Steelcase Design and Glen Oliver Lowe
Furniture design can be as advanced as any new technology we use today and an advance in office chair design has the potential to benefit thousands as our lifestyles evolve. By providing a more dynamic support to the body, this chair attempts to encourage movement while we interact with the handheld digital devices we love. This project began as a global study on human body gesture and resulted in a stylish chair that will not only carry you comfortably in a work environment, but support you in every move you make while seated.
Gesture is the first chair designed to support our interactions with today’s technologies. It was inspired by the movement of the human body and created for the way we work today, with today’s most prevalent devices such as smart phones and tablets.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
Technology is the single greatest force driving the changes in the way we work, live and behave. The new, multiple devices we deploy throughout our work day allow us to flow between tasks, fluidly, and frequently. However, these devices also cause us to sit differently than ever before when engaging with them.
Understanding the taxonomy of postures at work and how the body naturally moves caused us to ask ourselves, “could a chair act as a system, just like the human body?” These results influenced the creation of Gesture - which is designed to mimic the movement of the human body, and be as advanced as the technology we’re using today.
We love our technology – it’s become a ubiquitous extension of ourselves. But the way technology impacts our bodies as we work has been largely ignored. Steelcase also knew the changing sociology of work and how people rapidly shift between individual, focused tasks and creative collaboration was changing. Each new activity caused people to change postures more frequently and some new postures were not adequately supported by today's seating. The organization knew people were working differently, sitting differently and engaging differently. But what did all this mean for an office chair?4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
Steelcase new the technology, physiology and sociology of the way we work today had changed; so the company undertook a global posture study in 11 countries observing 2000 people in a wide range of postures and uncovered nine new postures as a result of new technologies and behaviors. They studied how the human body interacts with technologies and how it responds as workers shift from one device to another. What they found was that people were in pain.
The company also studied the changing sociology of work and how people rapidly shift between individual, focused tasks and creative collaboration. Each new activity caused people to change postures. These led to ergonomic implications that, if not adequately addressed, can cause pain and discomfort for workers.
Based on this research, Steelcase fundamentally recreated the chair; designing from the human body rather than a traditional chair design. They asked themselves, what if a chair moved as flawlessly as the human body?
Gesture is designed based on three key interfaces – the core interface, upper limb interface and seat interface -- to support new postures driven by new technology and more casual behaviors in the workplace. For example, Gesture encourages motion rather than forcing the body to hold a single posture. The upper limb interface allows people to draw closer to a work surface to avoid hunching over a screen and easily move close to the body to support texting postures. Unlike conventional chairs, the Gesture chair’s core interface hugs the lower back when people recline to scroll on a tablet screen. The seat interface adjusts rapidly to help users avoid perching on the edge of their chair. Gesture embraces a broad range of body sizes and easily adapts to meet the needs of each individual user, which is critical in an increasingly global business environment that has to support more diverse workers than ever before. The Gesture chair is a system of interconnected parts – inspired by the human body – designed to support the way we work today.
Gesture is designed to be as advanced as the technology we’re using today and to provide complete support for today’s workforce – unlike any other chair on the market.
Gesture is a chair unlike any other. Steelcase didn’t start with a chair design, they started by looking at movement in the human body. This inspired their unique design philosophy:
Encourage movement: movement is natural and healthy for the body and mind. Gesture encourages fluid and dynamic motion throughout the sitting experience.
Strong core with flexible perimeters: like a healthy body, Gesture has a stable core to provide support, and flexibility to allow a broad range of motion.
Systemic approach: all major parts of Gesture move in harmony to support posture shifts. This creates a fluid, natural motion that encourages movement.
Realized performance: a well-designed user interface makes it easy and intuitive to use. It unlocks the mystery of ergonomics and eliminates the complexity of ergonomic adjustment.
Gesture is designed for the interface between user and technology; inspired by the movement of the human body and created for the way we work today.