Where do Office Chair Designers Get Their Inspiration?

Posted by: Mitchell H. Kirsch 1 comments

Now THIS is an original office chair – office furniture concern Herman Miller recently unveiled their new SAYL chair. Designer Yves Behar found his inspiration from the cables and towers of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge; the office chair that resulted from Behar’s brainstorm looks original in every sense, despite being derived from an architectural icon known to millions.

The SAYL’s design is far from arbitrary – the wires and structure together comprise a revolutionary intelligent frameless back support that adapts more readily to a user’s motions and body shape, without stinting on the body support. In other words: this office chair boasts of both beauty and brains.

Finally – to soothe environmentalists – the SAYL office chair is created using 21% recycled content.

The SAYL office chair’s revolutionary design is no fluke – Herman Miller has long demonstrated how to transform the humble office chair into an outlet for design breakthroughs. In fact, where groundbreaking design is concerned, the company has long been a leader in the furniture industry.     (read more)

Herman Miller’s reputation as an office chair design center was cemented long ago thanks the input of legendary designers like Charles and Ray Eames (designers of the eponymous Eames chair), Gilbert Rohde, Robert Propst, George Nelson, and Isamu Noguchi.

Herman Miller also produced the office chair that made it to the Museum of Modern Art in New York – the Aeron office chair is proudly displayed by MoMA in their collection to this day.

Office Chair Inspirations from Ordinary Objects

For the husband-and-wife Eames team, inspiration was derived from the immediate need at hand – “Recognizing the need was the primary condition for the practice of design”. For their legendary Eames chair, the immediate need was comfort: the result was a “chair that resembled, in feel, emotion, and aesthetic, a well-used baseball mitt.”

Yet it wouldn’t have become a classic if the Eames had neglected to factor in good design:

[The Eames chair] is also impossibly elegant, and in some ways a well-constructed contradiction. It embraces the curvature and gentleness of slope suggested in nature, in addition to natural wood elements, but it somewhat incongruously incorporates definitively modern practices like molded plywood and chair engineering to control recline and swivel.

The Eames chair design is such a classic, even other designers cite the Eames chair as an inspiration for their other designs!

Office Chair Materials Spur Creative Design

Today’s office chair designers are lucky to take advantage of building materials that the Eames could never have imagined.

Take the SETU office chair, again by our friends from Herman Miller. While lacking in customization, the SETU office chair uses groundbreaking new materials to maximize comfort. The pair of flexible spines that permit movement for office chair users, for instance; the mesh material also keeps things cool.

Can you imagine what kind of office chair the Eameses could have turned out if they had mesh material in their time?

Whether they’re deriving inspiration from comfortable everyday items (the Eameses’ baseball glove) or nature itself (as you might see in the Mussel office chair from Copenhagen), office chair designers have brainstorms that result in the perfect type of art: office furniture that both looks great and works well, each and every time.

Dec 26, 2010
9:50 am

I like the “eco-dematerialized” concept that HM is using on the SAYL chair. The removal of all unnecessary components and excess fabric doesn’t make the chair look stripped down – it gives it a refreshingly airy appearance.


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