The Untold Story of the Herman Miller Aeron

“The Herman Miller Aeron chair has quite the story. Today, it is considered to be quite possibly the most comfortable chair ever designed, and certainly one of the most ergonomic. When it was designed in the early 1990s, it was unlike anything anyone had ever seen before. It was the most ergonomically advanced chair at the time, using materials and a design that was truly ground-breaking. It was the most comfortable chair in the world, and it’s even a permanent fixture on the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
A Revolutionary Chair
In the early 90s, the height of office chair comfort can be described in one word – bulky. Everyone believed that thickly padded, high backed chairs were the most comfortable option for those working desk jobs. The Aeron completely revolutionised this, introducing something that was quite the opposite. It had no straight lines, was made of hard plastics and a mesh that looked flimsy and not particularly supportive of the body. The Aeron was in no way bulky or padded. Instead, it was completely streamlined.
A Poor Reception
We may think of the Aeron now as the chair that changed the direction of office furniture, but when it was introduced, everyone hated it. For the life of them, Herman Miller could not figure out why.
This phenomenon is explored in depth in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink.This book explores the psychology behind snap judgements and includes a fascinating case study on the Aeron. In Blink, Gladwell explains how, despite the extensive research and design that went into the creation of the Aeron, and the fact that they knew it was a fantastic product, people were saying it was incredibly uncomfortable.
Snap Judgements
Gladwell attributes this to the “locked room” portion of our brain, where we make snap judgements based on prejudices instead of fact. So, even though the Aeron was indeed comfortable, because people had never seen anything like it before, and it looked uncomfortable compared to a plush, padded leather office chair, they believed it was uncomfortable and thought it was ugly.
It’s strange to think that something that we know to be modern, comfortable and aesthetically pleasing was initially received with such criticism. But Herman Miller eventually realised that testers needed to sit in the chair for a longer period of time to really see and accept how comfortable it was. They increased their testing times, and the scores began to improve.
When Herman Miller finally released the Aeron, it was widely accepted and became the best-selling office chair. The rest is history. Most modern office chairs have been modelled after the Herman Miller Aeron. While today there is no shortage of similar, highly ergonomic chairs, the Aeron is still remembered as the trendsetting chair that started it all.
Over the years, the Aeron has been improved and modernised and remains one of the most popular ergonomic chairs available. Browse our extensive Aeron range today and discover which is right for you, or opt for a design your own option.