands of businesses that havenever seen a designer’s touch? (See
What Interior Design? 
, this issue.)
Thinking about these questions ledme to wonder, “What would a well-de-signed space using only HON furniturelook like?” I soon found out. HON com-pleted the renovation of its headquar-ters in Muscatine earlier this year andinvited me to take a look. I loved it.Probably as many people wouldlaugh at the idea of going to Muscatine,IA, as they would at the notion of buy-ing HON products. That would be a bigmistake. True, it’s not an easy trip: yto Detroit, Dallas or Chicago (well, bet-ter not Chicago), then to the Quad Cit-ies, which interestingly consists of vecities, one of which is Rock Island (youknow, of 
Rock Island Line,
by Lead-belly, The Weavers and Johnny Cash).
Nonetheless, it’s a surprisingly painlessexperience and, upon your arrival, yourhosts are gracious and welcoming andyou learn a great deal, not just aboutHON, but about how the people therethink and why they do what they do.
Frankly, I didn’t know what to expectof the headquarters renovation, evenwondering who the company employedto do the design. I need not have wor-ried. “The renovation process was trulya collaborative effort between HONand
The SmithGroup
[Chicago],” said
Tim Smith
, vice president of work-place environment for The HON Com-pany. “Our team at HON created thevision and ideation for the new facility;and we had a valuable partner in TheSmithGroup to assist with the creativeprocess and to turn our ideas into real-ity. The result is a genuine showplacefor the HON brand – it celebrates HONas a leader in the industry and willleave guests with a strong understand-ing of who The HON Company is andof our vision for the future.”
Angie Lee
has worked with HONsince she and her former rm, AREA,were asked to help with the HONChicago showroom design a few yearsago. Since then, Ms. Lee joined theSmithGroup’s Chicago ofce andis now vice president and nationaldirector of Workplace Design. She alsorecruited
Rod Vickro
from Perkins +Will, who I previously met as part of the P+W team working on the
headquarters renovation. This pairwas joined by
Aileen Sancho
to form
the HON headquarters design team.When asked about HON products, Mr.Vickroy said, “
Michelle Oama
to mind: She is often seen in someincredible gowns, but for day-to-day,she prefers J Crew. HON products give95% of what is provided by more ex-pensive brands, while giving designersmore of the budget to design with.”
Well, for all of its striking appearance,the new HON headquarters is denitelymore J Crew than
Naeem Khan
, andlike HON, suitable for work. “Our visionthroughout the renovation process,”said Mr. Smith, “was to transform ourfacility into a collaborative and vibrantworkplace that demonstrates the es-sence of the HON brand.”
While originally contemplating a
new building, HON was able to saveconsiderable amounts by reworking itsexisting headquarters. This turned outto be a good nancial decision, andpushed the project in a great direction.The old headquarters was just that, old… in fact 100 years old. The 68,000

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