Educational

Why Authentic Design Matters


We’ve all been there at one time or another. A beautiful piece of furniture has caught your eye. Maybe it was an unusual color, stunning form, or interesting texture. Maybe it was something you’ve never seen before or something that felt amazing to sit in. All you know is you want it. No, you need it. Then you look at the price tag and think, “how can I get this for less?” Before you know it, you’ve done a quick search on your smartphone and discovered you can purchase it for significantly less than most retailers.

Is it an authentic design? You’re not sure.
Why should you care as long as it saves you money, right? Wrong.

The reality is there much more that goes into furniture design then many of us realize. We take for granted many things that lead up to this “stunning” and “must have” conversation starter. So why should authentic design matter? Because investing in authentic design means investing in the designers and the processes that created it.

Yves Behar sketches out plans for the Sayl chair for Herman Miller. (Photo Credit: Herman Miller)

Yves Behar sketches out plans for the Sayl chair for Herman Miller. (Photo Credit: Herman Miller)

Handcrafted Herman Miller Eames Lounge Chair

(Left) An Eames Lounge chair being handcrafted at Herman Miller in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Right) It’s all in the details: each set of shells are cut from the same piece of veneer to ensure a perfect match. (Photo Credit: Amanda Mastenbrook)

Investing in Authentic Design

Furniture designers have a process by which an original design is created. When you invest in authentically designed furniture you’re investing in these creative processes. A designer spends months, sometimes years, developing a concept, working with prototypes, overcoming obstacles, choosing materials and perfecting the smallest of details. From manufacturing to sustainability, designers solve complex challenges all to bring these original pieces to market. When you buy authentic you support that process and enable more great original designs to be created.

On the other hand, when you buy a knockoff, you deter and stifle that innovation process. So what exactly is a knockoff and how can you tell if the furniture you’re about to purchase is an authentic design?

Replica, Reproduction, Inspired by…

There are many creative ways of saying knockoff: replica, reproduction, in the style of, inspired by, etc. While these “reproductions” or “in the style of” pieces may look the same from afar, quite often the truth lies in the details.

Often the comfort level, quality of material, innovative detail, and durability are inferior to the original. They are cheap, short-term imitations, that only look the part. The poor quality and performance of a knockoff piece can even leave a bad taste about the design as a whole, because many don’t see the differences between the original design and the imitated piece.

Purchasing knockoffs also dilutes the brand that designers and manufacturers have worked so hard to build. Designs can take many years to perfect, with lots of trial and error. When a company decides to sell a knockoff, they are taking a shortcut to cash in on the hard work of others. It’s not illegal, but highly unethical. It is stealing in an unethical way.

A broken Eames replica. (Photo Credit: Adelaide Villa, http://adelaidevilla.blogspot.com/)

A broken Eames replica. (Photo Credit: Adelaide Villa)

Investing in Authentic Design on a Budget

So what can you do if “authentic” isn’t in your budget? There are better options than knockoffs. Many brands, like Herman Miller and Steelcase, hold semi-annual sales where their product is available at a discounted rate (call our product specialists at 877.696.3342 to find out when the next sale dates are.) Also, sometimes you can score an open box, or floor model at an authorized retailers outlet store (like Office Designs Outlet). If vintage is your thing, sometimes you can scour Craigslist, estate sales, eBay, and garage sales for authentic pieces.

Herman Miller classics come with a Certificate of Authenticity, which also shows the date when the product was manufactured. (Photo Credit: Amanda Mastenbrook)

Herman Miller classics come with a Certificate of Authenticity, which also shows the date when the product was manufactured. (Photo Credit: Amanda Mastenbrook)

Experts in Authentic Designs for the Office

We pride ourselves on being experts in authentic design. If you’re in need of authentically designed furniture for your work life, Office Designs can help. We’ve helped people outfit their workspaces for over a 20 years with original products from brand such as Herman Miller, Steelcase, Haworth, Humanscale, Kartell, Blu Dot, Vitra and more.

A faithful reproduction of the original 1962 Arts & Architecture magazine advertisement (Photo Credit: Herman Miller)

A faithful reproduction of the original 1962 Arts & Architecture magazine advertisement (Photo Credit: Herman Miller)

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