What makes a design NeoCon-Gold-worthy? Joey Ruiter should know.


What makes remarkable design so clean, simple and straightforward that its discreet, understated nature makes it perfectly elegant, engaging and awesome? For globally acclaimed designer Joey Ruiter, it is design that meets everyday needs in surprising ways.

Take something as iconic as a bicycle, a desk or a chair. Does it have to look like the picture in our brains? Joey relishes the rethinking. How could a classic product be reimagined, reconfigured, with only the most essential elements? Most important, the new design has to be something we like. A lot. The thing you’d grab first or reluctantly part with last.

Working with Joey Ruiter, we know we’ll always end up somewhere entirely, delightfully new.

For all those reasons, we are proud to introduce Sylvi – a new modular lounge collection that Joey designed for izzy+. Today, Sylvi was awarded a 2015 Best of NeoCon Gold award, presented by Contract.

Sylvi is the perfect lounge collection for the way people work today, in different places and in different spaces. She’s smart, affordable – and remarkable in her ability to play well with others.

Here’s a quick behind-the-scenes look at the design process for Sylvi, from Joey’s perspective:

  • Challenging criteria: “The (izzy+) Nemo bar worked well with the trellis. We needed a lounge with it. It’s kind of the garage sale approach. It shouldn’t have to match but it goes together. It should be timeless. It shouldn’t say 1980 or 2015. It had to be and feel modular. It needed to be a light scale and look like you could pick it up.”
  • Sweet spot: “We went back and forth with different iterations, but the sweet spot for Sylvi is being something that you’d want to take home. It’s something covetable that wasn’t prescribed for a specific building or institution, but still works in those spaces. We wanted something that felt like more than just office furniture.”
  • Designer’s delight: “The cleanability for contract furniture is a huge deal. It needs to work for fabrics that are fun for designers. Thick. Thin. Stretchy. Not stretchy. Sylvi uses the best yield for the yardage, like a carton. Designers can use range of fabrics to make the space pop.”
  • No-surprise privacy: “The backers are panels to create spaces. It feels like it’s coming over on you like the hallways in Star Trek. When you’re inside, it wraps around a little bit. Height is key; you know when someone’s behind you. No surprises. We learned that from the trellis concepts for izzy: how open office and privacy worked. Credit to izzy, Chuck Saylor and Allison Roon to accept those as learning opportunities. Many companies don’t take the time to do that.”
  • Comfort trifecta: “We played around with how long it should be comfortable. In the automotive industry, it’s 8 seconds. There’s lots of debate on that and we’ll ask potential customers these questions. Looks comfortable, looks awesome and is comfortable – that’s the trifecta.”

Sylvi modular lounge collection_izzy+_overhead


A Legacy Always On the Move



“The workplace is no longer about sticking people in a cube, adding some lumbar support, and telling them to not move until lunch.”

The man who spoke those words, our founder Chuck Saylor (pictured above), knows a thing or two about the importance of movement. It was, in part, seeing the effects of stasis in cubicle-bound workplaces that inspired him to move out on his own and start a different kind of furniture company in 2001—one focused on human-centered wellbeing and connection.

Thirteen NeoCon shows later for izzy+ (and 40 for Saylor!), he is once again making a significant move—this time toward retirement—but not without first introducing a new pair of chairs, designed and engineered by Sava Cvek to dramatically shift the way people understand sitting at work.

The desire to create Wabi and Nikko, the two chairs being featured in our showroom at NeoCon this year, was sparked by a back injury that radically changed how Saylor felt about sitting down.

“Even after I went through successful physical therapy, I still couldn’t get comfortable in a task chair for any extended period of time,” he says. “It didn’t matter how expensive it was, or how ergonomically sophisticated it was, I could not find a chair that didn’t ultimately produce pain for me.”

That’s when Saylor reached out to Cvek to take the design lead and to physical therapist Barbara Hoogenboom to serve as an expert resource on sitting posture and body mechanics. As the team worked through the anatomical research, it became clear that the design of the chair’s seat pan—not its back—was the key to creating a better way to sit. As a result, Cvek designed Wabi and Nikko from the bottom up. The seat pan, by aligning and balancing the pelvis, allows for the greatest freedom of movement while sitting, relieving pressure points and back pain while improving circulation and brain function.

Now, as he moves toward retirement at the end of July, the legacy Saylor is leaving through Wabi and Nikko is very fitting for a company that has always been about being innovative, agile, and on the move.

