Products typically garner for themselves a particular identity, often based on their buyers. A product usually is defined by the era in which it exists. Often it is tailored to meet the needs that exist at the time, so that the consumer has little difficulty in selecting the product as opposed to its competitors. Sometimes, however, that stereotype is reversed. When there is something that is very special, it can begin to shape the era in which it exists, rather than be shaped by it. Much like tailored suits, cigarettes, and martini lunches came to define the aesthetic of the early 60's business world, the Aeron Chair defined the finest offices of the late 90's dot-com bubble - in Silicon Valley and beyond.
An Era of Bold Ideas
There are several very good reasons that the Aeron chair defined this unique time in commerce and technology. The late 90's favored entrepreneurs and early adopters, especially those that oriented themselves to the rapidly developing technology surrounding the progress of the Internet and how business was done online. Rapid development, progress, early adoption ... all these things are indicative of the companies that were most successful in the mid-to-late 90's, and still are today. The Aeron was forward thinking and bold, just like the companies that it came to represent (i.e. Google, Apple, et al).
During the late 90's, companies that added a prefix of "e-" or a suffix of ".com" to their names on the stock markets saw an almost instant increase in shareholders and share value. It was an era marked by a boom-or-bust mentality, a time when "Get large or get lost" was a common tagline thrown around by companies invested in high growth, a large customer base, and sophistication. For all of these companies, the Aeron Chair was the seat of choice.
The Aeron Chair isn't cheap. It is incredibly well made, flawlessly designed, and consists of only the finest materials. The dot-commers of the late 90's and early 00's were experiencing incredible amounts of growth and success due to the innovation and expertise their companies contained. In the midst of wild success, the trappings of the offices in which these individuals worked consisted of icons. The latest in technology was on their desktops, the latest in mobile technology was in their pockets, and the latest in office furniture was behind their desks. The dot-com bubble was a time of innovation and people who were smart. Not only was their business smart, but their lifestyle was smart.
An Enduringly Significant Chair
The Aeron was not just a product of wild success and frivolously over-funded lifestyles. Eventually, the dot-com era came to an end. The bubble popped, companies began burning through invested capital without netting any revenue, and companies had to recover. CFOs began trimming the fat in corporate budgets, expense accounts were eliminated, and amenities that were once taken for granted seemed to teeter on eradication. This economic downturn effected every industry, and the furniture industry was no exception. The Aeron chair, however, has soldiered on.
When this chair exploded onto the scene in the early 90's, it made a significant impression - an impression that transcended economy, trends, fads and mania. This chair was built to last, both ergonomically and culturally. When you reinvent a medium that has been so static for so long, you do more than just gain new followers. You conceive of an entirely new way to communicate an idea. The Aeron Chair is one such an example.
If progressive thought brought about the human-centered design that took the world by storm in the form of the Aeron, then it is no surprise that that design remained an industry standard. The Aeron Chair has maintained stability as an industry standard. An icon that has worked its way into the canon of irreplaceable standards of technology-based environment, this chair has not waned in popularity. It has been consistently sought after since it reared its sophisticated head in 1994. It has been immortalized in the Modern Museum of Art, in numerous pop culture appearances (from television to print), and most ubiquitously in the offices, schools, and conference rooms of day to day life.
Sleek style, sustainable materials and methods, and innovative design are often the ingredients of an iconic cultural artifact. In the case of the Aeron, these ingredients defined an era. It is nearly impossible to summon up the ethos of the late-90's tech generation without imagining the Herman Miller Aeron Chair as the chair upon which the individuals underpinning these years had to sit. There is no comparison, and there was no compromise. An icon is an icon.