Branded Office Chairs Part 6: Knoll Top 3 – Chadwick, Life And Generation

Welcome back to part 6 of our look at branded chairs. This week we taking a look at the top 3 offerings from Knoll a long established and respected seating manufacturer. In particular we are going to dig deeper into its Life, Chadwick and Generation chairs.

So let's get started and first up is the Life chair.

Life chair
Knoll's Life chair first appeared in 2002 developed in conjunction with New Zealand designers Formway Design.

Knoll Life

Knoll Life Chair

The aim was to produce a chair that took care of adjustments automatically. This has been achieved by building in self adjusting components wherever possible.

So, as you recline in the chair there is no need to change the tension. Instead the chair recognizes the user's weight and provides the right amount of support to handle you movements comfortably. Likewise when you lean forwards to work, no need to adjust anything, once again the chair moves as you move.

And, just in case you want to fine tune the automatic adjustments there is a tension preference selector at the rear of the base of the chair.

The Life also has a seat depth adjuster too, making it straightforward to set the seat to the correct length for your legs. It also has a high tech mesh weave back providing good support and air circulation.

Next let's move on to the Chadwick chair.

Chadwick chair
When Knoll joined forces with legendary chair designer Don Chadwick its aim once again was to produce a chair that was simple to use.

Chadwick chair

Knoll Chadwick Chair Back

So this meant an absence of the usual confusing array of levers and knobs. And of course it had to be comfortable and functional too.

The end result is an office chair that once you have set the basics up you are good to go from there. This is possible through what's referred to as its Active Suspension system. It starts with a tension control on the underside which the user adjusts to suit their body weight. Once this is set the chair automatically supports you as you work.

Key to making this happen is the specialist mesh fabric which is carefully tensioned and precision welded to to the seat and back. This provides a springy resilience and molds to your body as you move, giving great long term working comfort.

As well as being a workstation chair, it's also designed for use in training and conference areas too.

And with the option of 3 different sizes of gas lift height adjuster the chair works well whether you are of short, medium or tall build.

Lastly it's time to look at Knoll's most recent addition its Generation chair.

Generation chair
Generation was developed with Formway Design and launched at NeoCon in 2009 winning a Gold Award for task chair seating.

generation chair

Generation Chair Showing Flex Back

Again the emphasis is on ease of use, however the Generation takes things a stage further. It's designed to encourage you to sit how you want.

So if you feel like sitting sideways in the chair for a while it will let you do that in comfort. This has been made possible in a number of ways.

First the seat pad flexes side to side. As you apply more weight the seat gives to accommodate you and yet still supports your body.

The adjustable arms not only adjust in height, but also in width and angle too. The wide variety of positions are quick and easy to set meaning you can use them in more ways than conventional arms.

The open cell flexible back acts as a great support and at the same time yields and moves as you move. The top edge of the back moves as you apply pressure. So if you feel like leaning over the back of the chair while you rest your arms the back will move with you folding down by up to 90° if necessary.

There are also 3 choices of gas lift to suit short, medium and tall users.

As Knoll says “It's not a chair it's a movement”


  • Life chair automates most of the adjustments as you sit and move
  • Life chair lets you fine tune settings via its tension preference selector
  • Chadwick chair has a springy resilient feel and molds to your body in use
  • Chadwick is also great for training and conference use
  • Generation lets you sit how you want to sit
  • Generation's flexible back will comfortably support a wide range of different sitting postures

Further information
Here are links to the full reviews:

And here are links to the five previous articles in this series:

  1. Herman Miller top 3 branded office chairs
  2. Steelcase top 3 branded office chairs
  3. Humanscale top 3 branded office chairs
  4. HÅG top 3 branded office chairs
  5. Neutral Posture top 3 branded office chairs



Steelcase, Knoll & Humanscale Office Chair Fall Sale Extra 15% Until 02 October 2011.

What's the deal?
Knoll, Steelcase & Humanscale are running their Fall Sale Special with a chance to grab an extra 15% off all their office chair ranges. The offer covers their office seating ranges offering a great opportunity to get outstanding prices on some quality ergonomic office seats.