“The company that Chuck Saylor founded and inspired is a lively one that just can’t sit still,” says Kevin Kuske, who is marking his first NeoCon as President and CEO of izzy+.  “So, it’s truly appropriate that we introduce to the marketplace this year a pair of chairs that both promote healthy movement and speak volumes about Chuck’s contributions and legacy at izzy+.”

That legacy includes a focus on movement that came long before it became a buzzword in the realms of both design and wellbeing. From the first izzy “catazine” publication (which was called Go!) to the casters on all of our easy-to-move furniture designs and the surfboards and tandems that have topped our iconic NeoCon Mini Coopers, movement has been a theme all along:

2001: On your mark, get set, go! Chuck Saylor launches izzy, a different kind of furniture company, with human-centered products like Hannah that encourage movement.

2004: Ahead of the movement. We formed a partnership with Norwegian seating expert HAG, who has always understood that ergonomics is about movement.

2006: Research that hits the road. We began visiting colleges and universities to learn as much as we could about the future of teaching and learning spaces.

2008: Moving forward, Better Together. Acquiring Jami Inc. and it’s four brands—Harter, Fixtures Furniture, Zoom Seating, and ABCO—allowed us to move into more markets with more solutions.

2010: 3-2-1…blast-off! Our design team developed a new approach to the design of work and learning spaces, with a focus on movement between three key types of spaces.

2012: On the move to Nicaragua. A group of interior designers takes off with us on our first service-learning adventure in Nicaragua.

2014: BAM! Balanced Active Movement—the key to healthy sitting—is articulated in the creation of Wabi and Nikko, designed by Sava Cvek.

And now Chuck Saylor is on the move to his next big adventure. He will be greatly missed, but we will honor his legacy by moving forward in exciting ways, as he has always taught us to do!

kristin blog post

Making space(s) for inspiration


“Inspiration”—it’s one of those words most of us are drawn to but can’t easily define.

Of course, if you look up the word in a dictionary or on the Internet, you will find definitions, but they might prompt more questions than answers.

For instance, is inspiration rooted internally or externally? Is it a pull or a push?

Can you impact inspiration, or only be open and wait for it?

And does inspiration work the same way for all of us, or is it an individualized experience?

Dictionaries don’t answer these questions, yet somehow when we encounter inspiration we know it—without a doubt. And the effects of being inspired seem mostly universal: Our minds start buzzing, energy levels spike, and time seems to stand still. We’re able to be more creative, more productive, and more focused.

In other words, the feeling is great, and so is the outcome. We’d all love to be under inspiration’s magic spell every day. So what can we do to get more of it?

An informal survey around the izzy+ office and on Twitter revealed two factors that seem to consistently impact how inspired we are: people and places. Our interactions with others, and the spaces we live, work and relax in, play important roles in how inspired we are.

Since all our interactions with others happen in spaces (and since we at izzy+ happen know a thing or two about spaces), it seems safe to boil it down to this truth: Our environments play an important role in inspiration.

Just think about the spaces you gravitated to as a child: A nook under the stairs, a window seat in an alcove, a fort in the branches of a tree. As adults, we might have a favorite table at a coffee shop, a chair on a porch, or a bar in the kitchen where everyone seems to gather at every party. Each favorite space may be somewhat unique to us, but the characteristics often overlap: People are drawn to spaces that are cozy, intriguing, out of the ordinary and fresh, yet familiar. We want alternatives to our typical office-and-desk settings.

“Even as adults, you still need a space to get away and change your point of view in,” says interior designer and izzy+ consultant, Allison Roon. “Different scenery and different people can inspire you, and help you stay engaged in whatever you’re doing.”

The recent article “Purpose: A Discussion on the Future of Office Design” also links creativity and inspiration directly to the design of spaces:

“Instead of seeking space to simply house workers, companies are now seeking spaces capable of serving and fostering communities of creative problem solvers.… In place of a generic working environment the new workforce is looking for spaces that are authentic and personal.”

Today’s workers and learners clearly want spaces that go beyond utilitarian purposes.


This year’s annual Valentine’s promotion at izzy+ is all about inspiration—finding and sharing more of it as a key way to be Better Together. And the new products we’re featuring, the Nemo Bar and Trellis, are all about creating spaces that inspire, much like the tree fort of our childhood did—spaces that are cozy, intriguing, out of the ordinary
and fresh, yet familiar.

“When I was a kid, we built a fort in a stand of big trees and kept expanding it,” says izzy+ founder and CEO, Chuck Saylor. “All the guys in the neighborhood hung out there—it was a gathering place.”

