CHICAGO — Michael Warsaw made his first official appearance at NeoCon this year as Haworth’s vice president of global design and innovation, but he’s been coming to the annual Chicago office furniture trade fair for two decades.
“You learn a lot from what the latest trends are and what is going on with materials and how people are evaluating space in a new way,” Warsaw said.
In his new role, Warsaw oversees the Holland furniture-maker’s focus on design and innovation in North America and global design strategy across all of its businesses and brands.
While Warsaw is new to the office furniture industry, he’s an expert in seating design. He worked more than two decades at Johnson Controls, the world’s biggest producer of automotive seats.
His design credits range from concept vehicles to automotive seating and interiors, as well as smart building systems and retail environments.
Warsaw thinks good automotive design offers good ideas for maximizing space and perfecting the details of craftmanship.
“When I talk design, I’m talking about more than the aesthetic beauty but really the functionality,” Warsaw said.
He praises the work of Patricia Urquiola, a renowned designer who collaborated with Haworth on last year’s award-winning Openest and this year’s second phase of the furniture collection that creates pockets of privacy for meetings or heads down work.
“It’s kind of an evolution of the work space,” said Warsaw, noting that the quest for private spaces reflects the pendulum swinging back from all open space designs in many workplaces.
“You are still going to have open plans but now you are going to able to go into intimate spaces.”
While at JCI, Warsaw created the company’s first Innovation Center and Business Innovation process.
He is also involved in several prestigious design groups including the Design Management Institute, Industrial Designers Society of America, Kellogg Innovation Network, the Art Center College of Design Alumni Association and the TED global community.
Warsaw serves on the executive board of NewNorth Center in Holland and a board member of Wood Ranch BBQ USA, a restaurant group in Los Angeles.
He studied product and transportation design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena where he met Nate Young, who graduated a year ahead of him. Young recruited the Washington D.C. native to come to Holland to work at Prince Corp. which was later acquired by JCI.
Young, who previously led the NewNorth Center, now heads the recently opened Newell Rubbermaid design center in Kalamazoo.
Warsaw credits smart phones for fueling a mass appreciation for good design.
“It’s not about just the look but the interactions and the experience and the overall functionality,” Warsaw said. “It’s the emotional and the functional performance which is all coming together. It’s why it’s an exciting time to be a part of design.”