KI NeoCon 2013
By Brad Powell
It's been two years now that Shawn Green has been Director of Design and the experience has been "fantastic," to use his word. And, not to pretend to be a design critic, his effect upon product design has been noticeable and favorable.
This year, KI's array of introductions bear witness to Mr. Green's influence, both in aesthetic and approach. Interestingly, KI's historical areas of emphasis have been government, education and healthcare, with additional strengths on moveable walls and textiles (Pallas). While continuing in these areas, the company this year is highlighting its corporate offering, not with a single product, but with a collection that hits mainstream thinking. The Connection Zone is a benching system, yes, but more notable for being a collection of products that integrate well into the more complex work environment of today.
The "zone" designation picks up from Gensler's well-known workplace research and its identified work modes. In like manner, the Connection Zone "addresses the human element of workspace and how the right 'zones' foster improved performance. Focus zones, retreat zones, social zones, ideation zones and storage zones are all key areas with discrete needs that are met with Connection Zone."
Uniformity of the workplace - symbolized by designing on the grid - has given way to a new, and realistic, form of flexibility. No longer do we focus on the old-time moves-adds-and changes, which were no more than a moving from one static position to another. Now we have a new form of fluidity that may not make for the best still photos that have represented interiors in the past, but make for a much more practical and productive workplace, one might even say, "a workplace for function, not photos." To be sure, this requires a whole new level of design talent and imagination as we move conceptually from 2-D design to 3-D.
Thus, the Connection Zone features the elements needed to achieve the productivity that requires the right balance participative and concentrative work, including teaming tables with privacy dividers, group project areas, soft seating areas that promote interaction while allowing for personal work-style preferences, privacy booths to tune out distractions, assigned and unassigned storage space, and mobile work boards for information capture and impromptu space division.
The elements of the Connection Zone include:
- Benches with a telescoping support beam that can be expanded or contracted as the need arises, adding new surfaces in the size desired
- Screens that are free standing and mobile and double as mobile marker boards or space dividers; the first series of screens will be translucent acrylic, but acoustic materials are a planned option. The screens may be customized for dramatic effect or for specific grraphic functionality; glass, metal, film, wood, laminate, cork, felt, and fabrics can all be inserted into the frame. Easel hooks allow for easy attachment and removal of pads. Optional ledges provide quick access to collaborative tools and dry erase items, while internal compartments provide long-term storage. Multiple units may be nested to save space or ganged side by side to create walls, all without tools or complexity.
- Storage elements that include shelving and peds, augmented by storage lockers with individual keypads for improved personal security.
- Privacy booths complement the participative elements enabling elements of connected withdrawal
The Connection Zone collection was designed with sustainability in mind with the easy segregation of materials for post-use recycling. All materials are tested to BIFMA standards and are environmentally safe. Steel powdercoated components ensure product longevity while high-pressure laminate worksurfaces ensure balanced construction. Connection Zone components provide the required technology support.
KI's MyWay has a bit of humor to it, signaling a bit of adventurism and risk-taking. This asymmetric lounge seating group joins other recent products that can be roughly grouped in the growing "sit any way you want" category. Of course, the only thing new about this is that yesterday's formalism has given way to the acceptance of personal preference and provided support for it. Be a pretzel if you want, or even apiece of limp dough: We have your back, so to speak. An optional power module is available to recharge electronic devices.
While not specifically designed as a modular piece, MyWay elements can be pushed together to create love seats and sofas. The product line contains lounge chairs with 3-differing arms; a work arm, conventional arm and low arm. The work arm offers a surface to support a laptop, tablet and phone. The low arm is designed so that the chairs user can sit laterally across the chair or it can also be used as a seating surface. The conventional arm is intended to enable use as a conventional lounge piece. Any combination of two arms can be ordered on the product. Options include; contrasting fabrics, cup holder, power/USB, sled base or metal legs.
MyWay has earned GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certification for low emitting products by the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute.
Affina, designed by Dan Cramer and Paul James, is intended for the healthcare environment, and includes seating and table solutions for areas from acute care to ambulator care and beyond. The Affina collection addresses the furnishing needs of the patient, family member and staff, and is built to withstand the rigors of the 24/7 healthcare environment. Field replaceable components, solid surfaces that are bleach friendly, combined with lifetime warranties support an efficient, safe and cost-effective solution across the spectrum of products within the Affina collection.
All exposed wood uses mortise and tennon joinery with hardwood componentry. Seat suspension systems are joined to the framework using metal-to-metal connections. All fully upholstered goods use framework that consists of furniture grade plywood joined with notch and tab joinery and reinforced with solid maple and are further supported with solid maple cross rails. All KI products meet or exceed BIFMA testing standards. Affina is GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certification for low emitting products and is available in FSC certified wood materials in its construction.
Lightline Movable Wall
The Lightline Movable Wall is a pre-engineered, movable glass wall storefront solution. It was introduced last year to provide the look of a sophisticated stick built storefront, but with flexible elements that promote reuse by adapting to business changes quickly, efficiently and environmentally. Lightline integrates with freestanding furniture and permanent construction. This year, KI introduces some enhancements:
- Pre-assembled door units vs. field assembly, minimizing initial and ongoing installation costs and maximizing product reuse
- Additions of back-painted and architectural glass solutions providing increased privacy and aesthetics
- Incorporating in-direct lighting solutions to support visual enhancement
Designed by KI, the company says that Lightline is the first and only unitized or pre-assembled seamless butt-glazed solution on the market. Lightline butt-glazing uses 1/2" thick glass, which is recommended by GANA for ceiling heights from 96" to 120." Lightline is BIFMA Level Certified and offers unlimited product reuse and unlimited glass options to support natural daylighting.
Opt4 is a light-weight, high-density stack seating with a comfortable waterfall front edge, lightweight (the mesh seat/mesh back version are 7.3 lbs) and stacks to 38 high on a dolly. The stool stacks 30 high on a dolly. The chair has four interchangeable design models (mesh/mesh, mesh/poly, poly/mesh or poly/poly), in three complimentary color combinations (black, white and stone grey). It meets BIFMA testing standards and KI guarantees the mesh for 10 years. Opt4 is made from 100% recycled resin material (fall 2014 launch). the mesh material is made from 100% PET bottles. All the resin parts including the back and seat are 100% recycled PP. The recycled material is made of waste matter from molding components or clear PP containers such as pudding cups. All components are recyclable. (I like the name.)
The Wild America Collection , designed with IV Design , has five patterns: Stereo Stripe, Modern Blaze, Grill Cloth, Half Tone and Reverb, all of which are said to relate to the pop culture in the 60s. The line is made of high-performance upholsteries. Halftone and Modern Blaze are made of Nanotex, an enhancement process that resists spills, while Grill Cloth, Reverb and Stereo Stripes are made of Greenshield, a soil- and stain-resistant finish. Grill Cloth, Reverb and Stero Stripe are all bleach-cleanable (10:1 CDC approved).
The Drift Collection, designed with Laura Guido Clark, chooses randomness over predictability and uniformity, although that is not obvious from the image of the small swatches provided to officeinsight. The four patterns that comprise the Drift Collection (Field Play, Fracture, Off Track and Patina) are said to provide dynamic and unexpected patterns.
All in all, it looks like Mr. Green and his colleagues have had a busy and interesting year. I certainly want to encourage KI's interest in aesthetic thinking. I grew up in Wisconsin, and personally, the cheesehead hats never did it for me.