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LEAD Innovation Blog

Read our latest articles on innovation management and innovation in a wide range of industries.

Date: 03-Jul-2019
Posted by: Wolfgang PAUSER

How innovative furniture for the waiting room is created


For a long time, the office furniture manufacturer Neudoerfler had limited itself to its core area and bought in marginal phenomena such as waiting room sofas and chairs. A first exception to this principle was the "Welcome" office couch - it corresponded to the spirit of the 80s and 90s: office benches primarily had the function of showing prestige. They should look as "design" as possible, the word "designer couch" was very popular. The question of whether one can also sit on it was far below the dignity of a representative reception area.

But when society and its values change, you not only have the chance for successful innovation, you even have to react in order not to be left behind. Neudoerfler commissioned the designer duo KIM+HEEP to thoroughly rethink the waiting room sofa in order to develop not only a new pretty form for the successor product "Welcome II", but also a fundamentally new concept.

"We found it contradictory to call a reception couch "Welcome" without taking care that the guest really feels comfortable and welcome and began to investigate the functional deficits to date. How does an office sofa have to be designed that does not work for the needs of the office but for its visitors", explains designer Mia Kim, explaining her approach: "In all areas of society, people and their emotions have become more important. This can already be seen at the counters, which used to be higher in order to place the company hierarchically above the customer and build up a barrier that should impress and intimidate the customer. Today they are built lower because they want to communicate with customers better at eye level and not from above. Companies look for customer contact, without high barriers this succeeds much better!"
Designer-Duo Mia Kim und Nikolas Heep mit ihrem Neudoerfler Sofa „New Welcome“

Designer duo Mia Kim and Nikolas Heep with their Neudoerfler sofa "New Welcome

picture source: Neudoerfler / KIM+HEEP

Customers are in an unpleasant situation, especially at bank counters. He faces a person who knows everything about his financial management and on whom he is dependent. One feels insecure and at the mercy of others. Low switch situations also help to lower the thresholds of customer communication. Not only banks, but also many other institutions and companies have recognized that the well-being of their customers is more important than their own, and reacts accordingly.

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Neudoerfler / KIM+HEEPpicture source: Neudoerfler / KIM+HEEP

Mia Kim and Nikolas Heep decided to lead the waiting furniture back to its function in order to take account of the new role and communication behaviour between offices and their customers. They started expeditions through the waiting rooms of various institutions, tested the seats for an hour at a time and listed their functional deficits. "The fact that Niko is particularly tall and I am particularly small helped us," explains Korean Mia Kim in her Test Setting: "If you sit too low, you look stupid and helpless and you have trouble getting up. That is why we wanted to determine the optimum measurements for feeling good even after one hour of waiting. For now, we didn't care about the formal style. Only when we knew the functional dimensions did we begin with the design. We wanted to intervene as little as possible in terms of design and draw attention to the form, so that you can see on the sofa that the company is holding back and does not want more than to give the customer a place that is neutral, functional and pleasant for him".

Neudoerfler / KIM+HEEP

picture source: Neudoerfler / KIM+HEEP

The designers' formative intervention was therefore limited to details such as seams, softness, material, etc. This resulted in two variants, one rounded and one angular. In doing so, KIM + HEEP refuted the prejudice of many companies against designers that they were primarily attractive, eye-catching, create sculptures that were of little use, imprint their style and self-realise themselves at the client's expense. A new function-oriented approach to waiting room seating was designed for Neudörfler - the innovation was precisely to design innovative furniture in a restrained and even unobtrusive way, rather than design it.

KIM+HEEP mit Warteraum-Sofa „Parts Two“ von Neudoerfler

KIM+HEEP with "Parts Two" waiting room sofa by Neudoerfler

picture source: Neudoerfler / KIM+HEEP

However, it was not only a matter of improving the function, but also the social significance, the psychological state of mind and the message to the customer: "We take ourselves back politely because it is all about your feeling of welcome! Of course, a purely functional piece of furniture only has this significance in a certain historical context, in the current case the contrasting concept of previous waiting furniture. "Form Follows Function" alone would not have been enough - only with the break of tradition was it possible to take an innovative step with "Form Follows Function Again".
Neudoerfler / KIM+HEEP

picture source: Neudoerfler / KIM+HEEP

The fact that comfortable sofas are in demand in offices today is due to the long-term social trend to design offices not so strict and normative anymore, but freer, more comfortable, more individual and aimed at feeling good. For example, the old custom that desks are tidied up early in the morning by cleaning staff has come to an end - today everyone tidies up their workplace themselves or not: chaos is accepted as an individual style of work, if not even as "creative chaos". As the office ambience approaches the living space, more and more functional and stylistic office elements are also moving into the living space. The separation of work and living is increasingly dissolving - a trend that will continue to provide impetus for future innovations not only in office furniture but also in home furniture for a long time to come.

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Image Source Cover Picture: Bildquelle Titelbild: https://pixabay.com/de/photos/couch-sofa-m%C3%B6bel-m%C3%B6belst%C3%BCck-relax-447484/

Wolfgang PAUSER

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