General Theory of Chairs

I have made a major discovery today*. For someone dreaming of creating a perfect chair, prepare to be disappointed:

The more different types of chairs you sit on during your working day, the less back strain you will have. Ideally, a chair should be changed every 30 minutes or so. However, the quality of the chairs does not have to be perfect. The most important part is that each chair has to be different, with various dimensions, materials and surface textures.

So when you are in an office, don’t invest in one single swanky chair. Invest in at least 8 different mediocre chairs, and change each chair during a specific time interval. :wink: I’m joking here, but this is just to explain the principle of this discovery.

Same applies to computer mice and other devices that you use for an extended period of time. Continuous change in dimensional qualities will lead to better ergonomics.

So in future, designing an object with one static dimension and surface finish will not be the perfect ergonomic solution. I can envision a series of transformer chairs and console gamepads that can change its dimensional qualities, but it just doesn’t seem all too practical.

It’s midnight and after a long day, I don’t feel very good, but since this is a discovery and an idea, I just want to share this with you for a debate on ergonomics and how to hack them.

*Also search in twitter for this :wink:

When I was a student and we were beginning a seating project, we visited Herman Miller and were given a tour by Jerome Caruso who told us that, “The best posture is the next posture.” I’m not sure if that’s his or he got it from somewhere else, but it’s stuck with me for atleast 7 years now.

I did a seating project for my degree project and the main think I found is that we’re just not meant to be sitting for very long period. So I guess this still falls in line with that theory, the best chairs are temporary. We’re designed to be moving, not sitting.

So what we need is a chair that continually changes with us? If the chair made minor changes to its form every, 30 mins it would create that same effect.

The question is, why do we need to sit?

I was talking to an anthropologist who specializes in human factors and he told me that “sitting” is not a part of human body’s natural posture. I don’t know when or how did “sitting” start in the history of man kind but it’s obvious that our environment and space have evolved around the behavior of sitting. So what if we can start all over again and discover the true natural posture that the human body finds the most natural in? How can we design an environment to make that happen? How will that affect the nature of how we do everything?

Or if you do design this continually moving/standing environment, how will you convince ‘jo’ public to give up their armchairs in front of the TV and adopt your new design. Behavioral patterns built up over many years are very difficult to break :wink:

This reminds me of a quote from my professors back in the day “The most adjustable and adaptable object in any system is the human”

It’s a really good point, I’m always moving the seat position and incline in my car, and adjusting my office chair, I never really though about it too much…

“The best posture is the next posture.”

It’s the theory behind a lot of Petter Opsvik’s work (the best position is the next):

A quote from his page:

Those of us who live in industrialised parts of the world have evolved into Homo sedens over a very short period of time. This is not particularly good for our bodies, and we find ourselves asking what we can do to improve this situation.

Two obvious solutions spring to mind:

  1. to spend less time in a sitting position
  2. to move and vary our postures while sitting

To me the idea that sitting isn’t a natural posture seems a bit odd. Sure it may not always be the best for your body, but then just because something is natural (comes naturally to us) and is something we can do doesn’t mean it’s good for us. We, as humans, are capable of doing and choose to do many things. They’re not always good for us, though. It’s kind of the irony of evolution: we’re capable of many things, but not really made for anything. It’s all about good enough for the situation. Hm… trailing off a bit here. Just intended to post about the Opsvik quote and his idea is that static sitting is not good, which I agree with :wink:

I’d challenge the comments of the human factors specialist. I think this is another topic where the designer has this wild idea and is trying to “save the world through design.”

Fact is, we don’t have ample padding on our hands, or elbows, or shoulders. But we have a lot padding on our butts. Thus, we sit on them. Why should we challenge this? It’s how we were made, whether through evolution or God.

I disagree with that one on a personal perspective. I was not given padding but a mere back with a crack :stuck_out_tongue:

On a more serious note. We did not evolve to sit in a chair. We did evolve to sit on the ground though. Chairs are just not a natural item. They were merely made to show power and domination over people in ancient times by raising the rulers above the servants. Even in today’s time judges sit in the highest chair in a court room to show they have the power over everyone else. The idea of a chair is just about power. You can… hold a chair in a committee… the head of a household sits at the head chair… chairman of the board… This historical fact changed the course of history to the point where chairs are so ingrained in our culture that they are perceived as a necessity of life.

There is a good book about this by Galen Cranz titled The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body, and Design