OT students learn about ergonomic furniture design at the Herman Miller Design Yard

Prepared and submitted by Kelly Luczak and Colleen Hourihan.

As part of graduate seminar class, second year occupational therapy students from Grand Rapids and instructor, Dr. Amy Wagenfeld, spent an October afternoon at the Herman Miller Design Yard.

WMU OT students at Herman Miller

Herman Miller is a leader in furniture design that features ergonomics, safety and sustainability. Each product the company designs is put through a series of rigorous testing to ensure safety and usability.

The afternoon began with a lecture and discussion with Scott Openshaw, human factors and ergonomics lead at Herman Miller, about the importance of proper body mechanics, posture and ergonomics as they apply to furniture design. Students then toured the test lab.

"I really enjoyed critiquing an Aeron chair as a group through the eyes of occupational therapy and overall universal usability," said student Colleen Hourihan. "The chair is iconic, and it was really fun to go over it with Herman Miller designers."

At the end of the session, Dr. Openshaw brought out several newly redesigned Aeron chairs for the group to see. Many of the usability issues that the group identified -- like small tab adjustment mechanisms, fixed arm rests and twist handles -- had been redesigned in the new chair.

"We thoroughly enjoyed our experience at Herman Miller," said student Kelly Luczak. "This was a wonderful opportunity to learn about practical ergonomic design from expert staff at a  well-established and respected company."

The staff at Herman Miller invited Dr. Wagenfeld to return to the Design Yard and other nearby facilities with this class and future classes to learn more about the processes they use to ensure the comfort and usability of their products.