Branded Office Chairs Part 1: Herman Miller Top 3 – Aeron, Embody And Sayl

Following on from last week's article on the benefits of going for a branded chair, this week we begin a series on specific manufacturer's brands worth looking into.

This week we're taking a look at 3 top sellers from Herman Miller the Aeron, the Embody and the Sayl. Let's begin the Aeron its best known product.

Aeron chair
As office chairs go the Aeron ergonomic chair is getting quite long in the tooth it's been around since 1994.


Aeron Ergonomic Chair

Even so it remains an immensely popular choice and has probably reached classic chair status in the process.

One of its biggest appeals is that it comes in 3 sizes making it possible for people to get a chair closely matched to their body size.

It also started the whole mesh chair revolution and is excellent for anyone who tends to sweat a lot, particularly in hot weather. It mesh seat and back material called the pellicle allows air to circulate more freely.

However, it's not all plain sailing as the absence of padding makes for a firm sitting position which some find challenging. So if you prefer a nicely padded seat you may struggle to adapt to it.

And with the highly adjustable Aeron there are 11 separate adjustments. So if you like to be able to fine tune settings then you will find it can be set it up very precisely to your needs.

Let's move onto a more recent model the Embody.

Embody chair
Miller's Embody is a much newer introduction which first appeared in 2008.

Embody Chair

Embody Chair In Blue Fabric

It's a one size fits all chair and is quite different to the Aeron in appearance and use.

The chair has been produced from scratch and takes advantage of recent developments in plastics and polymers.

When you sit on it it feels like your are floating due to the 4 different components making up the layers of the seat.

The fabric finish is breathable and so is designed to be more user friendly for those who get hot while sitting.

It has a spine like back support designed to move as you move and no hard edges to dig into your body.

Finally there's Herman Miller's latest addition to the range the Sayl.

Sayl chair
This is Miller's most recent addition and launched in 2010.

Sayl Chair

Sayl Chair Side View

As with the Embody it takes advantage of modern materials that simply weren't available a few years ago.

The name is derived from the shape and style of the chair back which looks like a ship's sail, hence the Sayl name.

The open cell polymer back works by providing the right level of support where it's most needed.

Consequently the cells vary in size making sure that it can cope with the different pressures applied by the user's back.

Another great benefit is it costs about 37% less than the Aeron making it much more affordable.

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

  • Aeron chairs are still a good choice, and come in 3 sizes
  • Aeron has loads of adjustments to set it just right for you
  • Aeron lacks padding some may find this a problem
  • Embody feels like you're floating and has breathable fabric
  • Embody moves as you move, with no hard edges so doesn't dig into you
  • Sayl provides great back support
  • Sayl is a much more affordable solution

Further information
Here's where you can find full reviews of these 3 Herman Miller chairs:


Herman Miller And Humanscale Office Chair Summer Sale Extra 15% Until 13 June 2011

What is on offer?
Herman Miller and Humanscale are running a Summer sale special offering an extra 15% of all their office chairs. The offer covers both companies seating ranges and is a great opportunity to grab an outstanding price on some quality ergonomic office seats.

How long does the offer last?
Both sales started on Friday 03 June and run until Monday 13 June 2011, so as of today that leaves you 7 days to take advantage of this special pricing.

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:

Herman Miller Chairs
Aeron and Embody Range
Sayl Chair
Celle Chair
Mirra Chair
Eames Management Range

Humanscale Chairs
Freedom chair
Liberty Chair
Freedom Saddle Seat

So, if you have been hankering after a new chair now is a great time to lock in a great price. Don't leave it too long though because it all finishes next Monday.


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.

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