If you know one office chair by name, it’s probably the Aeron. Released in 1994, its radical, high-tech exoskeleton design was a sensation, and the chair went on to become that rare piece of furniture to emerge as a pop-culture signifier. In 1995 it appeared as the lone piece of set decoration in a Levi Strauss & Co. Super Bowl commercial; later, it served as a plot point in an episode of Will & Grace.
Nathan Myhrvold, then the chief technology officer of Microsoft Corp., argued in a 1998 issue of Vanity Fair that owning an Aeron chair wasn’t so different from owning a private jet: They were both about investing in your own comfort. “The Aeron was a symbolic way to attract talent and people during the dot-com era,” says Primo Orpilla, co-founder of Studio O+A, which has designed offices for Uber Technologies, Yelp, and Microsoft. “Companies said, ‘You’ve got an Aeron chair, we care about your health.’ ”