That favorite childhood space definitely played a role in inspiring the idea of the Nemo Trellis, Saylor says.

“Trellis gives you that sense of going outdoors while you’re indoors, this space within a space. And when you see it, in the midst of this sea of sameness, all of the sudden you’re attracted to it and your tendency is to immediately go and explore—and hopefully to be inspired.”

* * * * *

What spaces inspire you? What design elements make spaces more inspiring? We love hearing what YOU think!

Be sure to visit our Valentine’s mini-site to hear more stories about what inspires izzy+ designers, to find out more about the Nemo Bar & Trellis, and to enter our Trellis design competition. There’s also information about registering to win gift cards or a giving-back adventure to Nicaragua.


The Nemo Bar and Trellis set up as a recharge/refresh station on the first floor of the Merchandise Mart at NeoCon 2012.

How color & materials inspire: Behind the scenes with izzy+ flavors

Allison Roon and Kerry Rowe, above, created izzy+ flavors, the new color and materials program being introduced this month at NeoCon. Recently, izzy+’s writer, Kristin Tennant, sat down with Allison (wearing white and blue in the photo above) to talk about this foundational element of the izzy+ brand—why it’s important, what inspired the palette, and how, in turn, these tools will inspire designs and spaces.


What sparked the creation of a new color and materials program?

We started developing the program more than two years ago, because we wanted to bring the izzy+ Better Together story to life through surface materials. We also wanted a color and materials program that reflects izzy+’s brand and design philosophy. It’s a very design-driven company, in a foundational way. For izzy+, that focus has never been just about product design, it also about color and materials.

What were your sources of inspiration?

Fashion was huge for us, not just in terms of trend-forward color, but also in how different elements can be put together. We love the layering aspect of fashion, and all the opportunities it brings to mix different colors and materials in unexpected, fresh ways. Fashion gives us a model for mixing timeless classic—those practical, core parts of your wardrobe—with splashes of more trendy color and accessories. The goal is to provide that perfect balance between timeless and trendy. This approach applies to a very izzy+ way of designing spaces, too.

What do you mean by that “very izzy+” approach?

Well, one of the biggest sources of inspiration for flavors was the feel and personality of the izzy+ brand itself. From its start at NeoCon in 2001, with it’s Mini Cooper parked outside the Merchandise Mart with the convoy of big tractor trailors, the izzy+ brand has been a little quirky and off-center. It possesses a strong human element that doesn’t take itself too seriously—a youthful spirit that’s easy to be around.

How would you characterize the palette you ended up with?

In terms of color, Kerry really felt izzy+ was in a position to move the [contract furniture] industry forward. We started with 15 core plastic seating colors—eight Evolving, trend-forward colors with lots of bold energy, and seven Classic colors—and then we built the rest of the program out from there.

Being a young company means we have the opportunity to start fresh and to conceptualize around color and materials. We don’t have to worry about a legacy, so we can take risks. That’s why you won’t find traditional colors like navy, hunter green or burgundy in our palette. It’s time to move on, and we think izzy+ is the company to make that move. Chuck (Saylor) and everyone at izzy+ really feels passionate and excited about bringing a relevant palette to the market. People appreciate the honesty and authenticity, as well as the quirky personality.

What does it mean for colors and materials to be “authentic”?

Authentic materials are materials that are very approachable both in how they feel and how they look. They’re enticing and demand to be touched—they invite human-to-product engagement. They’re also not stuffy or too high-end, just simple, natural and clean.

So is the colors and materials program bigger than it used to be?

Well, it’s definitely broader and more fresh, but all of the redundancies and dull, old colors were eliminated, so it’s more efficient. As Kerry and I were doing our research, we listened to several focus groups and learned that the A&D community really looks to izzy+ to provide lots of options and personality, unique, fresh colors, and something different. Many other companies in the industry are paring down their materials program right now, but designers were begging us not to do that. We decided to broaden our program, but do it responsibly, in a trend-forward way that gives the A&D market more options for expression.

Specifiers have also been telling us they need all the izzy+ brands and products to work together, and to also coordinate with other competitive environments. That was part of our thought process, as we eliminated redundancies, filled in voids, and made the whole program consistent and easier to use across the different brands.

Do you have an example?

Our laminates are a great example. We went from a total of 75 laminates being offered across the various izzy+ brands to 35, 27 of which are new. We overhauled all of the finishes—there isn’t a single area we didn’t take this thorough approach with.

Designers will definitely be happy about that!

