Designing chairs does not fit into a one-size-fits-all pattern. We all explored comfort in somewhat similar ways (the quick and dirty prototype), but from there, we did a variety of different things. Some of the students spent some time drawing, but limited perspective drawing skills led most to explore other methods. We made some full size mock-ups out of building insulation foam, cardboard, solid poplar, and MDF. Once student made up a 5″-tall model, which we photographed against a white paper “backdrop.” Another turned to SketchUp. In truth, anything that allowed us to see the idea in 3-dimensions and play with options was fair game. Modifications and improvements were made. Ideas were changed. And we’re moving ever closer to some wood prototypes that look more like real chairs, and which we can also sit on.
There’s plenty of work to come. Lots of particulars still to work out. And then all of the joinery to figure out, along with some shaping, laminating, smoothing, and more. Stay tuned!
Building insulation foam shapes easily, screws together (sort-of), and allows you to quickly explore an idea
A small model, photographed against a paper backdrop can be a surprisingly effective way to test out an idea.
This idea was complex enough to merit going to wood.
A cardboard prototype
The foam has no structure. Interesting look, though!
We got off to a running start yesterday for the Chair Design class at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Maine. We did a rather different kind of woodworking – the quick and dirty kind – but by the end of the day, everyone had a prototype that they could sit on. Everyone also had a much better understanding of what makes a comfortable chair. We actually modified the prototypes multiple times over the course of the day, and with each modification, that understanding grew. I found this all quite exciting, as students would go from, “This is ok,” to “Oh, this is much better,” to “Oh wow! This is great!”
These comfort prototypes answer some of the important questions when building a chair, but now we’ve started down a similar path with many of the visual elements. To figure out how their chairs will look, everyone is both drawing and doing rapid prototypes in insulating foam, MDF, cardboard, or poplar. And then there will be countless modifications as we get closer and closer to a good design.