“The design concept that Stumpf presented in 1992 took the lessons of the Sarah to their logical extreme. “We started to realize that people were interacting with computers and keyboards in all sorts of positions. They’d have the keyboard in their lap. Or they’d be at their desk slouching back, semi-reclined,” says Chadwick. So they proposed a reclining mechanism based on the Sarah’s, one that allowed the seatpan and chairback to move in concert. And, most important, they came up with the idea of getting rid of the Sarah’s foam altogether. The right fabric mesh, they argued, would mold to any person’s shape—what prevented bedsores would also keep people comfortable. In the end, the chair’s oddball looks would be a direct expression of its engineering.
The Aeron obviously isn’t the cause of “sitting disease,” no more than it was the cause of the dotcom bubble. But it is, along with so many of the chairs that followed its example, and enabler of it. As a result, we now see a wave of products that you might call the anti-Aerons–many of which, incidentally, were first popularized in Silicon Valley. There are exercise balls that some people use for office chairs; desks (some of them designed by Herman Miller) that let you work standing up; desks attached to treadmills; and desks integrated with chairs that make sitting always slightly precarious. One of the most lauded designers alive today, Konstantin Grcic, actually designed a stool that’s intentionally too uncomfortable to sit in for long periods.”