Herman Miller and Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI) collaborate to bring ‘Ergo Chair-Student Designs for Well-being’- the region’s first design competition to celebrate traditional workers.

What does the future of ergonomic chairs look like? Students and faculty of DIDI have partnered with Herman Miller for ‘Ergo Chair—Student Designs for Wellbeing’, a creative project to rethink and reimagine ergonomic seating and well-being. Launched on September 5 2019, this six-week design challenge, ending on October 24 2019, will be DIDI students’ first live project with Herman Miller, showcasing what the future of chair design could look like for traditional workers—integrating key design drivers, such as sustainability, user experience, and innovation.

The six-week design challenge set by DIDI and Herman Miller tasks the students with designing a chair that enhances the comfort of a traditional worker in their specific environment. Lauren Bell, head of education for Herman Miller explains why the company wanted to be involved: “We are delighted to be a part of this challenge. Advising student work is important to us as we can learn from them as much as they learn from us. The specific topic of this challenge is relevant to both education and workplace sectors; pushing the boundaries of ergonomics and connecting design to well-being are key goals of ours as we continue to research how design impacts people.”

The goal of Ergo Chair is to highlight work hazards for the traditional workers, be it tailors, weavers, who are typically overlooked. The ergonomic hazards for these workers include working in awkward or uncomfortable postures and using excessive force or high repetition to complete a task. The challenge would like to see experimentation with diverse materials, such as re-purposed and recycled material and pushing of abstract barriers with the use of 21st-century technology such as 3D printing and mould-able plastics. At the end of the six weeks and in an exhibition that coincides with Dubai Design Week, the students and faculty will present a showcase of their work that will range from simple interpretations to pieces that revolutionise the traditional act of sitting.

Hani Asfour, dean of DIDI, said that during the challenge students are utilising their design skills as well as taking take inspiration from the past while remaining firmly focused on the future. “This includes considering key design drivers, such as sustainability, empathy and innovation,” he said. “Ergo Chair is an exciting opportunity for DIDI to showcase this thinking. What better way to do this than on the region’s biggest design stage, Dubai Design Week and with the ergonomic leader of furniture—Herman Miller.”

Herman Miller’s regional director, Stacy Stewart commented that the challenges today are very similar to those of the past, although the tools might be very different. He said: “The challenge would like to highlight Herman Miller’s human-centred design and leadership in innovative technology and materials”.

The Ergo Chair exhibition will be held throughout Dubai Design Week which runs from November 11-16, 2019.