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



Why Buying A Branded Office Chair Makes Sense: Beware Of Deception By Description

Brands are powerful in office chairs, just like they are in many types of product. However it's important you don't get suckered into buying the wrong thing.

When you shop at the supermarket for your favorite brands you'll often see the supermarkets own version side by side with the real thing. And if you're not careful you can end up buying the look alike because they made it look almost identical.

This happens with chairs too, the only difference is you won't see the genuine article and copy sitting side by side. Even so you still need to take care to make sure you don't get misled.

How chair names and descriptions can be misleading
Sometimes unscrupulous vendors will give their products very similar sounding names to the branded chair or use words like ‘type' or ‘style' to create the illusion that you're getting the same quality as the real thing. They're trying to take advantage of the branded product's reputation. You need to be careful and watch out for these sorts of tricks.

One of the commonest terms you see used with office chairs is ergonomic. The reason it's used so freely is it gives the impression of quality and comfort. And yet there is no laid down definition of what an ergonomic office chair is. Consequently it gets added to the description of loads of really poor chairs. And because people assume it bestows magical properties on any chair which includes the description ‘ergonomic' they take it at face value and end up buying and regretting it.

This must be very frustrating for those manufacturers who do take the trouble to produce a chair that is good quality and comfortable and worthy of being described as ergonomic. So be careful of chairs labeled ergonomic. Whilst many of them are great chairs a lot aren't. Sticking with well known brands makes sense.

How do office chairs gain brand recognition?
Any supplier hoping to develop an office chair into a respected brand isn't going to do so by turning out a poor product. Creating a brand that's going to last and become popular means it's got to be well received by potential buyers. This is best achieved by offering a great chair that performs well and offers long term value for money.

Early movers who are amongst the first to buy an as yet unproven product are soon going to shout up if things aren't right. With the Internet and the popularity of social sites like Twitter and Facebook anything that isn't what it's cracked up to be will soon be discredited.

On the other hand if the product is excellent those same channels will greatly speed up its acceptance and conversion into a brand that can be trusted. This is why the major players take so much care to do everything they can to get things right. By getting broad acceptance for a chair half the job of selling it is done.

Why buying a branded office chair is a good idea
Building a successful brand can take years so any supplier who has done so will want to make sure they don't risk jeopardizing it. Look at one of the best known brand names in office seating the Aeron chair. Launched in 1994 it's still one of the most popular chairs on the market.

miller aeron

Herman Miller Aeron

It wasn't always like this though. Did you know when it was first developed Herman Miller sounded out the market and the feedback was pretty negative. However Miller bit the bullet and introduced it anyway and it soon became accepted. With over a million Aerons sold worldwide it stands to reason it must have a good bit going for it.

Major suppliers often spend years and millions of dollars to make sure that their new brand will perform as people expect. Steelcase's took 4 years to develop and test its Leap chair to make sure everything was right about it

Other companies like Humanscale, Knoll, HÅG and Neutral Posture also take great care of their brands to make sure their users are happy.

Let's recap on what we've covered here:

  • Beware of look alike products with similar names
  • Recognize that ‘ergonomic' when applied to an office chair means very little
  • Brand recognition is rarely built around a poor product
  • Buying a brand name ensures a good level of quality

Remember just like supermarkets some suppliers will try and create their version of a brand, usually at a fraction of the quality and price. Here's where you can find more about some of the most popular office chair brands from the likes of Herman Miller, Steelcase, Humanscale, Knoll, HÅG and Neutral Posture.


What Makes A Classic Office Chair? And Why Do Some Companies Continue To Produce Old Chair Designs?


Eames Classic Leather Chair

80 years ago no man would have left the house without wearing a hat. These days it’s hard to imagine doing such a thing.

And yet, for those who choose to wear a classic hat today, it definitely makes a statement about the wearer.

The right hat can look very distinctive and really set the owner apart from the crowd. Classic office chairs are a bit like that.


What is a classic office chair?
It’s simply a chair which has sold well over a period of many years. Manufacturers decide to keep some models in production as they have already written off the cost of tooling and so can continue to make the product relatively cheaply.

Typically, classic office seats have very simple lines and as a result continue to look impressive regardless of current fashions and designs.

How does an office chair reach classic status?
Usually it’s because they have a certain timeless quality about them. They often feature in advertising or are used in reception areas where people like to use them to give an air of quality and good taste to surroundings.

Obviously from the manufacturer’s point of view there still needs to be demand for them and so this a key motivation for the main players in this area of the seating market.

Which companies continue to make classic chairs?
There are two companies most closely associated with classic office chairs, Herman Miller and Knoll. Although Herman Miller is probably best known for its Aeron chair, it actually continues to make a number of seats first launched in the 1950s and earlier.

Particularly popular are many of the chairs designed by Charles and Ray Eames who seemed to have a knack for designing seating with simple classic lines that just look good no matter what era they appear in.

