Over the years many people have asked me what I mean by pure design. I don’t mean visual metaphors like white doves and candles! When I started out I sat down with a marketing consultant to work through some ideas around the plans for the company and how to articulate them. At that stage I only had the A Stool as an example of my product design skills so we had to dig deep to analyse what was the driving factor behind the piece. I simply explained the design process and then I realised what was important to my work, it was pure design; design with no contamination.
Knock-down (KD) furniture has been around since the C19th as a means to ship products more efficiently. In 1859 Michael Thonet designed the Chair no. 14 as a coffee shop chair, which is still in production today. Constructed using an innovative bending technique, the chair was designed to be disassembled into a few components allowing for it to be shipped around the world in a small parcel. Genius!
Jean Prouvé was a Modernist designer and architect working more recently. He enjoyed working with sheet metal because of it’s durability and ease of forming, and during the 1950s turned his hand to designing ‘flat pack’ houses. Any design, or any size that is shipped flat has to be easy to assemble and to achieve this, it requires lots of consideration and often results with a pure design language. Jean’s house, ‘Maison Tropicale’ was made from aluminum and folded steel, and the component pieces were light enough to be shipped around the world. The houses were designed to combat the shortage of housing in French colonies across Africa. Unfortunately their industrial asethetic did not appeal to the conservative bureaucrats and the design was never produced for selling. Jean Prouvé believed that everything from a house to a chair should be portable – this meant adopting a pure approach to his designs. His furniture is in production today by the brand Vitra and many of the pieces are considered ‘design classics’. Michael Thonet and Jean Prouvé are inspiring examples of design with intent; design that has a reason for being.
Today the perception of KD furniture is a varied as many retailers have taken the concept to an extreme – with consumers being asked to assemble complex designs from kitchens to wardrobes. The instructions are poorly written and illustrated, the materials used are often particle or chipboard that don’t allow for any mistakes and the whole experience isn’t always enjoyable.
Living in many small London flats during my 20s, I experienced assembling KD furniture every time I moved. My frustrations led me to design my own furniture that was easy to assemble, pure design that would last much longer than chipboard construction. The idea of an A Stool was born in 2010 but it took me a while to develop the product ready for manufacturing and shipping. I spent a long time working out how the stool could be made in three simple pieces and assembled with strong fixings. The birch plywood components had to then be packaged in a neat, compact box that could with stand the knocks by international freight forwarders.
Purity by Design means that everything about the product has been considered so that the customer can a) receive a design in perfect condition b) can assemble it easily with no frustration, ha! c) can enjoy the design for years to come – a pure approach that don’t date. By taking this approach to design one can make things that are aesthetically simple to look at; Purity by Design.
Another way to look at purity is think ‘without contamination’. I love this idea, nothing exists in the product that doesn’t have a positive impact. Everything for a reason, everything in it’s right place . Modern wood furniture that is honest in construction and minimal to the eye. Purity is an attribute I believe leads to quality. And we should all expect higher qualities in everything we own.