By Chloe Hill
I spent a lot of time picking out my mattress five years ago.
At the mattress store, I spoke with a “sleep specialist” and laid on a cushion that was hooked up to a sensor device that was able to tell me which mattress would be best for my body type. This narrowed down the category of mattresses that I would test out.
All in all I spent about 2 hours choosing a mattress. I also threw down a substantial chunk of change for it. But a good night’s rest is vital to one’s health, so it makes sense to invest the time and effort into choosing a mattress.
It begs the question though: why don’t most people invest the same amount of time and money into the purchase of their office chairs?
I spend on average at least 8 hours sitting and working at my computer desk, yet I bought my office chair through an online office supply store just having seen a picture and read a brief description. When all was said and done, I spent just 20 minutes on the whole endeavor.
Renowned American furniture manufacturer Herman Miller certainly gave much more thought to the design and comfort of a desk chair. Out of that research came the Aeron Chair.
In the 1980s, Herman Miller recruited designers Bill Stumpf and Don Chadwick to create improved furniture for the elderly. A significant segment of the American populace was aging and even though the elderly spent most of their time sitting, there was a lack of ergonomic furniture options. The La-Z Boy was wildly popular with this population, but its adjustment lever was difficult to operate, and its vinyl upholstered foam stuffing unevenly spread the user’s body weight and retained body heat and moisture which resulted in bedsores.
Not very comfortable, huh?
Stumpf and Chadwick’s solution was the Sarah Chair. Its pneumatic control made it easier to adjust. A unique construction feature was also employed in which the foam cushions were supported by plastic fabric stretched across a wooden frame. The foam’s backing was exposed to air making if more breathable thus preventing bedsores and the foam was thinner enabling it to shape to the body and more evenly distribute body weight.
Because no platform existed to market highly designed furniture to the elderly Herman Miller found it difficult to sell and they soon discontinued the Sarah Chair. However, not long after, Herman Miller asked Stumpf and Chadwick if they could apply what they learned designing the Sarah Chair to designing a chair for the office furniture market.
This resulted in the futuristic looking Aeron Chair which was launched in 1994. The Aeron has a pneumatic reclining mechanism which makes it easier to adjust. Foam is replaced by a breathable mesh, thus also making the chair more environmentally friendly. The chair comes in three sizes and has a number of adjustments for supportive features so that the user can fine tune the fitting to his or her individual need. These adjustments include seat height, back tilt tension, back tilt limiter, forward tilt, arm rest height, arm angle, lumbar support and a component called “Posturefit” which can adjust to provide back support at the base to eliminate lower back pain.
The Hypnap TruRest resembles the Aeron Chair in a number of ways. Like the Aeron Chair, the TruRest emphasizes more performance using fewer materials. We looked at the concept of the bulky foam filled tabletop massage devices and reduced them down to their essentials.
|Bulky massage headrest support||TruRest Face Support|
When one simplifies something that is meant for the human body, more investigation and complex engineering is required. The Aeron chair forecasted a move toward dematerialization, and a more function forward, more engineering-heavy approach. They studied the body, did elaborate testing and consulted specialists to achieve the most ergonomic result possible.
Hypnap carries the torch. We studied the human body and consulted doctors and chiropractors. We discovered that the distribution of the weight of the chest and the delicate facial area and the positioning of the head in relation to the neck and back is the key to comfort. All of this is being taken into account as we continue to refine the design of the TruRest. The correct positioning of elements of the TruRest and the ability for the user to make a specific number of adjustments is essential.
Aeron Chair Adjustment Features
|Aeron Chair Adjustment Settings|
Similar to the Aeron Chair, the TruRest offers a number of adjustments we discovered in testing were crucial for comfort. The TruRest has an adjustment for angle, proximity to the user, two separate adjustments for height and an adjustment for the head support. There are also markers on the TruRest that you can use to document your setting so you only need to go through your fitting once unless you want to make any changes to the settings for different situations.
TruRest Prototype Adjustment Features
|TruRest Head Support Adj.||Proximity Adjustment||Angle Adjustment|
|Height Adjustment 1||Height Adjustment 2|
As with the designing of the Aeron Chair, the Hypnap team is taking a careful approach regarding the selection of materials. Like the Aeron Chair, the component of breath-ability in the TruRest is important. Skin will start to sweat after prolonged exposure to and pressure against materials and fabrics. Facial skin is the most delicate on the body and the face is the location of the eyes and nose, some of the most sensitive areas of the body. With that in mind, we’re currently investigating the use of a number of hypoallergenic, non-toxic, organic materials to incorporate into the face/head support of the TruRest.
|TruRest prototype and material exploration||Herman Miller mesh weave options for Aeron Chair|
Due to the elimination of materials and the absence of toxic foam, the Aeron Chair was an example of sustainability. It is also very important to the Hypnap team that the materials we use have the least impact on the environment as possible. We plan incorporate recycled and recyclable content into the frame of the TruRest and include designing for disassembly. For our cushions and carry bag we’re exploring eco-friendly materials.
Like the Aeron Chair, the TruRest is a premium product. Unlike the Aeron Chair, we’re aiming to make the TruRest affordable to the masses!
No matter if you are choosing a mattress, an office chair or a sleep aid, it’s worth spending the time and effort to achieve comfort and investing in a product that will not only deliver more comfort but also improve your health.
Huang, Cliff. “The Secret History of the Aeron Chair”. www.slate.com. The Slate Group, a Graham Holdings Company, November 5, 2012. Web. 10/2/2015.