How long does the offer last?
Steelcase and Knoll are running their offers until Sunday 2 October 2011, leaving you 10 days days to take advantage of these special prices. Humanscale’s sale runs a day longer finishing on Monday 3 October 2011.

Where can I find the details?
You can find a quick summary of the key points about the chairs on offer together with where to buy them using the links below:

Steelcase Chairs
Think chair
Amia chair
Leap chair

Knoll Seating
Generation chair
Life chair
Barcelona classic seating

Humanscale Chairs
Freedom chair
Liberty Chair
Freedom Saddle Seat

So, if you looking for a new office chair this is an excellent opportunity to lock in a great price. Don't wait too long though because there’s only 10 days left.


The Office Chair Revolution: How Modern Ideas And Materials Are Turning Tradition On Its Head

In my previous post I took a look at Herman Miller’s new Sayl chair with its suspension back inspired by the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Rise Of The Open Cell Back

Sayl Chair

Sayl Chair Back Detail

The true sophistication of the chair’s back isn't that obvious although it looks stylish and modern. At first glance the back just appears to be an open plastic mesh, which whilst true, belies its actual capabilities.

Every part of the complex web-like structure has been precision designed to provide just the right amount of comfort and support so users don’t suffer fatigue or discomfort.

Closer examination shows the open web framing uses different thicknesses of material and cell shapes to give you support where it’s most needed while at the same time allowing freedom of movement. As it’s frameless you never feel the constraints of hard edges yet know your back and spine are being taken care of.

Generation chair back

Generation Chair Back

When Formway Design came up with the idea for Knoll’s Generation chair it too wanted to produce a chair offering great comfort as well as unrestrained movement. It also opted for an open cell back and yet it’s quite different in design to the Sayl, being partially double skinned in the middle.

It’s largely due to creative thinking and modern materials that these chairs have been introduced. In fact, it’s likely 10 years ago neither product would have been feasible.

Multiple Layer Mesh

Liberty Mesh Back

Liberty Mesh Back Detail

Another interesting development in chair back design is the advanced use of materials. Take Humanscale’s Liberty chair with its form-sensing technology. It’s made up from 3 panels of mesh cleverly sewn together to create a supportive contoured shape.

Unlike single panel mesh it doesn’t just sag as body weight is applied, instead it displaces and provides proper support and comfort.


Self-Adjusting Chairs
The other big change in recent years is the trend towards self-adjusting chairs. This largely eliminates the need to pull levers and turn knobs as these chairs recognize user movement and respond accordingly.

HÅG’s Futu chair with its inBalance mechanism is a good example of this type of chair. It’s designed to carefully and comfortably support user movement and for those who like to tweak things it has a simple 5 step lever for fine tuning. For most though this isn't necessary and it’s a question of sit and forget.

What Are The Common Threads In Modern Office Chair Design?
It’s fascinating to see the different innovative ideas designers create and although the result is a diverse range of products there are certain fundamental things they are all working towards.

Taking a look at office seat design over the past 10 years or so the trend is towards:

  • Greater comfort, support and overall user experience
  • Huge advances in environmentally friendly materials
  • Simpler products, automating functions where possible
  • Fewer components and overall reduction in the weight of the end product
  • Innovative use of modern materials, often never previously used in chairs

Future Trends
Overall there has been a significant improvement in office chair design in recent years and it’s likely that this will continue as manufacturers attempt to keep up with each other.

It’s also true to say that these radical new designs have all come from major players in the office furniture industry. This is unlikely to change as the cost of developing products from scratch can run into millions of dollars and so puts it beyond the reach of all but the largest in the industry.


How Technology Is Changing The Humble Office Chair: Crossing Bridges In Thinking

Sayl chair

Herman Miller Sayl Chair

What has San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge got to do with office chair design? More than you might think.

It was the inspiration for designer Yves Béhar when he came up with the concept for the suspension back for Herman Miller’s new Sayl chair, and applied similar principles to its unique back design.

It’s a great example of thinking out of the square.

But first, a little about old style office seat design.


