Along the back and under the seat of Embody, Herman Miller’s new task chair, polymer bones zigzag across perforated plastic mats. The result is not quite as gossamer as the company’s iconic 1994 Aeron mesh chair, but Embody is springier than its ancestors, not to mention more versatile—the half-dozen knobs and handles protruding from its skeleton adjust for most body sizes. And Herman Miller can certify that Embody keeps sitters healthier than competing chairs can.
In university lab tests on seated subjects wearing heart monitors, body-pressure-measuring devices, and tissue oximeters, “we found a reduction in heart rates and improved circulation across the board” attributable to Embody, reports Janet Barnes, Herman Miller’s senior product manager for seating. “People would sit down on it and sometimes without prompting they’d tell us that their bodies were feeling less constrained, that they could open up their chest cavities and torsos. And they also liked the fact that the technology is visible, so they could understand how it works.”
Herman Miller bared Embody’s framework at the behest of its lead designer, William Stumpf, who developed the Aeron during a two-decade collaboration with Los Angeles–based furniture innovator Don Chadwick. Jeff Weber, a partner at Stumpf’s Minneapolis office (now Studio Weber + Associates), helped dream up the original concept for Embody: “We set out to translate how the human body moves, the articulation of the body, into a design that promotes healthful movement,” Weber explains.
Stumpf approved a prototype before his death in 2006, and since then, Weber says, “we’ve gone through many, many iterations and refinements.” Every final curve, he adds, resulted from “a pushing-and-pulling effect, reconciling form and function.” That is, every unexpected or elegant-looking detail also adds comfort or reinforcement: The arc of the arms accommodates wide hips, the back’s wasp waist allows elbow room, and the parabolic upholstery drape down the back connects the spine and ribs.
Final adjustments were still underway at press time for an October debut at the German furniture fair Orgatec. Embody’s European unveiling (rather than at NeoCon), Barnes explains, is “a platform to communicate that we are a global provider.” The target buyers, she adds, are “visionary organizations who consider their work environments to be strategic tools.” Not that she expects landfills to fill now with vintage Herman Miller; Aeron and Embody, she says diplomatically, “will coexist very nicely.” From $1,495.
By Eve M. Kahn