A product designer’s job is equal parts scientist, engineer, archivist – their work, the result of years of research and tinkering, may start as one thing and turn into something completely different. No one knows this better than designers Bill Stumpf and Don Chadwick, who put in years of combined research into the way people sit. Their most well-known joint production is the Aeron Chair, an ergonomic revolution when it first hit the market in 1994, and now the gold standard for office seating today. But Aeron wasn’t invented out of thin air – Chadwick and Stumpf worked on a number of predecessors that assayed their ideas of elemental chair design. Here’s the Aeron journey, from prototype to industry pioneer.
The world’s first research-based ergonomic chair
Nearly 20 years before the launch of the Aeron Chair, Bill Stumpf designed Ergon, changing the world of office seating forever. Before Ergon’s launch, Stumpf laid out the criteria for comfort, which would influence Herman Miller’s definition of high-performance seating, with a balanced view of comfort, function and aesthetics.
“Best of the Decade”
Bill Stumpf teamed up with Don Chadwick for their first seating collaboration: the Equa Chair, which was marketed as a “chair for people who can’t sit still” and landed in Time magazine’s “Best of the Decade” for design.
Stumpf and Chadwick teamed up to research comfortable chairs for the elderly as part of a pilot programme. The result? The Sarah Chair, which experimented with advanced kinematics as well as a new type of interior suspension, using a woven elastic material.
An ergonomic revolution
The Aeron Chair, designed by Stumpf and Chadwick, launched in 1994 and swiftly revolutionised the office furniture industry. It proved pioneering in both ergonomics and material innovation, thanks to its proprietary breathable textile known as Pellicle. This material could flex in multiple directions and was visually elegant enough that it could stay exposed with no additional upholstery, like the standard foam, fabric or leather found in most office chairs at the time.
Aeron quickly became the new gold standard for work chairs, landing in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
Good Design Award in Japan
Aeron wins the Gold Prize for “Good Design Awards” in the Office and Storage category from the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI).
“Design of the Decade” in China
Aeron received the “Design of the Decade” Gold Winner in China.
“Best of the Decade” ... again
The Industrial Design Society of America and Business Week magazine declared Aeron its “Design of the Decade”.
PostureFit sacral support
Herman Miller introduces its patented PostureFit technology in collaboration with Dr Brock Walker, back care specialist, designer and holder of multiple patents in fields including biomechanics and ergonomics.
Thoughtful, integrated style and technology
Fast Company magazine hails Herman Miller’s Aeron Chair among the 15best-designed consumer products of the past 100 years, based on its “thoughtful, integrated style and technology”, affordability, accessibility and impact.
The Simpsons did it!
The Aeron Chair made an appearance on The Simpsons episode “Thank God, It’s Doomsday," portraying God sitting in an ergonomic throne.
Cradle to cradle
The Aeron Chair was Herman Miller’s first product to receive the industry-leading Cradle to Cradle V3 Silver Level certification, assessed on our environmental and social performance.
Good design, long life
Aeron received the “Good Design Long Life Design Award” from the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI).
Remastered to perform today
Herman Miller unveiled an update of Aeron – remastered from the castors up – incorporating new research around the science of sitting, plus advancements in materials, manufacturing and technology – with the help of co-designer Don Chadwick. Aeron Remastered debuted a more refined tilt mechanism, adjustable PostureFit SL and an updated Pellicle called 8Z which incorporates eight separate “tensioned” zones – four in the seat, four in the back – for even better suspension.
The original game changer
After realising that many gamers were drawn to our office chairs for long hours behind a computer, Herman Miller launched a line of gaming chairs – including the Aeron Chair, in a special, all-black colourway.
Making the best, better for Earth
The company’s first major foray into product development incorporating ocean-bound plastic – recycled material that's been incorporated into the supply chain, picked from the waste once headed into our ocean – focuses on our best-selling chair. More than 150 metric tons of plastic (that’s the equivalent of 15 million water bottles!)* will be diverted from the ocean every year with the ever-more-sustainable Aeron.
* based on annual sales forecast