A Legacy Always On the Move

 

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“The workplace is no longer about sticking people in a cube, adding some lumbar support, and telling them to not move until lunch.”

The man who spoke those words, our founder Chuck Saylor (pictured above), knows a thing or two about the importance of movement. It was, in part, seeing the effects of stasis in cubicle-bound workplaces that inspired him to move out on his own and start a different kind of furniture company in 2001—one focused on human-centered wellbeing and connection.

Thirteen NeoCon shows later for izzy+ (and 40 for Saylor!), he is once again making a significant move—this time toward retirement—but not without first introducing a new pair of chairs, designed and engineered by Sava Cvek to dramatically shift the way people understand sitting at work.

The desire to create Wabi and Nikko, the two chairs being featured in our showroom at NeoCon this year, was sparked by a back injury that radically changed how Saylor felt about sitting down.

“Even after I went through successful physical therapy, I still couldn’t get comfortable in a task chair for any extended period of time,” he says. “It didn’t matter how expensive it was, or how ergonomically sophisticated it was, I could not find a chair that didn’t ultimately produce pain for me.”

That’s when Saylor reached out to Cvek to take the design lead and to physical therapist Barbara Hoogenboom to serve as an expert resource on sitting posture and body mechanics. As the team worked through the anatomical research, it became clear that the design of the chair’s seat pan—not its back—was the key to creating a better way to sit. As a result, Cvek designed Wabi and Nikko from the bottom up. The seat pan, by aligning and balancing the pelvis, allows for the greatest freedom of movement while sitting, relieving pressure points and back pain while improving circulation and brain function.

Now, as he moves toward retirement at the end of July, the legacy Saylor is leaving through Wabi and Nikko is very fitting for a company that has always been about being innovative, agile, and on the move.

“The company that Chuck Saylor founded and inspired is a lively one that just can’t sit still,” says Kevin Kuske, who is marking his first NeoCon as President and CEO of izzy+.  “So, it’s truly appropriate that we introduce to the marketplace this year a pair of chairs that both promote healthy movement and speak volumes about Chuck’s contributions and legacy at izzy+.”

That legacy includes a focus on movement that came long before it became a buzzword in the realms of both design and wellbeing. From the first izzy “catazine” publication (which was called Go!) to the casters on all of our easy-to-move furniture designs and the surfboards and tandems that have topped our iconic NeoCon Mini Coopers, movement has been a theme all along:

2001: On your mark, get set, go! Chuck Saylor launches izzy, a different kind of furniture company, with human-centered products like Hannah that encourage movement.

2004: Ahead of the movement. We formed a partnership with Norwegian seating expert HAG, who has always understood that ergonomics is about movement.

2006: Research that hits the road. We began visiting colleges and universities to learn as much as we could about the future of teaching and learning spaces.

2008: Moving forward, Better Together. Acquiring Jami Inc. and it’s four brands—Harter, Fixtures Furniture, Zoom Seating, and ABCO—allowed us to move into more markets with more solutions.

2010: 3-2-1…blast-off! Our design team developed a new approach to the design of work and learning spaces, with a focus on movement between three key types of spaces.

2012: On the move to Nicaragua. A group of interior designers takes off with us on our first service-learning adventure in Nicaragua.

2014: BAM! Balanced Active Movement—the key to healthy sitting—is articulated in the creation of Wabi and Nikko, designed by Sava Cvek.

And now Chuck Saylor is on the move to his next big adventure. He will be greatly missed, but we will honor his legacy by moving forward in exciting ways, as he has always taught us to do!

kristin blog post

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Wellness: Working its way into product design

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Have you recently spent $500 on a blender, or maybe $175 on running shoes or a wristband fitness tracker?

Even if you haven’t, there are plenty of people who have. Market data shows the demand for products that help maintain health and wellness is growing, and that growth, in turn, is driving the product design industry.

“People are more aware of their health than ever, and they’re spending money accordingly—especially young GenY adults,” says izzy+ Founder Chuck Saylor, noting the Vitamix blender as an example.

According to a Business Insider article (December 24, 2013), Vitamix “…has tripled its workforce in the last two years as its popularity among health-conscious consumers has surged, with sales growing 52% last year.” The growth, at least in part, can be traced to the rising number of fitness buffs and health-conscious eaters, who are clearly willing to buy a $300-$650 blender whose brand revolves around health.

“If consumers are investing money in their wellbeing, that means innovators and designers are paying more attention than ever, too,” Saylor says.

Some fitness design niches, like running shoes, have been big business for decades. Nike began producing its innovative, “swoosh”-clad shoes in the 1970s, and they’ve been innovating and pushing the boundaries of running shoe design since. Today, a variety of brands compete, with running shoes that combine functional design and technological advancements (costing $175 and more, and weighing under 7 oz).

A more recent segment of the fitness design industry revolves around technology, such as digital body monitors and fitness trackers like FitBit. (During this year’s izzy+ Valentine’s promotion we even gave away FitBit Flexes, to coordinate with our focus on wellness.) An article about the biggest fitness tech trends predicts continued growth: “The number of companies and amount of competition in the fitness and wellness tech space give me great hope that we’ll continue to see a lot of innovation and integration in this space.”

At izzy+, wellbeing via human-centered design has been a focus since Saylor started the company in 2001. But none of our products has been more health-focused than our most recent product releases, Wabi and Nikko seating. Barbara Hoogenboom, a physical therapist and professor at Grand Valley State University, worked closely with designers Saylor and Sava Cvek, who drew on extensive anatomical research to engineer a chair that promotes “bottom-up sitting.” The seat pan design is engineered to support proper pelvic alignment, tilting the pelvis slightly forward, keeping it balanced from side to side, and reducing pressure points on the “sit bones.”

“Our position on the design of the whole Wabi and Nikko seat system came purely from physical therapy,” says Saylor. “Design, technology, and science all converge in this chair.”

So much research went into the design of these chairs because how we sit clearly matters—not just in terms of reducing back pain, but also for increasing our ability to focus, innovate, and be creative. Adults in office-oriented vocations spend more time sitting each day than they spend doing anything else—we average 9.3 hours of sitting a day, compared to 7.7 hours of sleeping (which leaves just 7 hours for anything else). Saylor says a healthy sitting posture, combined with regular movement throughout the day, is key to maintaining health and wellbeing at desk-based jobs.

In an Office Insight article about Active Design, Joan Blumenfeld of Perkins + Will suggests that every effort to engineer more movement into our days is worthwhile.

“Most of the best principles for design…encourage physical activity through small, incremental steps that help raise consciousness about a more healthy lifestyle in general, and a more active one at work or school, in particular.”

So here’s to your health and wellbeing—bottoms up!

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For more information on how sitting impacts health, check out this recent Washington Post article and infographic, and  to learn more about how Wabi and Nikko can improve your overall wellbeing, head to our website.

Photo at the top of the post by AForestFrolic

Photo below, the stool-height Nikko chair with the NeoCon Gold-winning Nemo Bar

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