Chair Embody

Why Embody?

The drive at Herman Miller to make the human experience better has yielded many innovative ideas and products. Each of Herman Miller’s seating products builds the foundation of research and knowledge for the next, reinventing the reference point for ergonomic seating. The latest high-end task chair, Embody, was created to return balance to the human and computer working relationship.

Designed by Jeff Weber, designer of Caper, and his design studio partner, the late Bill Stumpf, creator of the Aeron chair, Embody was a multi-year, in-depth exploration of people’s working and sitting habits, the influence of technology on how people work, and a relentless pursuit to design a chair like no other. It addresses the way people sit at the workstation in a new way. It realigns the human sitting posture to adapt to fixed technology on the desk, providing a sitting experience good for the body, as well as the mind.

Stumpf, designer or co-designer of Herman Miller's Aeron, Equa, and Ergon work chairs, came to Herman Miller with the idea and said, "I think I have one more in me." Stumpf passed away in 2006. Working closely with a cross-functional team from Herman Miller, Weber carried on. As Embody's designer, Weber gave the chair its function and form, building on Stumpf's inspiration.

Their idea arose out of their approach to design. "You can't design without empathy," says Weber, who also designed Herman Miller's Caper chair. "Since design has become more technology based, we've had to sit in our chairs in front of computers for longer periods of time -just like everyone else.

We identify with the problems people have as a result of sitting, and we identify with their need to produce ideas."

Throughout the development of Embody, over 30 professionals contributed a range of expertise. Physicians and PhDs in the fields of biomechanics, vision, physical therapy, and ergonomics helped test hypotheses, review prototypes, and conduct studies that led to the first health-positive chair.

In the earliest discussions with the experts, three hypotheses were tested on them:

- Office worker well-being and health can be health-positive or therapeutic, not merely health-neutral.

- Dynamic surface pressure on a chair and back will provide more comfort, liveliness, and health-positive benefits than non-dynamic surface pressure.

- Work chairs can allow us to naturally achieve postural equilibrium (the upright balance point when our eyes are vertically aligned with our hips), no matter what our spinal curvature.

Expert input on these hypothesis fueled Weber and Stumpf's early thinking about the chair and formed the basis of experiments designed to establish if such a chair was possible. Prototypes followed, with experts sitting in them and offering appraisals of what was good and what wasn't. Researchers conducted laboratory experiments involving kinematics, preferred postures, pressure distribution, seated tasks, and metabolics. These guided the development of Embody and confirmed its health-positive benefits.