As important as these developments were, perhaps even more significant was the introduction in 1976 of the company’s first ergonomic chair, the Ergon. With this new concept, Herman Miller, Inc. took its place in a new industry and has been at the forefront ever since.
The Ergon was followed by the Equa in 1984, and in 1988, the Ergon 2 was introduced. But the company was determine to develop a completely new type of chair, and called on the services of Don Chadwick and Bill Strumpf to come up with an innovative new design. Stumpf had been associated with Herman Miller since 1970, and created the company’s first ergonomic chair, the Ergon. He was also responsible for the company’s Ethospace line. Strumpf and Chadwick had also worked together on the Equa line.
Chadwick and Strumpf based their design plan on four pre-determined criteria. The new chair had to contribute to the health of the individual who would use it, and be environmentally friendly. It had to be highly functional and allow for the user to change position frequently and easily. Finally, the new chair had to really fit the body measurements of the person who would use it, and offer more than one size to accommodate people of different weights and body types.
The final design, which was dubbed the Aeron, was totally different from any chair that had ever been designed for office or personal use. Bill Strumpf considered the chair to be “biomorphic;” that is a shape similar to a living organism. “We designed the chair to be above all biomorphic, or curvilinear, as a metaphor of human form in the visual as well as the tactile sense,” he explained. “There is not one straight line to be found on an Aeron chair.”
To test the new design, Herman Miller employed a team of physical therapists, ergonomists, and orthopedic specialists, as well as ordinary users. The company also conducted extensive research on the flexible mesh fabric that had been chosen to use on the chair, and tested elements such as weight distribution and the properties that would repel heat and moisture. They used real people and assembled a sampling of 224 people of various shapes and sizes to determine sizing.