Design Collaborative: Colorful Seating

Jan. 1, 2008

Keilhauer's Morley Knitback chair provides a colorful and sophisticated seating option that is appropriate for a variety of installations.

By Janet Wiens

When Keilhauer introduced the Morley chair at NeoCon® 2006, officials knew that it was just the first step in a new line of seating for the company. The new Morley Knitback, introduced in 2007, boasts the same quality and features as the chair's original version ... but in colors and in a texture that will brighten any room.

"When we began discussing what was to be the Morley chair we felt that there was an opportunity to give the marketplace a knit version," says Jackie Maze, Keilhauer's vice president of sales and marketing. "We evaluated other products and talked with many potential customers and knitting manufacturers to test our idea and its  viability. Our analysis showed that there was a place for a sophisticated multi-colored knitback chair targeted
for use as a task chair and in meeting rooms."

While Keilhauer conducted extensive research prior to introducing both chairs, Maze notes that in some ways the decision to manufacturer the Morley Knitback was an intuitive leap. "We knew that we would be successful if we could find the right price point, and we were able to fulfill that requirement."

The Morley Knitback comes in 16 color combinations and has a polyester "sock" that is knit in a sophisticated small pattern. Four colors and a black monofilament make up each pattern, which resembles a solid-patterned upholstery enhanced by the flexible comfort of mesh. In addition to the color variations, the chair is also available in solid ivory or black.

Maze states that Keilhauer is the first seating manufacturer to offer a knit mesh, the first to offer a mesh in bright colors, and the first to offer a multi-color knit mesh. "The Knitback illustrates our company's commitment to bring new products to the marketplace. We believed from the beginning that this line would work well with our existing
offerings, and that it would provide the quality that our customers have come to expect."

The Knitback's warm reception by customers is due, in Maze's opinion, to the use of color and texture in a new way, and because these design elements are combined with a frame and features that are well designed. Keilhauer enlisted Mark Kapka, an independent industrial designer based in San Francisco, to collaborate with the company on the two Morley products. Kapka has worked with the company on more than a dozen other products, and fully understands Keilhauer's corporate philosophy regarding product design.

"When we began talking about the product, Jackie and others at Keilhauer expressed the desire to offer a chair with a quiet, restrained design that would be very classic," explains Kapka. "The goal was to manufacture a new seating option that would be comfortable, appropriate for use in multiple settings, and that would not be trendy." Kapka views the Knitback as the sportswear version of the Morley chair. He notes that the mesh and colors add a dimension that will enhance a room without overwhelming other design elements.

The chair features all the adjustments of the original Morley chair, including Keilhauer's Pelvic Balance PointTM technology, which provides equal seating comfort for both men and women. The technology is based on the company's discovery that the two genders sit differently, and that this necessitates a different design approach.

In the Knitback, as with other select company products, the seat pan slides forward and back when a button positioned under the seat is engaged. An open area between the seat and the backrest enables the user to move their lower back and hip area further into the seat. The combination of the sliding seat pan and backrest design addresses the identified gender differences in seating postures while also addressing issues involving comfort and long-term use- especially for individuals who spend extensive time working at computers. As with the seat pan, buttons located under the seat control the tilt angle and tilt tension. To further meet individual preferences, the  Knitback comes in armless, adjustable arm, and fixed-arm versions.

While the chair's comfort and aesthetic attributes are impressive, both Maze and Kapka note that the seating respects Keilhauer's strong environmental mandate. The chair is GREENGUARD-certified, and is made from materials that are recyclable or sustainable, as well as materials that can be recycled. The mesh knitback can be easily changed in the field and can be removed and laundered as necessary to maintain its original appearance. As
further evidence that this seating product is designed to respect a customer's investment, the chair is backed by a 10-year warranty.

Maze reports that sales to date for the Morley Knitback have been very strong. In addition to the solid black option, she says that sales for the green and blue colors have been very popular with customers. Another testament that the chair is meeting a need in the marketplace may come from the competition.

According to Maze, several companies have contacted Keilhauer about the textured knitback component and whether the manufacturer would be able to provide them with a similar product. Keilhauer, in its wisdom, crafted an exclusive arrangement with the manufacturer of the knitback material- ensuring that the company has the product that it needs while protecting its design.

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