Sketching and Sketching and Sketching

The studio is doing a few projects at once, a portable E.C.G machine which the French interns are working on (four of them working on three different proposals), and the office/ task chair which I am working on. Before I arrived the French interns have done a little bit of work on the chair project (post-it note ideation and some nice sketches- their marker sketches are better than mine) but as is the nature of a studio, you start and change projects as required.

 After doing some research, my approach to the task is:

  • Branding
  • Mechanical Aspect
  • Elegant, Simple, Clutter-free
  • “Free Posturing”

 Branding:

Cars are a good example of a design language or a design style, well designed objects show some visual cues that mean something about the product. BMW’s dual kidney-shaped grill makes any BMW recognisable from a distance, and when you realise that this distant car in your rear vision mirror is a BMW, you immediately start thinking about what BMW means.

 I noticed that no office chair had this. Lots of prestigious manufactures of chairs are all over the place in terms of visual cohesion. I thought some way to link all the products together by form would be a good place to start.

Mechanical Aspect:

An ergonomic chair means a chair with lots of visible mechanics- levers, knobs, cable. An association has been made by this ‘engineery’ look; good chairs are ‘scientific’ which makes them comfortable, and supportive. Some are worse than others- the Herman Miller Embody and Sayl both have this visually heavy ‘box’ housing the controls under the seat pan, which makes it look like a big arse. I want to explore the ability to be adjustable without having a mess of instruments. This leads onto the next point.

Elegant, Simple, Clutter-free

I like the thin profile of chairs like the Cappellini Lotus or the Eames Aluminium. Especially for a family of chairs- the office/ task chair having an ‘executive’ model as well as a plainer ‘waiting room’ model. I don’t want to hide the adjustability, just have it done tidier, for example requiring an Allen key to adjust some recessed bolts. The analogy I used when describing this to the boss was like a bicycle- it is set up for you once, and with tools you can adjust it, but it is your chair, so it doesn’t require constant resetting. You don’t see bicycles with massive levers allowing constant adjustment of seat height.

“Free Posturing”

This is a concept with a bit of medical literature behind it. The idea is for a chair not to keep you in the one ‘correct’ position all day, but to allow you to move around while supporting you.

The boss also wants to explore having a multi-use chair, one can switch between a saddle chair and a conventional office chair, saddle chairs being much better for your back and circulation and overall health. I think this is the hardest part of the brief- not just functionally having a chair change modes, but also to do it using the material properties rather than via complicated mechanics or electronics, especially if the intent it to keep the chair simple.

Part of the internship is to present your portfolio. I have one which at the moment is a collection of work rather than a professional presentation. I spoke to mine quite a bit, which was good because I felt I really knew what I had done and what skills I’ve got as a result. One of the French interns presented a video which was a combination of a previous US internship and travel video. It was a good and well executed idea that I will steal as soon as possible.

One of the things I have noticed with this studio and with the French interns work is there is a leap from the sketch ideas to the final concept, without any sketch modelling in-between. A nice sketch or cad render has been reached as a solution without any testing or exploration of the object in three dimensions. It results in the ‘pretty but won’t work’ sort of styling-design (the “hubless rim bicycle”). This isn’t to disparage their skills, but you can see the holes in their solutions that they would have overcome themselves if they had thought through the product as a real three-dimensional object. It also shows a lack of empathy with the end-user and an over-reliance on computers (especially CAD and Photoshop/ Illustrator).

I had to go to the Post Office this morning. The USPS is great. The staff is really friendly and helpful- I was going to buy the sticky tape for the box and the man behind the counter said “don’t worry, I’ve got some here”. I think I have been trained to believe that all staff in shitty jobs are surly and unhelpful in the US. Every public servant or shop assistant however has been genuinely nice (except the stupid cow at Safeway who wouldn’t accept my driver’s license to buy beer “No Foreign I.Ds!!! Passport Only!!!”). Compliments and salutations feel real, not “HAVE A NICE DAY!!!” with an undercurrent of spite and venom because they are minimum wage. I don’t know if this a San Franciscan thing or not- I met a women from a Mexican background who said that San Francisco is not representative of the United States and she wouldn’t live anywhere else. It still seems to be a very sober, cosmopolitan, intelligent place. Maybe because I’m getting the hang of it, last night I went walking along Market street and I felt very comfortable.

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