Don Goeman was the Executive Vice President of Research, Design, and Development at Herman Miller for the better part of three decades. He is perhaps best known for his central role in developing the Aeron Chair, as retold in Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink". Don is an advisor and partner in Chassie, and makes quarterly visits to the company's Bronx studio.
CHASSIE UP CLOSE
I first met Andrew by phone when he had a seedling of an idea for what Chassie might become. He shared his vision, and I was struck immediately by its essence and purity: “The table where you sit down to do your life’s work should be remarkably functional, wildly creative, and uniquely you.” It rang a bell in clarity with the likes of other vision statements that I encountered from some of the best designers around the world. That was great! But then when I heard more of how he was going to build product and saw some of the early concepts for Chassie – I had a few doubts.
First inkjet on birch plywood print samples. Photo by Don Goeman.
‘True Creatives’ are often the best connectors in the vast white-spaces between corporate networks and the widely dispersed opposite extremes of free-form startups. An amazing creative couple - Bruce Mau & Bisi Williams - introduced me to Andrew. Andrew is a serial-start-upper who knows everything about tech. By contrast, I’ve been a lifelong Midwest corporate exec recently leaving modern furniture manufacturer Herman Miller, where I led product design & development for decades -- but I’m not very deep on tech, nor hands-on familiar to the startup world where Andrew thrives.
I think Bruce & Bisi thought maybe Andrew needed help with furniture hardware development, and I just needed to get farther away from corporate life and open my horizons to creative business development opposite the extreme of being “on the cutting edge of slow.”
Andrew invited me to formally be an advisor to Chassie, and when we met in NY for the first time in person, I was a bit hesitant shifting out of my corporate comfort zone. Where do companies like this meet? What’s their process? Will I even understand or be able to relate to their language? While I enjoyed a respectable career in corporate life, I felt like a real outsider looking into a whole new world.
Chassie Studio mid-construction. Photo by Don Goeman, August 2019.
Andrew quickly put me at ease with his natural curiosity, his probing at what I was thinking, and talking through the big and small details of what he was imagining for Chassie. I just tried to roll with his cadence, not trying to steer him necessarily anywhere, but highlighting the tradeoffs in answering the questions he posed. After just an hour or so, it quickly felt like we were on the same team. From that first exchange onward through months of phone exchanges and working sessions in in what became Chassie’s studio in the Bronx; we’ve had really open dialog, often just sharing about life’s experiences, observations of design, cultural and business phenomenon, our family and work experiences, and making connections between my old corporate perspectives with Andrew’s near totally opposite youthful and unstructured career influences.
Design meeting and prototype review with FriendsOf partners David Sutton and Adam Paskow. Photo by Don Goeman, December 2019.
I became a sounding board for Andrew as he’s journeyed to realize the vision for Chassie. We’ve grappled philosophically together with an evolution of developmental challenges, that are all typical when metaphorically ‘trying to find a light switch in the dark’.
Through all of Chassie’s accelerated development, I’ve left my corporate world in the past and embraced the ethos of creative freedom and Andrew Daines’ networked approach to local convergence with a purpose. Now it’s time to create a Chassie movement: artists and designers expressions reflecting local culture… driving the original Inspiration from Andrew Daines: make Chassie become a reflection of you!