It’s definitely going to be easier to use. Everything is consistent and works together, across the different palettes and brands. But flavors isn’t just designed to be easier to use. We also created it as a tool for designers—one that really inspires them in new ways, providing plenty of options and ideas for creating more inspiring spaces. We did all the work when we curated the program, so designers can come to us for a fantastic collection of ingredients.

When you look back at the past two years, what were your favorite aspects of the process?

I really loved the way Kerry and I came together and created the perfect team. Kerry’s background is in textile design and color, and my background is in applying color and materials to spaces. Our collaboration is a perfect example of izzy+’s Better Together mantra.

We also met with lots of materials industry people along the way, especially at the Color Marketing Group conference in Portland. There was lots of sharing and input, in both directions. Some really important collaborations and partnerships formed, and we were able to align ourselves with great companies that put the same level of importance on design, like Formica, Maharam, Camira, Greenhides, Momentum, Knoll Textiles, and 3Form.

What’s next?

This is just the beginning of the journey. We’ve included some Core and Classic offerings that will be there as a foundational platform, but the Evolving colors and materials will keep changing. We’ll always be introducing new things that keep designers excited and engaged with our product. The whole flavors brand was designed to be an innovative, evolving platform that sets the stage for the future.

Ta-da! The 15 foundational colors of izzy+ flavors. The entire flavors program was built around this core.

Workplace design: Happy mediums for happy people

Everyone seems to have an opinion when it comes to workplace design. Some are big fans of the open plan, while others long to carve out their own space (ideally with a door they can close!). Some love the creative buzz and serendipitous collaboration that’s a result of everyone being in the mix together, but others fight against the distractions in desperate attempts to protect their productivity.

Not surprisingly, much has been written about today’s workplace design, and its impact on everything from innovation and collaboration to productivity. One recent study suggests that “ambient background noise or buzz of conversation in public places”—like coffee shops—”can fuel creativity.” Other articles, like this one about brainstorming, say that the unplanned conversations and debates that happen when people randomly cross paths are more effective than scheduled sessions (which means architecture and office layout play an important role). At izzy+, we have always believed that people are “Better Together,” and that workplace design plays an important role in the Better Together equation.

But what about when “ambient background noise” becomes overly distracting noise, that stunts productivity? And then there’s the reality of introverts in the workplace. Many people need alone-time and a focused space more than they need buzz and impromptu encounters. (The new book Quiet: The Power of Introverts addresses in great depth the needs and value of introverts in the workplace.)

With so many needs, pushing and pulling from all directions, it’s easy to wonder if a work environment that’s ideal for everyone is even possible.

Luckily, many workplace psychologists and designers (including izzy+!) believe it is! One recent New York Times article suggests that the best workplace design incorporates something for everyone. That doesn’t mean some people get cubicles, others get private offices and others get desks in open-plan spaces, according to their set-in-stone preferences. Rather, it’s design that assumes each individual has different needs at different times, depending on their project, task, and mood. It’s design that’s flexible, adaptable, and offers a variety of options.

“There is such a thing as a workspace that allows you to easily work near your team one moment, to shift into a cross-disciplinary space, and then later to unplug and find a solitary, quiet spot for some focused, kick-butt work,” says Brandon Reame, Market Development Strategist at izzy+. “The key is making sure your people have the technology and tools they need to be mobile, and then incorporating ‘third spaces’ into the workspace design. Make sure all of the things that are appealing about working in the buzz of a Starbucks are available for people who want it at work, where ideas can cross pollinate in important ways.”

What do you think? Which design elements and social factors make for a perfect work environment? Is it possible for workspaces to incorporate “something for everyone?”

Pictured above: The Nemo Enclave—a ‘third space’ for impromptu meetings or solo work that calls for a change of scene

Two key ingredients for innovation in the new year

Photo by mckaysavage

Some thoughts from izzy+ founder, Chuck Saylor, as we enter a new year…

As I look back at the close of 2011, it’s impossible to not think of Steve Jobs, whose life inspired so many of us and whose death in 2011 impacted me in many ways. Steve Jobs once said, “Everything around you that you call ‘life’ was made up by people (who) are no smarter than you—and you can change it, you can influence it…And once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

A college dropout, the founder of Apple changed our world in so many significant ways, reminding us that we have the potential to make a difference in the world, and to inspire others. How can we not be inspired by that truth?

But inspiration without diligence is ineffective. I remember being in Palo Alto on a visit in the late 1970s when I first ran into Steve Jobs’ incredible group of young, creative entrepreneurs who were striving to change the way we all communicated with each other. Their intellectual curiosity and personal drive were amazing, but it would take the next decade for the vision to become reality.

