08.02.2017 10:23

Design projects typically kick off with a brief, but in the case of the new HiLo stool that the San Francisco engineering and design firm Box Clever developed for Knoll, it began with an metaphor seemingly pulled from left field. Benjamin Pardo, Knoll's director of design, bought two traditional Scottish kilts for Bret Recor and Seth Murray, Box Clever's co-founders.

"When we first started the project, he wanted to make sure we were sensitive to the different types of people who would be using it so he bought us kilts and said, 'Put these on and make sure you’re comfortable sitting on [the design] while you wear it," Recor says.

The HiLo is a new seating piece. The piece is shaped like a dumbbell—it has a central post with a slender seat on one end and a pivoting base on the other. It also provides a solution to the itinerant way people work today. "It’s like if you smashed a razor scooter and a pogo stick together," Knoll CEO Andrew Cogan says about the HiLo's portability and form. "It’s comfortable, it’s light, it’s mobile, it can be a guest chair, it can support you standing or sitting. It’s relevant to individuals in their homes as well as workers in their offices." 


Increasingly, people don't sit—or stand—in the same place throughout the day; rather, they move about an office depending on the task at hand and need products. For contract furniture makers, it's no longer just about offering task and lounge seating; it's about creating a place to "perch" for any given amount of time.

"Our fastest growing [user] category is people working at height-adjustable workstations and we saw time and again that office chairs were pushed to the side," Cogan says. "We asked, what do you use when you're standing up? It was clear that you ended up with this chair gridlock when you were at tables. There’s got to be some device between a chair and a stool that would work in this environment, that people could use throughout the day, in group meetings, as well as provide support when they're standing up." 


Aside from the kilt analogy, the only other thing Pardo told Box Clever to keep in mind was that the HiLo should be a companion in the workplace, a piece that could work in myriad settings and that someone could easily take with them.

Box Clever doesn't think the HiLo will replace a task chair for every office, and it wasn't intended to, but for some offices, it may. It's more of an intermediary. "The way people are working today, they’re not staying at their desks long," Recor says. "They're in meeting rooms and lounges. Sometimes you’ll need to have a quick scrum and pull people together and this is the easiest way to make it happen."

The height of most task chairs can be adjusted through an air piston, a heavy component that requires levers to operate. In lieu of this, Box Clever opted to use a long, threaded cylinder with a clutch that allows users to raise and lower the seat by pressing a button and adjusting the position by hand. To ensure the HiLo keeps its balance, the designers made the base heavier—it's fabricated from sturdy cast aluminum—so it has a low center of gravity. This way, users feel more stable when they're sitting on it and it's less likely to topple over if someone brushes against it when it's not in use.

Part of the stool's magic lies in the base. A steel substructure houses a fleet of springs, which allows users to lean forward or side to side on the stool, and a pivot that gives a 360-degree range of motion. The entire base is coated with a polymer that gives it grip. When you sit on the HiLo, your feet provide points of contact with the ground, too, for stability.

The stool may seem a tad uncomfortable for workers raised on cushy Aeron chairs. But that might not be a bad thing. Recor points out that you're typically more attentive in meetings when you're standing versus slumped in a chair. And since you're partially standing while you perch on the HiLo, think of it as a less aggressive way to achieve a power pose—even if you're wearing a kilt.

The full story can be read here

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