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Design Story: Niels Diffrient and the Freedom Chair


The Freedom Chair by Humanscale has a unique design story that says a lot about the final product the chair has become. The company that is responsible for the chair, Humanscale, was started many years ago with one thought in mind; making comfortable, supportive chairs, and making them with the best ergonomic technology and innovation available. The furniture produced by Humanscale is rigorously tested and refined, creatively designed and executed, and never brought out for sale or distribution until just the right ingredients (comfort, ergonomics, style) have come together to create task chair alchemy. One such product is, of course, the Freedom Chair.

The Freedom Chair began in the mind of Niels Diffrient, one of the premier furniture designers anywhere in the world. Niels was interested, first and foremost, in revolutionizing the office chair through ergonomic innovation. It was Diffrient who brought to the table the idea of the recline system, the counter-balancing mechanism that made the Freedom Chair one of the most ergonomically sound chairs ever built.

Niels Diffrient
Niels Diffrient

Diffrient believed that the optimum ergonomic position was to always be laying down; since that's not possible while you're typing or working at your desk, the counterbalancing recline system was the next best thing. Never deterred by what had never been done or by an idea that seemed impractical, Niels and the Humanscale design team were able to breakthrough the mold of ergonomic chairs past and create their own indelible object in the Freedom Chair. The Freedom Chair is the closest you can come to comfortably and productively laying down at work; you'll be comfortable, supported, and ergonomically sound.

Of course the design of the Freedom Chair was not just restricted to the revolutionary recline feature. Other features, including the self-adjusting capabilities of the backrest, the intuitive headrest, and the the high performance gel seat all combined to make the Freedom Chair one of the most action-packed chairs ever built, ergonomically speaking. The features and design innovation festooned the chair just as surely as awards did when it was finally released.

Freedom Chair by Niels Diffrient Freedom Chair Humanscale Freedom Chair

This chair became a working model of ergonomic excellence, with Niel Diffrient pulling the levers. After having won numerous awards, scholarships and commissions over his long career, the Freedom Chair would become Diffrient's lasting testament to a seemingly obvious idea; that a design should be beholden to technology first, aka, to comfort and ergonomic support, rather than first assuring itself it was stylishly made. The most important aspect of a task chair is it's ability to help you complete your tasks, and the Freedom Chair is one more instrument in your arsenal to increase your health and productivity.

When the Freedom Chair was released, it took it's rightful place alongside the greatest office chairs ever designed. The painstaking attention to every technological detail, the environmental conscientiousness, the stylization (that came second to the healthful technological construction), the designer and the company, all combined to produce a wildly successful chair. The Freedom Chair has been the recipient of numerous commendations, citations, certifications, and awards, just like it's designer, Niels Diffrient.

In the end, the Freedom Chair stands as one of ergonomic furniture's most inspiring and remarkable success stories. For the first time, a major designer subsumed the demands of stylization to the demands of comfort and ergonomics; and the result was outstanding in both categories.