Frank Chimero once said, “People ignore design that ignores people.” Well, Frank, I couldn’t agree more. To me there is nothing more frustrating than a chair that you can’t sit in, an uncomfortable couch and a table that isn’t level. Design takes on far more requirements than art. I believe that is what really separates the two, functionality. Ultimately, a chair that you can’t sit in is sculpture and should be called a piece of art not a piece of furniture.
As a furniture designer, I might fixate on the reality that I wouldn’t have a job if I chose form solely over function. My clients like to see the furniture function for its purpose in the office and secondly they want it to look good. Does that mean I ignore form all together? Not at all; I let function direct the form, not completely dictate the form. There are times when the form is so beautiful; I work backwards forcing the form to function, never neglecting the function, of course. This process can take longer and can give the engineers a headache. But for the most part design is really appreciated when it’s practical. Some of the most praised industrial designs are more functional than beautiful like the paper clip or the Band-Aid.
But furniture is different. It can’t just be functional – it has to represent something – whether that be a culture or the material it was made from. Tangram Studio clients want their furniture to represent them as a company. Dating back thousands of years, the Chinese would spend hundreds of years carving furniture because of how precious the wood was to them. Furniture to them represented their culture and status. They wanted you to feel the power of the wood, as you passed through a threshold or sat on a bench. Our clients want that same effect from their custom office furniture; they want you to feel the company’s culture as you walk through the space. So maybe the wood isn’t speaking to you but you can definitely get a sense of how they do business. I don’t think that materials speak that loudly to me, but they definitely influence my design. Sometimes our design process will start with a unique material and often the design direction is determined by that one material.
Furniture will always be necessary from what I can tell. And it will continue to evolve as our cultures evolve. Something that will never change about furniture is that it will always need to serve a purpose, but that doesn’t mean that you have to ignore the beauty furniture can have. It’s going to be in the room, you might as well enjoy it otherwise it will be ignored.
Office furniture has been pretty ugly for about a decade. It wasn’t until recently that people finally re-married form and function in the office furniture industry. The cubical is what the average person pictures when you ask them to picture office furniture, but that won’t always be the case. I don’t know why office furniture started out so ugly. The 50’s had some beautiful success with the classic tank desk and the Eames family bringing bright beautiful chairs to the office furniture industry. Then the 80’s and 90’s hit and we had failed attempts to make the office feel like home. With pastel floral fabric tack panels and it seemed like every corner was child proofed with really bulky cushions and rounded edges. I guess the focus was really driven by the function and they forgot for a moment that grey is not a color. I can’t say I don’t appreciate the cubicle, because we have evolved from its imprisonment. But I can say that the cubicle was something people ignored for a long time, but not anymore, as far as Tangram Studio is concerned the cubicle is opportunity stuck in a box and we have the key.
Hey Frank, come check out some Tangram Studio designs and tell me if you can’t take your eyes off some of our furniture. We can’t be ignored.