Industrial designer Simon Dennehy, CEO of Irish industrial design firm Perch, has finally had enough of today’s sedentary school children sitting in unhealthy, back breaking seats and came up with a practical ergonomic chair he calls ‘Ray.’
Most of us had to sit in the school-issued plastic, wooden, or acrylic, and rather uncomfortable, chairs for most of our grade school career. Being hunched with little back and core support for up to ten or even more hours a day isn’t healthy, and there are plenty of studies to back this up.
The name ‘Ray,’ as though it’s personified to be the savior of children’s still-developing spines, in fact is taken after a type of fish, similar to a sting ray. The ray’s graceful wing-like fins inspired the cleverly designed seat that’s being heralded are ground-breaking in Scandinavia, Germany, and England. The chair’s popularity stems from the seat’s unique design, which allows it to flex under the weight of child. But the chair’s malleable seat was incorporated with a very good reason.
The seat is made of a thin plastic, so thin that the children sitting in the chair have to support their upright posture by making ‘micro-movements.’ What this means is that the seat naturally tilts forward so the children are forced to open their legs, tilt their pelvis downward, and make miniscule shifts in their seated posture. While seated, children’s legs and core muscles are working constantly and this over time strengthens their developing muscles.
The seat might not feel all that comfortable as Ray’s backrest supports just the lower back. But the design straightens the curvature of the spine, which is the ideal posture for sitting. Also like many office chairs, Ray is rollable on five wheels.
Ray isn’t alone. Accompanying the chair is a table with a surface that can tilt forward like a drafting table since traditional flat desks that are angled at 90 degrees, as Dennehy tells Fast Company, ‘force kids to hunch over, forcing the spine into an unnatural position’ Ray was first designed for the Scandinavian market, so the chair and table set up would be comparatively expensive for schools in the United States. A more affordable version is currently being sold in the U.K., but he plans on developing and shipping an even cheaper chair and table. The hard part is bringing school superintendents in U.S. to allocate a budget for these seats, which might be a difficult sell among many cash-strapped school districts. Regardless, studies suggest that sedentary people, if sitting more than six hours a day, increases chances of dying by 40 percent so Dennehy has a case supporting his creation.