Design Collaborative: Less is More

June 1, 2007

By Janet Wiens

HBF's new Mode Series of executive and management seating successfully illustrates that you often get more with less.

The old adage "you get more with less," is true when it comes to the Mode Series-a new line of executive and management seating that was recently introduced by Hickory Business Furniture (HBF). The product's clean lines and quality craftsmanship will make it a welcome addition to any conference room or office. Factor in Mode's lower price point and the line is a wise buy from an economic perspective as well.

Mode's development and introduction is a collaboration between HBF and designer Brian Kane, of Kane Design Studio in San Francisco. Kevin Stark, HBF's vice president of design, credits Kane with bringing the idea for Mode to the company. "I worked with Brian 20 years ago, and he has partnered with our company before," notes Stark. "We were in his studio discussing other product ideas when he shared the Mode sample with us. It fit perfectly with our strategic direction."

Mode fulfilled HBF's desire to add more contemporary seating to its established product offerings. Stark and Charlie Bell, the company's president, saw an opportunity to add what they believed would be a successful product  based on its design and lower price point.

"Mode's creation is what I call ‘the perfect storm' for success relative to introducing a new product," says Stark. "We have a very functional and aesthetically pleasing line with a high level of craftsmanship and a reasonable price. All the pieces that are required to make a new venture work came together easily, which has enabled us to meet our strategic goals while giving the marketplace something new."

Mode has a sleek profile that is both contemporary and classic. Features include polished aluminum wrap-around arms, a mid- or high-back, and castaluminum bases with either a polished aluminum or powder coated black finish. The chairs may be upholstered in a variety of HBF fabrics or leathers, as well as COM (customer's own material) and COL (customer's own leather).

In Stark's mind, Kane is the quintessential designer. He bases this belief on Kane's strong design  sense-his products have been exhibited at the Whitney and Brooklyn Museums in New York and the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco-and on his sensitivity to what the marketplace is looking for in terms of new products. "We had lots of backand- forth dialogue with Brian in developing Mode," says Stark. "Brian brought extensive value to the collaboration because he knows our company from previous experience (Kane also designed the company's Bianco, Grigio and Nero lounge seating) and because he is so sensitive to the entire development process. He respects the history, capabilities and culture of the companies that he works with and that commitment is invaluable."

For his part, Kane says that Mode reflects his beliefs regarding minimalist design. "HBF's products are refined and tailored. I knew that the company's manufacturing processes and [its] commitment to quality would be very appropriate for this product. Their use of inside and outside upholsterers in their  manufacturing, as one example, enabled the upholstery to become the salient strength of the seating in my opinion," explains Kane.

One objective expressed by the designer was to use the capabilities found in HBF's manufacturing plant in Hickory, NC, in a way that would nudge the company into producing a more classic, modern design. He worked with company officials to develop new techniques for framing and slipcovers that built on its manufacturing strengths in different ways in order to get to a lower price point.

Kane didn't want a task chair that would be overpowered by mechanisms or one that would have metal on its back, potentially damaging a table if the chair bumped up against it. He notes that the product's simple form and channeling showcase what HBF does so well while also boasting good technology and comfort for the user.

"I used an Italian mechanism for the chair's syncro-tilt," says Kane. "As the user leans back in the chair it opens up so that the seat leans with them. It's comfortable and reliable."

The arms on the Mode line rotate and lift when the user reclines, a feature that Kane believes is the first such application for seating of this type. He devised a new way to attach the arm to the J bar- the bracket that connects the tilt mechanism to the chair's back-in order to accommodate this feature. The end result is, again, a more comfortable experience for the user.

Mode will also appeal to customers when sustainability is on their list of desired product attributes. The line has received GREENGUARD certification for indoor air quality, which means that it also complies with some of USGBC's criteria for LEED®-CI.

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