When Tom Newhouse was in ninth grade, he informed the school counselor of his career choice. Then he explained the meaning of “industrial designer.” Such is the path of precocious youth. “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t planning, designing, and building. If our class put on a play, I’d build the set. If something broke, I’d fix it. I’ve always loved to find out how things work.”
Newhouse credits his father, a self-taught engineer, with nourishing this fascination with the mechanical world. “I could ask him anything technical, and he could explain it logically and simply.” Balancing this pragmatism was his mother, whose sculptures, paintings, and aesthetic sensibilities “showed me a whole other way of looking at the world.” The dual, complementary influences of his parents are present in Newhouse’s designs and his thinking, as evident in the earth-bermed, passive-solar house he built for his family in the mid-1970s. His professional work—exhibits, interiors for the handicapped, lighting, commercial furnishings, major kitchen appliances—all testify to his wide-ranging talents and intellectual curiosity.
Engaged in what he calls the “primarily macho profession” of industrial design, he is deliberate in advocating for women’s interests within his circle of influence. “Well over half of all office workers are women, and I try to design products that offer them the same comfort and control men enjoy.”
Newhouse continues to focus much of his energy on two passions: the study of emerging office issues and the implementation of green design concepts. He’s committed to creating products and utilizing manufacturing technologies that place the highest priority on preserving the environment. “I have been passionate on this issue for the past 25 years,” he says, “and I will continue to be. That’s one reason I love working with Herman Miller.”