The Aeron chair is long in the tooth as office chairs go, having been introduced to the market way back in 1994. It was designed in the US by the now deceased Bill Stumpf and the very much alive Don Chadwick, who brought a new approach to the working environment founded in ergonomics, natural movement and the use of new materials. Without doubt a success for the exclusive manufacturer Herman Miller claiming sales in excess of almost three million units worldwide.
The chair has certainly had its share of the headlines, mentioned in the House on several occasions; most recently at the time of writing in 2007 when the Secretary of State for Defence was asked about the price his department had paid for Aeron; the Secretary advising that the chair was purchased at a very significant discount so don’t be afraid to haggle! During the second Iraq war even The Sun joined the office seating debate, publishing a detailed and thoroughly researched review (!) of the UK office chair market entitled ‘Who Chairs Wins’.
And so to the review…
Peter Wise – Marketing Director
I have sat in an Aeron for five plus years and, although it has not alleviated my backache, it has played a role in curtailing its advancement. I have not seen documentation to suggest the chair purports to be an orthopaedic product (unlike several of its competitors), but in my opinion it is beneficial. The chair does cut into the backs of the legs, but this can be remedied by lowering the seat height, and I found it necessary to also acquire a height adjustable desk to compensate.
The PostureFit gadget on the back of the chair designed to correct spinal posture is clever and does its job. The chair remains comfortable, while disciplining the user to sit properly.
The Aeron is available in three sizes so make sure you buy the right one. For call centres where a chair will have multiple users, three sizes are surely a recipe for disaster. Imagine if daddy bear finishes his shift and his is the only vacant chair when baby bear arrives.
A handy chart to assist in determining the correct size of a chair for the reader is located at hmeurope.com. However, individuals weighing in excess of 113kg (249lb) are officially off the scale and should be looking elsewhere for a seating solution.
The adjustments are way too complicated. The minimal adjustment labelling is obscure and the logic of adjustment baffling. In particular, the tilt tension requires numerous turns to have any appreciable impact and the adjustment of the forward and reverse tilt leavers is certain to result in frustration, exasperation and perhaps physical damage to the product.
The range of adjustments is impressive and the research by the designers into working positions throughout the day and the incorporation of the conclusions in the finished product is evident.
Pellicle (aka The Cheese Grater)
The mesh seat and back keeps you cool, which is great for our office but I would be reluctant to use Aeron in an open plan working environment without personal control of the air conditioning.
The mesh has been branded as Pellicle (meaning a thin skin or membrane), which is clearly highly durable and resistant to wear (Herman Miller are so confident, they guarantee the mesh for five years). However, Newton’s Third Law is spot-on here. The mesh has a curious effect on suit trousers and corduroy (we have dress down Fridays, and yes I am aware that I am completely non-street wearing cords). The mesh ‘shines’ them and because downward pressure is being applied with some lateral movement, a shaving effect appears to take place. In short, wear jeans, overalls or sit au naturel. Or alternatively send Herman Miller the receipt for your replacement trousers.
Well I had to mention it. Shop around. List price at time of writing for an average specification chair is £945 plus VAT chairbox.com. A quick check on Google revealed Silver Fox furniture offering the Aeron at £598 and eBay at even less, but if you are persuaded and go the ebay.co.uk route for a new chair, do make sure you will be receiving a genuine warranty… it is a complicated piece of machinery with potentially plenty to go wrong.
The chair looks cool, gives great back support but carries a running cost in replacement trousers. I would buy an Aeron again, but I would shop for second-hand. I’ll wait for the next Enron surplus!
Ryan Smith – Design Manager
Health and Design
I’ve been sitting in an Aeron for almost a year now and I have to say, the chair is very comfortable and highly ergonomic. Without even having to twiddle with any of the adjustments the chair feels very comfortable.
With Aeron there is a definite feel good factor, the chair makes you feel positive and enhances the working environment.
I do feel that the arm pads are incorrectly defined as arm pads; they are in reality elbow rests. My preference would be for arm pads. If Aeron could be adapted to incorporate sliding forward-back arm pads similar to some of the other office chairs we have, this defect would be corrected. The result would be increased forearm and wrist support when typing.
The chair does allow me to move around more in my seat, the chair itself remaining stationary.
My previous work chair offered very limited adjustment, it was a one chair fits all, but actually it didn’t fit any! With Aeron the adjustment options are wide. You can really tailor the chair to your own requirements, although I am still not entirely sure what all the levers do. The tilt tension for example, I’ve given up on that one.
One day I will make a conscious effort to get to know all of the adjustments, that’s what I need to do; it’s just getting round to doing it but surely I can’t be unique in my position of ignorance among global Aeron users?
What is good is that the user is able to fine tune the Aeron chair according to the work activity being performed, to accommodate the posture required. All of the adjustments are easy to reach and accessible.
Design and Price
The chair looks great. On the negative side, Aeron is bulky, heavy and big. It’s a substantial chair that takes up a lot of space in the office. Its footprint is large and would appear even larger in the home. However, the solid tactile feel is reassuring and makes me feel that a substantial product is worth its substantial price.
The bulk of the chair does restrict its physical mobility around the office. Maybe that was deliberate in its design, to force me to leave my seat more often.
I do notice also that the chair is very easy to scratch, the back of the chair in particular. The user needs to be cautious with regard to avoiding impact when reversing.
Aeron has a true air of quality about it. I like my Herman Miller Aeron, it’s perfect for my role. If it’s good enough for David Dimbleby and Paul O’Grady, then I suppose it’s good enough for me.