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Making of Aeron

Designer Bill Stumpf tells you how the Aeron chair came to be.
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Part of the Thrive Portfolio
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Environment


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Adjusting Aeron

How to tune and use your chair for maximum comfort and support.
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Awards

  • "Designs of the Decade" Gold Winner in "Office Furniture" from the Industrial Designers Society of America & Business Week magazine for Aeron chair
    2001

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What's In It For You

Product Story

Own the problem, and define it as deeply as you can. Bill Stumpf echoed this mantra on every project he took on for Herman Miller, but perhaps never more completely than with the groundbreaking Aeron Chair. Working with Don Chadwick, Stumpf began thinking about what a chair ought to do for you by consulting people who spend a lot of time in chairs—older people in retirement centers. When Stumpf and Chadwick took what they learned and applied it to work seating, they started a revolution in ergonomics.

With its aeration, inclusive sizing, support for the natural ways the human body moves when seated, and environmentally sensitive design, Aeron challenged practically every convention about office chairs. It wasn’t upholstered. It wasn’t padded. And its designers’ ideas about what they called “cross-performance” work—a mix of high-intensity tasks and casual interaction—anticipated the realities of today’s workplace, where the technological and social aspects of work have become increasingly intertwined.

Performance

Every material, every mechanism on Aeron advances the art and science of seating. As the first office chair in which fabric and foam were replaced with a breathable, woven suspension membrane—its innovative Pellicle seat and back—Aeron distributes your weight evenly, eliminating pressure points and heat buildup.

Kinemat Tilt

Stumpf and Chadwick concluded that, functionally, a chair should move with you as naturally and effortlessly as possible. That’s what they achieved with Aeron’s Kinemat tilt. The patented mechanism allows you to recline fluidly, as your body pivots naturally at the hips, knees, and ankles.

PostureFit

A modest but fundamental addition to the original Aeron design, PostureFit properly supports the base of your spine, or sacral region, to help your pelvis maintain a natural forward tilt, preventing slouching and keeping your spine in alignment.

Design

Aeron’s functionality shows through, contributing to a distinctive look that invites you to sit and experience the chair for yourself. From the transparency of the Pellicle suspension to the chair’s curvilinearity, Aeron was designed around people, creating an aesthetic all its own. It’s no wonder the chair was added to the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art even before the first one was sold.

Aeron’s selection of sophisticated materials and choice of three Pellicle weave patterns—Classic, Tuxedo, and Waves, all of which are available in a choice of light-to-dark neutrals—make the chair well-suited to a variety of tastes and surroundings.

Aeron Chairs

Family

The innovative design and performance of the Aeron Chair extends to a full family of seating, including work stools and side chairs.

Design Story

We wanted a totally new kind of chair. So we turned to the two designers who had produced the groundbreaking Equa chair and asked them to start with a clean slate and no assumptions. A bold challenge!

"It was a matter of deliberate design to create a 'new signature shape' for the Aeron chair," says designer Bill Stumpf. "Competitive ergonomic chairs became look-alikes." Differentiation was a huge part of the Aeron design strategy, and it remains one of, if not the most, critical aspects of Aeron's success.

"The human form has no straight lines; it is biomorphic. We designed the chair to be, above all, biomorphic, or curvilinear, as a metaphor of human form in the visual as well as the tactile sense. There is not one straight line to be found on an Aeron chair."

And what about the lack of cushions? As Bill Stumpf explained, "The Pellicle was equally a deliberate design strategy in that its transparency symbolizes the free flow of air to the skin in the same way lace, window screens, and other permeable membranes permit the flow of air or light or moisture. The transparency of the chair as a visual element was in keeping with the idea of transparent architecture and technology, which Aeron pioneered in advance of Apple's transparent iMac computers. Transparency is a major design movement. Its purpose is to make technology less opaque, to communicate the inner workings of things, and to make objects less intrusive in the environment. Aeron is a nonintrusive chair."

The Aeron design was refined and validated through research and experts' opinions:

It was tested for comfort with scores of users, pitting it against the best work chairs available.Leading ergonomists, orthopedic specialists, and physical therapists evaluated the chair's fit and motion, the benefit and ease of its adjustments.The design team conducted anthropometric studies across the country, using a specially developed instrument to calculate everything from popliteal (back of the knee) height to forearm length.

The research team did pressure mapping and thermal testing to determine the weight distribution and heat- and moisture-dissipating qualities of the Pellicle material on the chair's seat and back.

Field studies using a specially designed measuring device examined the relationship between sizes of people and their preference for chair size (Dowell 1995b). Measurements of 224 people—in a sample that was evenly distributed between men and women and that closely reflected the distribution of the U.S. population on most dimensions—found that of all the anthropometric dimensions measured, height and weight had the strongest relationship to chair size preference. The relationship is strong enough to allow us to recommend one of the three chair sizes based on those dimensions.

Although it reveals its aesthetic heritage in lyrical shapes reminiscent of George Nelson designs, organic forms that recall the work of Charles Eames, and a spare, athletic aspect that brings to mind its designers' Equa chair, the Aeron chair finally looks only like itself. Its unique form expresses its purpose and use and the material composition of its parts and the way they connect. The slightly transparent and reflective nature of its surfaces gives it an airy quality. It becomes a part of the person who uses it and the environment that surrounds it.

Made largely of recycled materials, the Aeron chair is designed to last a long time, and parts that get the most wear are easily replaced and recycled. Just what you would expect in a well thought-out design.

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