The Principles of Universal Design

Bruce Hannah: What a simple thought: design a chair with every feature you might need that comes in small, medium or large. As simple as buying a t-shirt! Bill Stumpf and Don Chadwick changed the way we thought about office chairs with the Aeron Chair. With the Aeron Chair, everyone is equal in the office. Everyone deserves the same support, comfort and features. The small manager no longer gets to sit in the big chair while his assistant sits uncomfortably in a small one. This was not always true. In fact, Bill Stumpf's first series of chairs for Herman Miller in 1973 (the Ergon Chair, named for its concentration on the ergonomics of the user) maintained the "chair status quo." If you were a manger you got to sit in a manager's chair. If you were an executive you got to sit in an even bigger executive chair. If you were a secretary you were given a small chair — usually without arms! This wasn't very equitable.

In the 1980s, Bill's next line of chairs for Herman Miller, the Equa Chair, really made an attempt to equalize the office environment. There were fewer models and most used the same size seat and back shell. The Equa Chair set a new standard and really questioned the prevailing logic of chair design at the time. Then came the Aeron chair, which challenged the design standards in the early 1990s. It originally came in three sizes and one color — black — and it was expensive. But it was an immediate hit. Everyone wanted one. And everyone could get his or her size! Again, just like the OXO Good Grips, it's proven that people will pay for comfort, ease and safety.

Related Links: Herman Miller