Franco Bianchi

President and CEO, Haworth
Nathan Kirkman Franco Bianchi President and CEO, Haworth

What was your role with Haworth before you joined the U.S. division five years ago?

My last role was as the president of our Italian operation. One of the highlights of my time there, and I think one of the reasons Haworth asked me to come to the U.S., is that the Italian operation was always one of our stronger design centers. So a lot of product sold in Europe and throughout the world came from the product-development division of the operation that I was managing.

The company changed its focus when you became president and CEO in 2005. How would you describe Haworth's vision now?

We started the journey of transitioning the company from being a very product-focused company—very successful, but very product-focused—to a more holistic, adaptable workspace–focused company. And by adaptable workspace, I mean the opportunity to partner with architects, designers, and developers on designing better interiors with raised floors, modular walls, modular power, modular data, and modular furniture. So we are trying to change the rules that guide how our interiors are designed and built.

How did Haworth decide to donate products to the AIA Chicago project?

We really only do donations when there is the opportunity to continue to pursue making the interiors more sustainable, more adaptable, and better designed. With the AIA Chicago, we met and spoke about where we are going, and they saw all of the manifestations of what we do. We promote certain things, the architects here were trying to achieve certain things, and soon we had a partnership and found a way to achieve these goals together.

This project showcases the talents of a group of young designers. Do you think Haworth impacts this new generation of architects?

I personally think we do. In our small way, we are changing the landscape in our industry, merging furniture with the building in a very respectful way. I think we are changing the rules of the game, and when you do that, you raise a lot of questions and a lot of interest. And I think that what is resonating is that there is something new going on for people who are open to learn, and discuss, and have a point of view. I think people, like young designers, who are not too set in their ways are more interested in spending time with us, to share, to learn from each other, and maybe to do things differently.

What is your personal level of involvement with the development of each product?

I have a lot of involvement. In the beginning of the process, my involvement is very, very significant. Now, a lot less than it was four years ago, because we have a very good team of designers, engineers, marketing people, and others who can see a product through to completion. But I am still involved because I love to do it. It is the fun part of my job.