A simage of chairs by Erik Adigard, M-A-D

Every single human calls for many chairs. Since it relates body, space and work station, the office chair is perhaps the most important component of the production unit. Through ergonomic efficiency it secures the longevity of our work lifetime, and it symbolizes the power of the designer station, as it is in symbiosis with the computer in front. Somehow the desk is a neutral item while the computer is a the core of our concerns, but how much significance does the office chair holds in its importance to our body, its fetishistic aura, and its externalities.

As integral to the working human body, the designer chair contributes to the engine of innovation and progress—for better or worse. To a degree, most office chairs are involved in the information economy. 

In times of ubiquitous misinformation, visual pollution, mass consumption, ecocide and other emerging crises, design, more than most practices can be seen as bearing some responsibilities. Design often obscures problem making in its mission in problem solving. As image makers we may wonder how and where we sometimes fit in the chains of production and consumption, between calls for economic growth and environmental sustainability.

It is often said that design, even activism, naturally tends to be commodified, but it is “form” itself when it is objectified that can be commodified. More than anything, design has a long history of being driven by commerce. As always our challenge remains to always establish and re-establish life and poetics as the central values of what and how we do what we do.

The office chair is first and foremost a commodity and as such must “fight against the ugliness” as claimed by Massimo Vignelli. Making a more beautiful world with more justice, harmony, rational order and exuberant creativity does mean a lot to most of us.

To fight the ugliness, we need to make things logical, usable, and delightful.

Massimo leaves behind a legacy for all to ponder, and a responsibility for designers to pursue. His ideals of simplicity, organization, and beauty — real, true beauty — will live on in philosophy and in practice, as he himself takes a place in the Hall of Fame. Perhaps even as the centrepiece.

Chairs, is part of a research for Driving the Human a project by Erik Adigard and Chris Salter