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Herman Miller Introduces Setu Chairs: Complexity Made Simple for the Next Generation of Multipurpose Seating

June 08, 2009

Herman Miller, Inc., the international leader in ergonomic seating design, announces the next generation of multipurpose chair for all the places we work and live now. With Setu chairs, designed by Studio 7.5 of Berlin, Herman Miller applies its award-winning seating expertise to a major chair category that has seen little innovation in years.

"The Setu family of chairs provides new standards of comfort, performance, and value," says Jack Schreur, Herman Miller's director for seating products. "It's made from an innovative combination of materials to provide remarkable levels of strength, flexibility, simplicity, and dematerialization."

Setu will be introduced at NeoCon 2009 in Chicago, June 15-17. The initial offering will include the Setu 5-star, 4-star, butterfly, butterfly stool, and lounge and ottoman. Future models are planned that will further extend the Setu family's range of application.

Multipurpose chairs are used where people sit for shorter periods and frequently move, such as conference rooms, touchdown workstations, and collaborative spaces. However, these so-called "temporary spaces" are now less temporary. For many of us, all the places we sit are temporary as we move throughout the day, spending an hour or two at a time in different places.

The problem is existing multipurpose chairs aren't designed to handle longer-term sitting and more active use. This was recognized by Studio 7.5, who also designed Herman Miller's award-winning Mirra work chair in 2003. During their global travels in support of that chair's international launch, they sat in many different multipurpose chairs along the way. The 7.5 team found the one-piece seat and back typical of multipurpose chairs is not very comfortable; instead comfort is compromised for affordability. Coming home, they recognized a need for a new kind of multipurpose chair—one combining work-chair principles of motion and comfort with good looks, simplicity, and an affordable price.

Herman Miller and Studio 7.5 created Setu to answer those needs, with key inventions that greatly improve on comfort and support: the Kinematic Spine and the Lyris seat suspension material.

Throughout Setu's development, Studio 7.5 was guided by their quest for simplicity. "We want everything as simple as possible, but no simpler," noted the designers, paraphrasing Einstein. Simplicity is especially important in multipurpose seating, where chairs may be used in many places, and many different people may use the same chair during the day.

Setu looks simple and is easy to use. But to achieve that, it contains embedded design intelligence, with form and function working in harmony.

Setu is Motion: The Kinematic Spine
The instruction manual reads as follows: sit down. The first thing you'll notice once you sit in Setu? Nothing. There's nothing to tilt, nothing to tweak, nothing to think about. It's mathematics in place of mechanisms. From the moment you sit down, you and the chair move as one. It is elegant form and performance working together in harmony. It's true comfort, now.

Setu's Kinematic Spine is the primary reason. It has tilt-like kinematics in one continuous seat and back, rather than in a separate seat pan, back rest, and tilt. Because of the spine, there is no tilt mechanism on the chair, and the only adjustment is seat height.

Made of simple compounds for the perfect combination of flex and strength, the spine mimics the synchronized movement needed to fully support the body in any reclined or upright position.

After testing dozens of different materials for Setu's spine, the smartest solution was also the simplest: polypropylene. The spine is a sophisticated geometry made of two different polypropylene variants: one providing the rigidity and the other allowing flex. Every bend, corner and line were painstakingly shaped, reshaped, and reshaped again by Studio 7.5 so that each molecule falls in the right order, in the right place.

The spine works together with Setu's Lyris seating suspension material. This unique suspension has no rigid frame structure on the top and bottom edges of the chair, but is only suspended between the two Kinematic Spines. The suspension was specifically designed and engineered for superior comfort and a weightless feel. The elastomer floats omni-directional within the fabric structure; it stretches in every direction so it distributes weight evenly and conforms to your contours as you move. The openness of the suspension structure also provides aeration and reduces heat buildup.

Setu is Simple: Dematerialization
Thanks to Setu's Kinematic Spine, chair components are greatly minimized. Setu contains only the materials needed and not a molecule more. The Setu basic chair has few parts and weighs less than 20 pounds—less than many tilt mechanisms alone. This means less material, time, and energy needed to build it.

Setu's H-Alloy aluminum base is another example of less equals more. Not only is it durable and anti-corrosive, it is unpolished and uncoated, so there is no added labor or harmful toxins. The result: less eco impact. Well-known in the car industry for years, this material has never before been applied to a chair.

Because there is only one adjustment (height), Setu is simple to use. This makes it ideal for places where many different people use the same chair. Everyone gets the full ergonomic benefit without adjustment.

Setu is adaptable: Wide application
Where Setu is, it belongs. The clean, light-scaled, and simple aesthetic complements a wide range of environments. It is designed to fit most shapes and sizes. But, equally important, Setu is designed to fit all spaces and places. Adaptable like no other chair in its category, Setu appeals to functional needs as well as design aesthetics. It can be the feature of any room or simply be noticeably unnoticeable.

Because the spine provides the chair's motion within the seat and back, multiple different bases can be applied for a wide range of future applications. With its simple and light international aesthetic, Setu is equally stylish and comfortable in office, home, healthcare, education, and hospitality environments, anywhere in the world.

Setu is also remarkably affordable, with contract list pricing starting at $650. Setu chairs will be orderable in the commercial market beginning June 15, and will be introduced into Herman Miller's retail channel in September of 2009. Retail pricing is pending.

Setu is Responsible
Setu Chairs support Herman Miller's commitment to the environment, helping Herman Miller reach its sustainability goals of zero landfill, zero hazardous waste generation, and zero VOC emissions into the air by 2020. Setu adheres to the McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) Cradle to Cradle protocol. The chair has 48 percent recycled content, is 92 percent recyclable, and contains no PVCs. The Lyris suspension uses only environmentally conscious materials: a copolyester elastomer and antimony-free polyester. Setu is under review for MBDC Cradle to Cradle Gold certification and GREENGUARD certification. Setu carries Herman Miller's 12-year warranty.

About Herman Miller, Inc.
Herman Miller works for a better world around you—with inventive designs, technologies and related services that improve the human experience wherever people work, heal, learn, and live. Its curiosity, ingenuity, and design excellence create award-winning products and services, resulting in more than $2 billion in revenue in fiscal 2008. Innovative business practices and a commitment to social responsibility have also established Herman Miller as a recognized global company. In 2009, Herman Miller was again cited by FORTUNE as both the "Most Admired" in its industry and among the "100 Best Companies to Work For" in America, while Fast Company named Herman Miller among the innovative "Companies to Watch." Herman Miller trades on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol MLHR.

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