Higher education research from izzy+: What we learned at 23 universities from 300 people (with the help of 300,000 frequent flyer miles)

The journey also included 3 parking tickets, 2 lost bags and 1 fender bender

NeoCon World’s Trade Fair 2010: The Merchandise Mart, Spaces 1150, 11-100, 8-3094

CHICAGO – June 2010 – Problem-solving isn’t just about sitting in comfortable chairs and putting on thinking caps. (We’re more about cool, well constructed shoes). At izzy+, when we want to figure something out, we leave our offices and head out to look, listen and engage.

Which is how we ended up in Boston. In Austin. In Seattle. And Dubai.

“In today’s world, you have to be incredibly flexible. You need to keep a close eye on the marketplace and where it’s headed,” says Chuck Saylor, founder and CEO of furniture maker izzy+. “As you look out across the world, you now see this emerging group of millennials who are tech savvy, incredibly networked, and socially and intellectually engaged. They are seeking meaning and purpose for the future. They see the values of collaboration and leveraging each other in ways that the rest of us wouldn’t have thought possible.”

This new generation is already putting pressure on how organizations structure themselves. “In the 1970s and 80s, this type of change started in the white-collar workforce,” he said. “Today, it’s happening first at the university level.”

So what is happening, and what did the izzy+ team discover?

As in the business world, technology has changed the way people access information and communicate, on or off campus. Technology brings the world into the classroom. Presentations are projected from laptops and downloaded onto iPods. Lightweight tables and mobile chairs are beginning to replace rows of static lecture hall chairs and tablet arms. And the Socratic method of learning is so back. The teacher-to-student classroom has morphed into collaborative learning that’s more peer-to-peer. More learning happens outside the classroom than inside. More observations:

  • Students everywhere know they can they can get the facts and information they need on the Internet. But they also know there’s a reason to come together. Turning facts into knowledge involves interaction with instructors and other students. That connection helps make this journey meaningful.
  • Instructors know they are responsible for guiding that journey—making sure real learning cuts through the noise and has an impact on students’ lives. As the izzy+ team talked to professors, a very familiar word popped up over and over: collaboration. Students, it turns out, need lots of it—to gain understanding, to retain what they’ve learned and ultimately to apply it.
  • Facility Managers are responsible for the spaces, places and tools necessary for teaching and learning. What do they care about most? Education products that are the ultimate in durability and clean-ability. Furniture that works hard also needs to be adaptable, and must support and protect technology.

So how can a business like izzy+ help support these changes in learning? “Creating comfortable, simple, open spaces that are technology friendly invites students to be themselves – to be social, talk and just be together,” says Brandon Reame, brand associate at izzy+ who was part of the learning research team. “And it’s not confined to the classroom. Learning also happens in the library, the student café as well as the outdoor commons.”

In the midst of this research project, izzy+ introduced the award-winning Dewey collection from Fixtures Furniture, a group of ready-to-roll tables with power/data troughs, mobile storage for wireless technology and freestanding bookcases. Designed by JRuiter Studio in 2009, this technology-enabled furniture even included an iPod-ready teacher’s station, the Helpdesk. In 2010, izzy+ is extending Dewey with the 6-Top Table, rolling out Penny occasional tables for lattes or laptops, and introducing Truman lounge chairs, tables and benches from Harter. This new wave of products is answering the call from people who expect and want to work and learn in flexible, easy-to-push-the-chairs-and-tables-together settings.

Listening about learning is helping izzy+ earn a position of leading in design for today and tomorrow’s higher ed environments. But what Saylor revels in is the new perspective gained from conversations with the next generation.

“The students look at the world so differently. It’s refreshing,” he says. “If you wanted to learn, you used to go to a place. Now, working and learning is not being done in a place, but in many multi-faceted places. And it’s global. The future will revolve around dynamic, collaborative spaces. I see a lot of opportunities to bring new thinking, new furniture, new ways of leveraging skill and sharing ideas in those environments. I’m very excited about the potential for that.”

About izzy+

The employees of izzy+ ( design, manufacture and market office furniture and seating that solve real problems for real people. The focus is to provide designers with the tools to create inspiring work spaces for forward-thinking customers in home offices and small businesses, in executive offices and board rooms, in hospitals and classrooms. Its award-winning products are marketed under the brand names izzy, HÅG, Harter, Fixtures Furniture, and ABCO Office Furniture. Based in Spring Lake, Mich., U.S., izzy+ is a business of JSJ Corporation of Grand Haven, Michigan.


Media Contacts:

Allison Roon | 616.293.6311 |