Join Jonathan Racek for an in-depth discussion in this video Background and analysis, part of Rhino: Furniture Design.
- Picasso once said, "Good artists borrow, and great artists steal." This means that we're all influenced by the work that's come before us, and how we use the ideas of the past, that can make the difference between a good piece of art and a great piece of art. So in other words, are we just tweaking past ideas or are we really making those ideas our own? In the next four chapters, we're going to be learning about four important pieces of chair design. We're going to analyze the pieces to learn why they're considered important, and then we're going to create our own design inspired by what is great about these chairs.
Each of the four chairs are from a different period of time. The first chair, the Cafe Chair, Model number 14, was designed by Michael Thonet and was designed in the late 1850s. Our second chair that we'll look at is called the ZigZag Chair by Gerrit Rietveld, designed about 80 years later in 1932. A third chair we'll look at is called the DCM chair by Charles and Ray Eames. That was designed in 1946. And our last chair that we'll look at is called the Wiggle Side Chair designed by Frank Gehry in 1987.
Each chair was chosen for its contribution and influence to furniture design. Our first chair that we're going to look at is the Cafe Chair, Model number 14. This chair is so ubiquitous. It's found in cafes and restaurants and coffee shops around the world. So it's hard to believe that this was once considered a revolutionary design. Designed by Michael Thonet, who was a cabinet maker, it was the first successfully mass-produced chair. Thonet had big aspirations. He not only wanted to produce a chair for the masses, but he wanted to do it at an affordable price.
His success was hard won, though. He failed many, many times and at one point lost his workshop to creditors. So why is this chair so special? The design is innovative through its production ideas. Number 14, it achieved its success through a technological breakthrough. Thonet was able to achieve his extreme curves by developing a new technique for bending wood. He would soak beachwood rods in steam for hours and hours in order to soften them, and then he'd bend the wood into curves before it dried out. Now this innovation allowed him to create designs never before possible that were both beautiful and were strong.
The chair design, when first introduced, was a first for this type of product, and it made modernity and industry seem beautiful rather than how it was seen before, which was dirty and poor quality. The chair was one of the world's first modern consumer goods, allowing both the lower and upper classes alike to purchase them. By 1930, more than 50 million chairs had been sold, and millions more have been sold since. Number 14 was designed using the fewest pieces possible and with standardized shapes.
The chair came as a simple kit of parts which allowed it to be made cheaply and to be shipped cheaply. This simple production method allowed unskilled workers to assemble it and pack them into crates efficiently, allowing for the chair to be widely adopted. In a square meter box, you could ship 36 chairs. These ideas of production had a lasting effect on the widespread adoption of this chair design, and we can still see these production ideas in furniture manufacturing today.
Start by framing your work and exploring big questions such as "What is furniture design?"
Next you will learn by doing, modeling some of the important pieces of furniture history (such as the Thonet café chair and Eames DCM chair) to gain a better understanding of the masters of design.
Explore the furniture design process by following along with the research, schematic design, design development, and documentation of a brand-new furniture design.
Extend and translate
Last learn how to translate your furniture design to other software by exporting assets for 3d printing, rendering, and game development.
The training is focused on the creation of complex organic surfaces while you maintain precise control of that geometry's accuracy. Packed with tips and timesaving strategies, these tutorials will not only make you a better furniture designer, but a faster one as well.