Founder Of Keen Reinvents The Office Chair, Aiming To Cure Sitting Disease

The founder of Keen Shoes ventures into furniture with an upright workstation called Focal, with the aim of saving us from the shocking health problems associated with sitting all day.

You’ve probably heard by now that sitting at your desk is killing you. No? Allow me to elaborate. The average person spends a third of their life sitting down, which lowers blood sugar, decreases blood flow, and puts you at risk for diabetes and heart disease. Some doctors even call our culturally ingrained inactivity “Sitting Disease,” which seems a little dramatic, but there’s truth in it.


Spurred by growing evidence of the risks of sitting on your butt all day, standing workstations are an increasingly popular alternative. Proponents of upright desks claim they encourage constant movement, healthy circulation, and creativity. Hell, there are even bike workstations.

Martin Keen, founder of hybrid footwear brand , started working at a standing desk years ago. But Keen says he tired easily, and eventually found himself leaning against a makeshift seat. An industrial designer by trade, the entrepreneur began designing a workstation based on his ad-hoc prototype.

He unveiled his upright workstation at ICFF earlier this month. Focal incorporates a small bench into the traditional standing design, not unlike drafting tables used by architects and engineers. The small leather seat is more for leaning than sitting. It tilts downward at an angle that makes it tough to totally rest, and it pivots with your movements, improving balance and, ostensibly, focus. The station’s plywood and aluminum desk is attached at its base to a footrest that tilts up towards the user for support.

Granted, the Focal isn’t a great looking object, and we do wish Keen had hired an outside designer. But it might actually be an entirely new class of product. Sitting in it doesn’t quite feel like anything else: You’re definitely not standing, but you do get the sense that you’re moving around, at least a little bit. The combination encourages a “natural, neutral posture,” explains Keen. “There is a place between standing and sitting where our body wants to be.” Does it make you move enough to counter Sitting Disease? We shall see: Keen says he is working with an ergonomist to study exactly how the seat affects your well-being.

More on Focal, which has to be easier than the treadmill desk,here.


About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.