Generation Chair Staff Review with Mark Rico
This is a review of the Generation Chair, written by Mark Rico of Smart Furniture, who spent one work week sitting in it at the office. We hope you find it helpful and informative.
In the realm of ergonomic task seating, the Aeron was first, a groundbreaking chair in both design and comfort. Following on its heels was a host of chairs that mimicked the design and couldn't touch the comfort. But recently, with the Embody’s advent and the quality chairs produced by Steelcase and Humanscale, the discomfort of the consumer can be alleviated in any number of ways by any number of contenders. If you’re a fan of being able to sit in the best position possible for your body and for comfort, you have choices.
But what if you don’t want to sit still, with your feet flat on the ground and your arms at a 90 degree angle, and your back straight? What if you move a lot, or need to use the same chair to task and to collaborate? What if you (gasp) like to sit crooked?
This week I’m testing the Generation chair by Knoll, created with just such needs in mind. The one I’m sitting in has a Lemongrass colored seat and back and a polished aluminum base and frame. It’s the kind of color that would look horrible in my parents’ house and super cool in my friend’s condo.
The basic adjustments of this chair are the levers built into each armrest for up and down movement, a paddle built into each side of the seat’s underside (left to adjust seat pan depth, right to adjust seat height), and a lever at the right rear of the seat to adjust degree of tilt. The tilt adjustment has three settings: Slacker Recline, Moderately Relaxed, and No Recline for You.
The rubber back has a ton of flex to it, so each of those positions incorporates give, and stretching is easy and even encouraged by the back’s flexibility. Even though it doesn’t have any additional lumbar support, I don’t feel like the chair is lacking in that area as I sit in it. We’ll see how the week goes!
Today, I was mildly surprised when I walked up to my desk and found the Generation chair still waiting behind it. I think I really like the color – it’s not so much of a shock as it was when it was sent over from our Studio in the first place. It’s true that Lemongrass isn’t really that color, but I’ve decided that it sounds neat, so what the heck.
As I look at the arms of the chair, they seem aesthetically different than most chairs, and I think that’s because they were designed to not be in the way while still being there for your arms to rest on if you want them to be. This chair has the Height Adjustable arms, rather than the High Performance version.
Having not used the High Performance arms, I’m not sure what the main difference is, but these have enough cushion, go up and down easily and lock into place just fine. While they move around a lot and feel loosely connected to the frame, they actually stay locked in place better than most of the performance task chairs I’ve sat in recently. One of my pet peeves is when I put the arm where I want it to be and it decides that it wants to move somewhere else when I lean on it. These feel like they were meant to be leaned on, both by my arm and (if I feel so inclined) by my back when I’m sitting sideways in my chair.
That does bring me back to what I started talking about (regarding why the arms look aesthetically different than most chairs); they are designed to be out of my way when I’m sitting sideways with my legs under one arm and my back against another. They are successful at that job and do not infringe on my leg’s personal space, and while my arm-backrest isn’t super comfortable, it doesn’t cause me pain. I find that, rather than sit sideways, a more comfortable position is to turn about a quarter of the way around, counter-clockwise, and use both the back of the chair and the armrest for support. It’s actually surprisingly comfortable to sit like that while typing this.
Today, I attempted to do what I had never thought about doing before. I sat backwards in my office chair and leaned on the back. I can only imagine this being useful when sitting at someone else’s desk watching them work, or participating in something that does not require the use of typing or mousing actions. With that qualifier, it was comfy enough, but not as comfy as sitting backwards in a dining chair without arms. Because a task chair needs to have arms and a frame, which get in the way of your legs a little bit, the Generation wasn’t as great backwards as it is forwards or sideways. However, the part that really was neat was that the top of the seat back bent back and I was able to rest my arms on it while I was sitting backwards.
I still prefer the quarter-turned or sideways positions, and can rest my arm on the flexible seat back in that position. This chair would be awesome for the type of person who can’t sit still in their chair, or is always sitting on their leg, or is up and down frequently, or needs to look at the ceiling a lot (like if you work in a cubicle and don’t have a view … the flexible back would save your neck a lot of pain from straining to see something beyond your cubicle walls).
I’m sitting normally today, and by normally I mean facing forward. The only abnormal part of the way I’m sitting is that I’m sort of slouched sideways and leaning on my left elbow while I work. The Generation’s back being so flexible, I am able to feel supported and not strained even in that ergonomically incorrect position.
Do I sound like an advocate for bad posture? I really hope not. I really believe in sitting well for the sake of my bad back, and do notice when I’m sitting wrongly. My back tells me. And then I have to tell my daughters that I can’t pick them up for a while. And my chiropractor tells me that I’m an idiot, and my wallet gets thinner. So I really do have incentive to sit correctly.
Having sat in the Generation for almost a week, I can tell that it’s not noticeably harming me, and so my arbitrary verdict, based on not feeling pain or discomfort, is that it’s a good chair for people who normally have good posture but like to move around in their seats. Bear in mind that my back isn’t yours, nor are my sitting habits yours. That’d be boring, anyways – if we were all behavioral clones of each other …
The seat cushion doesn’t get talked about very much, because of the Generation’s Main Big Deal, which is the back and arms being so innovative and awesome. I’d rather it not get left behind, though, because my rear end is feeling very comfy and has been so all week. I don’t ever feel like I’m sliding out of the chair when I lean back, the seat pan adjusts deep enough for me (I’m 6’1”), and it seems to breathe well even though it’s a cushion and not space-age like some other chairs.
Let’s see, have I left out anything? Oh yeah, design. Other than mentioning that the arms look different, I haven’t really discussed the chair’s design features. When you look at it from the side, you notice that the back curves in towards the lumbar region, then back out again and seems to even curl over forwards at the top. That seems a bit unlike what you would expect in a chair, until you think about this chair’s purpose and construction. Each of the curves accentuates the back’s supportive ability, while still enabling it to flex and move just about any way you want it to.
From the back, it looks awesome because of the way the back is made – colored rubber with holes in it, with a great profile and contrasting colored frame – I mean, you can see the pictures shot from the back. I think that, although the side profile looks a little goofy, the back is stunning enough to more than make up for it.
So my conclusion is: because I prefer to sit still, I wouldn’t go for a Generation, but I love the way it looks. However, having moved around in it for a week, I would be able to honestly recommend it to my sister, who Can’t Ever Sit Still. She’d be very comfortable in this chair long-term.