When I learned about Jobs’ death on October 5, 2011, I was reminded that inspiration is an historical event. To do inspiring things takes something special that too often we forget about—it takes diligence, perseverance and a lot of hard work. These are powerful attitudes capable of bridging the past and the future, and this is the perfect season to be reflecting on their importance in our work and lives.

As izzy+ looks ahead to 2012, we are both excited and grateful. Our excitement is rooted in continuing our exploration of concept projects like Nemo—design ideas that are truly founded upon human-centered needs and behavior. And our gratitude is rooted in relationships and connections with people like you. You inspire us and motivate us to remain diligent in our work toward better working and learning environments. Let’s all work together in 2012 to make our world a better place.

Have a happy—and inspiring—New Year.

Chuck Saylor
izzy+ founder

The power of inspiration: Beyond bad posters & sappy songs

Inspiration. It’s a word that can easily drift towards Cheeseville, thanks to bad “inspirational” posters featuring eagles flying into the sunset, and songs like that sappy 1984 hit by Chicago.

But the truth is, we not only love being inspired, we need it. Without inspiration, our dry moments would grow into deserts, and the walls we hit would become insurmountable. We can’t always keep the ideas flowing, the good moods soaring, and the creativity generated simply by reaching deeper inside ourselves. Sometimes we need to reach for inspiration beyond us.

Put simply, inspiration is something that moves your emotions or intellect. That movement can get us over a hump, shift us out of a rut, or just knock us off-balance enough to help us see things in a new way.

What inspires you? Or, to put it a different way, what do you do when you’re feeling uninspired and stuck? Do you seek out certain people, or maybe a different setting or activity?

Michael Smith, owner and lead at DesignVox in Grand Rapids, Michigan, doesn’t hesitate when asked what inspires him.

“I’ve got to have a certain amount of recreation and outdoor adventure in my life,” Smith says. “Being outside is a huge deal for me, as well as learning new things.”

Being on the move is a theme for Smith. He loves traveling to see new art, architecture and theater, and he tries to keep his design studio staff moving, too. Whenever he can, Smith makes plans for a team of designers from his studio to work together at his cottage near Lake Michigan. Once, the entire office even went to Chicago to visit museums, cook together and hang out.

“Getting a change of scene is an important part of staying inspired,” Smith says.

Even within the no-walls office space, people move around depending on their changing projects, teams, and other needs. Smith himself no longer has a designated desk in the office. It’s all about connecting people, opening communication, and keeping things fresh.

Allison Roon, an interior designer, adjunct professor and long-time izzy+ consultant, also relies on inspiration—and puts it into action—daily. In particular, travel, people, and great design inspire her in both her life and work.

“In order to be creative, you have to rejuvenate your creative juices,” Roon says. “Experiencing different settings and cultures is essential in having a larger wealth of design context to draw from. I love to explore bigger cities and hang out in social places with inspiring interiors. ”

That social piece is important to Roon and her work as an interior designer, whether she is traveling or at home in her usual setting and routine.

“Learning from others is always an important part of life,” Roon says. “And being a good life-long learner and listener is an essential part of being a good designer, because it’s all about listening to your client and learning from their perspective. To be a designer you need to be a people expert! Spaces are for people. Human-centric activities help me create better human-centered places.”

Some other izzy+ friends and employees shared with us what inspires them. We’d love to hear from you! Add your inspiration to the list, by leaving a comment!

– My team is comprised of a group of amazing, creative people, and my view from my desk is of a beautiful Michigan fall day. I’m inspired…and lucky. 🙂 – Laurel Pfister, E-marketing Specialist at izzy+ in Spring Lake, Michigan

– When I am able to forget myself, I recognize the ‘inspired’ work that has taken place.  – Gary Howe, an educator, photojournalist and social entrepreneur for public spaces in Traverse City, Michigan

– I’m inspired most by the open road, the kindness of strangers, good conversations, and the hope of tomorrow.  – Emilee Shake, Sales and Marketing Specialist for a print center in Champaign, Illinois

– My most compelling moments of muse often happen while traveling. The mixture of solitary instrospection, diverse people-watching, and the very concept of transit is incredibly rich.  – Melanie Kahl, K12 Education Knowledge Manager at Perkins+Will, Chicago

– izzy+ inspires me because I love my employees that work for me and love the company. I enjoy going into work and putting out good quality products that improve people’s lives.  – Brian Keeton, an izzy+ Production Facilitator at the Florence, Alabama plant