Design Story

Design Story



Living Unframed  


"The best for the most for the least"

We like working with designer Yves Béhar, who designed our Leaf and Ardea personal lights. We like the way he thinks unframed, never constrained by what's expected or typical.




So we went to him when we wanted a highly affordable ergonomic work chair that would incorporate everything Herman Miller is known for—beautiful design, first-class ergonomics, elegant engineering, and respect for the environment. Béhar began by scratching a quote from Charles Eames onto his sketchpad: "The best for the most for the least." And then Béhar, who calls San Francisco home, took a look at his city's best-known landmark: the Golden Gate Bridge.

Suspending a Chair

Béhar wondered, could the engineering principles of a suspension bridge be applied to a chair? It turned out that not only was it possible, but using a suspension tower to support an unframed back would reduce materials, weight, and environmental impact. The flexible elastomer suspension material could be stretched in a way that provided the greatest tension at points where support is needed and the least in areas that would allow for the most expansive range of motion.


Something Unique

So there was the concept. Creating the actual chair wasn't quite that simple. SAYL wasn't designed on a computer. It was sketched and sketched again, and numerous prototypes were built and rejected before the design was right. He describes the process as "draw, build, break, and repeat until you arrive at something unique."

So why the name "SAYL?" Take a look at the chair from the side. See the resemblance to a full mainsail? The name reflects the sailing vessels that pass beneath the bridge that inspired the original design. Replacing the "i" in "SAIL" with a "y" is a nod to the innovative Y-Tower structure of the work chair.