Knoll’s classic designs go back even further to the 1930s. And the Barcelona chair designed by architect Mies van der Rohe still has a huge following. It can be found in many reception areas because it just looks so good in this environment with its chrome and black leather. Mind you it takes deep pockets to own one.

Why are classic chairs so expensive?
I suppose one of the reasons they cost so much is the companies producing them aren't under any pressure to sell then cheaply. They are seen as a status symbol and so there is a certain snobbery or cachet about them.

Also, whilst the tooling costs have long been absorbed it probably does create a level of disruption on the production line where high volume models are being made. Of course if you are prepared to turn a blind eye you can save a lot of money.

Should you consider buying a lookalike version?
Inevitably, other manufacturers turn out fake versions at a fraction of the cost of the genuine article. Some of them are very good and you would be hard pressed to tell the difference unless you looked really closely at them. Others are extremely poor quality with inferior leather and poor standards of workmanship and are best avoided.

So, to summarize the points I've covered, here’s a quick resume of the key points

  • Classic chairs have a certain timeless quality and can create a positive image
  • It’s worth companies to continue offering them because they can get profitable sales
  • They can make important areas in offices really stand out from the crowd
  • The genuine article will set you back a considerable sum of money
  • It’s possible to buy good quality alternatives if you are not too choosy

Classic office chairs will continue to be offered both now and in the future and yet others will become classics, if they haven't done so already. Herman Miller’s Aeron chair will surely be added to their ranks and become the seating equivalent of a homburg hat.

Here's where you can find more information on some great classic chairs which will probably still be being made 100 years from now.


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.


Clash Of The Office Furnishings Industry Titans: 2 Major Exhibitions Next Week

Next week sees two major office furnishings exhibitions, one each side of the Atlantic and both well represented with office chairs.

ON chair by Wilkhahn

The Wilkhahn ON Chair

First, Orgatec 2010 in Cologne, Germany runs from 26 – 30 October, it’s held every two years and is Europe's leading office furniture exhibition. Although it covers all facets of the office furnishings market, chairs for the office will be well represented.

Amongst the exhibitors is Wilkhahn and its funky new ON chair looks intriguing. The chair’s revolutionary support system really does move wherever you move and Das Büro magazine voted it the clear winner in an evaluation of 10 different swivel chairs. The ON and other Wilkhahn products can be seen in Hall 6.1 Stand B88/89.

Meanwhile in the US NeoCon East 2010 runs for 2 days on October 28 and 29. In all there are 250 exhibitors at the Baltimore Convention Center, covering a very wide range of Architectural Products, Floor coverings, Furniture, Lighting, Textiles and Wallcoverings.

Despite the wide variety of products office seating plays a leading role as 10% of the exhibitors are office chair companies, including major players like Haworth, Herman Miller, HON, Humanscale, Knoll and Steelcase.

So, whichever side of the pond you are, each exhibition offers an excellent opportunity to see a wide range of office seating at first hand.


How Modern Task Chair Design Leaves Traditional Models in the Dust

Office chair design has improved in leaps and bounds in the past 20 years, and yet there are still a huge amount of task chairs being made today built around the same old technology that existed 30 years ago.

Why is this? A lot of it has to do with the cost of tooling to make new components. It just costs a lot of money to create a new chair from the ground up.

It’s far easier to take what already exists and just tweak its appearance a little, rather like an automobile design where cars get facelifts every couple of years to prolong the life of a model.

Exactly the same thing happens with chairs. The basic guts of the thing, the bits you don’t see, stay the same. However, by reshaping the seat and back and maybe changing the base design, it’s possible to make the old appear new.

Fortunately, some companies are prepared to start with a blank sheet of paper and to do something radically different. Not surprising these tend to be the bigger players in the market who have the necessary resources and have a genuine desire to produce a substantially different and innovative chair.

Typically these manufacturers will do extensive market research into what problems users face and then go about creating a solution.

One of the big trends in recent years has been the launch of much simpler chairs, where the user just adjusts the height and maybe a couple of other things.

The chair has an inbuilt ability to anticipate what the user is doing by sensing their body movements as it self-adjusts and supports the user comfortably during the working day.

This is largely a good thing, as the majority of people don’t want to fiddle with loads of levers and buttons. Examples of these types of chairs include the HÅG Futu, Knoll’s Generation, and HumanScale’s Freedom and Liberty chairs.

Other manufacturers like Herman Miller and Steelcase prefer to create new models based on new technology and yet still let the user have lots of control over the settings.

Modern products like the Embody from Herman Miller, and the Think and Leap from Steelcase allow more user adjustment.

The one big downside with all of these new innovations comes down to cost. All that expensive design and tooling has to be paid for and as a result, chairs like these tend to start around the $500 mark.

This is why old, outdated seat design continues to be commonplace. Most of the components used in old-style seating can simply be bought off the shelf from component manufacturers who are geared up to turn out the various mechanisms and parts cheaply and quickly.

This results in a gulf in prices between old style models and newer ground breaking chairs, and once you try out one of these new breed of chairs and discover how superior they are, you will truly understand why they leave the same-old, same-old in the dust.

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