How Office Chairs Used To Be Designed

Time was when a chair manufacturer thought about launching a new chair the same set of basic materials was used. In fact for a good number of manufacturers this is still the case.

You started with a 5 star base, added a gas lift, married it to a mechanism and connected it all to a seat pan, back and arms and the end result was a new chair.

Apart from maybe a new type of mechanism the changes were mostly cosmetic. Perhaps you used a sexier looking 5 star base, reshaped the back and seat a bit and maybe used a new range of upholstery to add appeal.

At the end of the day it wasn’t hugely different to what had gone before.

What Started The Change In Office Chair Design?

Probably the launch of the Aeron back in 1994 was what really shook the
market up.

Here was a radically different chair that didn’t have any foam padding and fabric upholstery, instead it had this open mesh known as the pellicle. Not only that it looked distinctly odd.

In fact, it was a major gamble by Herman Miller as initial soundings at the time were pretty negative.

Nonetheless, Miller kept its nerve and introduced it and the rest as they say is history. The Aeron has gone on to become one of the best selling and best known office chairs of all time and still sells well today.

Why This Started Alarm Bells Ringing

The Aeron effect brought about 2 fundamental changes in the office chair market. First, it contributed to the launch of many imitations and as a result mesh upholstered chairs can be found at all levels in the market. Second, it acted as a wake up call for others in the industry showing it was time for a radical rethink on new products if they didn't want to lose ground.

The Quality End Of The Market Has Become The Domain of Big Hitters

Creating chairs the old way wasn’t very difficult and the cash outlay for the most part was affordable.

Not anymore. Creating chairs the new way involves a huge outlay of time and money.
Take for instance the soon to be launched Sayl chair. In a recent article in the UK’s Independent Newspaper about the Sayl it drew attention to the 70 prototypes, 3 years of development and $13 million investment, a sum clearly beyond all but the big boys to invest in producing a single office chair range.

Clearly Miller expects big things and is prepared to take a long-term view. Little wonder quality office chairs cost what they do when you have this kind of outlay to recoup and this will be one of its lower priced chairs.

Chairs Are Being Made With Materials That Didn’t Exist 10 Years Ago

These days major manufacturers are prepared to invest heavily in new seating products to come up with what they hope will be a world-beating product.

Top designers are taken on to develop radical new concepts, starting from scratch they come up with fresh ideas and possibilities which they then turn into reality.

Recent examples of these innovative designs include Knoll’s Generation Chair, Humanscale’s Liberty, Steelcase’s Think and a trio from Herman Miller in the Embody, Setu and Sayl.

How Has All This Innovation Helped End Users?

The development of new products like these represents a major improvement in seating comfort for office workers and has helped to:

• Enhance user comfort and give proper support throughout the day
• Simplify product use by automating certain functions
• Significantly reduce product weight making them easier to move and position
• Huge advances in environmentally friendly components and recyclability
• 10 year plus warranty giving confidence in the product’s quality
• Enhance styling and design while still maintaining functionality and ease of use

In a future post I’ll take a look at some of these amazing design ideas and how they have helped improve office sitting comfort.


High End Office Chairs Pick Up Recent Mentions In The Media

The February 2010 edition of Men's Journal takes a look at 9 different office chair models:

  • Herman Miller's Embody
  • Knoll's Generation Chair
  • Humanscale's Freedom Chair
  • Zody from Haworth
  • HÅG Futu
  • Steelcase Think Chair
  • Evolution Ball Chair
  • Kore Stool


Pick of the bunch not surprisingly was Miller's Embody chair scoring a near maximum whereas the least favored was the Kore Stool mainly because it requires the user to balance on it which can be tiring after a time when muscles aren't toned, mind you at little more than 10% of the cost of the winner maybe the result wasn't so surprising.

Also the UK's Financial Times weekend edition for 13 February 2010 carried an article on 4 top end models:

  • Herman Miller's Embody Chair
  • Herman Miller's Setu
  • Steelcase Think Chair
  • Humanscale's Diffrient World Chair (not yet officially released)


With more and more senior managers spending part of their week working in their home office demand for better quality office seating appears to be on the rise.

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