Dr. Brock Walker’s exclusive “medically engineered technology” (MET) has improved everything from racecars to seats for outer space to Herman Miller work chairs. Discover how his journey began—and where it has led.
Brock Walker’s journey to Herman Miller began as a young man on a ski hill. A world-class downhill racer, Walker was seriously injured in 1970, and the experience left him determined to learn more about the human body.
He later became a chiropractor, practicing in Lansing, Michigan, where one of his patients was a racecar driver. “I went with him to the track one day and saw that the Indy drivers didn’t have seats in their cars; they just sat in the cockpit,” recalls Dr. Walker. “So I said, ‘You know you could really perform better with some kind of exoskeleton around you to maximize your muscle strength and acuity.’ I looked at it in the same way as foot in a well-engineered ski boot.”
He ended up designing nearly 100 custom seats for racecar drivers, including Buddy Lazier who won the Indianapolis 500 with a broken back and shattered pelvis while sitting in one Dr. Walker’s medically-engineered seats.
Throughout the ‘90s Dr. Walker researched seating comfort and human performance for a variety of industries and organizations, including the NASA Space Program. His expertise in aligning and supporting neuro-muscular skeletal systems with human comfort and performance began gaining recognition.
At the same time, ergonomics had come into the forefront, particularly in conjunction with sedentary computer workers. “While there were a lot of scholarly papers on the subject, all I wanted to know was: What is this guy feeling when he sits in his chair?” recalls Dr. Walker.
His partnership with Herman Miller began in the late 90s, “and it’s been the best business relationship of my life,” he states.
His exclusive medically-engineered technology (MET) has since resulted in numerous scientific breakthroughs for Herman Miller, including its patented PostureFit technology, originally designed for the Aeron chair to increase sacral support.
Dr. Walker says comfort and performance are all about managing and controlling the human body in any postural position, in any environment. “If you can’t close your eyes and see how all the levers and pulleys and joints work inside the body when a person walks, sits down, leans forward, leans back, and stands up again, you’re missing the main piece of the puzzle. It all comes down to the human being sitting in the chair. And that’s what I’ve spent my whole life studying.”
The former chiropractor continues to explore the marriage of art and science for Herman Miller in projects ranging from pre-determined contours for seat pans and backs to mass-customized seating for individuals.
“When it comes to seating, Herman Miller engineers and designers are the best. What I hope I bring to the table is my knowledge of the human body and how it works. Because you can always redesign a chair. But you’ll never redesign a human being.”
By Keasha Palmer
Herman Miller solution essay, “The Benefits of Pelvic Stabilization”
“A Better Back for Aeron,” popsi. com, September 17, 2002.