• Lisa Barday

The First Time I Saw That Chair

It was the early 1990's and I was working as a Facilities Designer for a major insurance company. At the time, we were a big client of several office furniture manufacturers including Herman Miller and they treated us like royalty. If you were around then in the world of office furniture, NeoCon was nothing but endless late night parties, fancy dinners and one big social event. For us, the red carpet extended way beyond NeoCon and included jet trips to factories and other events and we rewarded them with orders but not because of these trips or events but because the product was good and what we wanted.

There was this chair, they said, and they invited us to see it in person. I was seven months pregnant at the time with my doctors note in hand approving my travel, and so I went to Michigan with others from my team. It was up on a platform and covered in a black shroud, why such drama for a chair, I thought. We were expected to sign non-disclosure agreements, which we promptly did. We were told we were part of a select group of clients but I know there were likely many.

The room was dark and the shroud was removed and there it was. I was awestruck and confused simultaneously. What was this odd looking chair with no fabric, no foam, no color. It was bizarre. The designers explained the concept, the innovation and engineering with passion and sincerity. You could hear how proud they were of this creation, defending its aesthetics and purpose with zeal. They showed us all three sizes and promptly wheeled an "A" over to petite me. I was hooked.

I have always been a bit of a chair nerd and am intrigued by the design story and function. Put me in a room with other chair nerds and I am surrounded by my people. I know now looking back, I was a witness to a turning point in chair history that day. Herman Miller boldly broke the mold with the Aeron chair and solidified their place in office furniture history. There are millions of Aeron's sitting in workstations and homes around the world and even a special one in the Museum of Modern Art in NY, that's just how iconic it is.

Years later, I ended up working for Herman Miller and made more trips to Michigan. I own several Aeron chairs (thanks for your generous employee discount) and up until earlier this year, would dread competing against Aeron on a project because they would almost always win. Well played Herman Miller, well played!

12 views0 comments