Christian Long

Niels Diffrient: Rethinks the Way We Sit Down

In TED Talks on May 10, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Reflection by BETH A.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Niels Diffrient: Rethinks the Way We Sit Down

Sitting down in a chair is a simple, everyday action that we as people don’t exactly think much of. We sit in our chairs that stay at our desks for many hours doing our work everyday and never really stopped to think about the chairs that we sit in. I would always think about how my comfort isn’t really important when it came to sitting down at my desk at home doing my mountains of homework, I would just focus on getting the actual work done.

After watching this video, however, Diffrient made me realize how important my chair actually is.

The first thing he pointed out was how his chair would automatically balance your weight, and adjusts to your weight and the force needed to recline.

Now, I first heard him say this and was perplexed. Why should I care if it automatically reclines? It doesn’t bother me to pull a lever, or push a button to let my chair recline. Now that I sit here and think about it, my chair does sometimes recline to far to where I feel like I’m going to fall off at any moment and fall right on my head. Diffrient’s chair doesn’t recline as far back as some chairs, but this is a chair for the office, not a recliner that many people have in their living rooms. I, for one, have a chair at my desk in my room that does not recline, and now I begin to wish that it did. Allowing an office chair to recline increases air flow which makes for better breathing.

The second thing that he showed the audience was the handiness of the arm rests. My chair that I’m sitting it doesn’t have arm rests, but I’m sure many people in the corporate world, or those who simply have a work space, have chairs with arm rests. I think that Diffrient’s solution for adjusting the arm rests are very reasonable but yet I feel myself asking why hasn’t anyone come up with that sooner? Either way, just by simply pulling or pushing one arm rest, you are actually adjusting both. I never realized how much pressure I was applying to my tailbone while I’m just sitting, and little did I know that with just having arm rests can relieve that load up to 20%, and what can also relieve that load is just simple reclining.

In the end, Diffrient shows his idyllic head rest, that comes up when you recline to support your cranial area, where a natural head rest should fall. Also, he describes the gel in the cushions for his Freedom Task Chair to be just like those in bicycle cushions. This gel absorbs point loads, and then distributes them to where you don’t get hard spots. Diffrient’s chair is one of the most versatile chairs that I have ever seen in my lifetime, but I honestly haven’t seen that many. However, his seems groundbreaking, and physically better for you than a regular office chair. Now, though his chair is fantastic, it does come at a very expensive price. The type of chair that he showed at this TED event is now between $1,075 and $1,155. So, if you’re comfort is a very important thing to you, and you’re willing to spend a lot of money on a chair, I would highly recommend this one.

So, Diffrient goes from finding planes romantic, and wanting to draw and design them for a living, to becoming a very famous furniture designer. This talk was fascinating, and very inspiring. To have your mind set on something you love and want to do, only to have it changed, but in the end, everything seemed to fall into place, and Diffrient is the man who formally wanted to design planes, only to make a name for himself in the design world. His Freedom chair line is small, and consists of the type shown in the video to simple seats that have no backs, just simple seats. Completely elaborate, and well-designed chairs, to a simple, and yet still well-designed, seats. In that sense, it’s almost like changing from big, elaborate airplanes, to just simple chairs, and yet, they both have had a major impact in our world today.


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