Don't Just Sit There, Do Something

How to design an ergonomic chair that doesn’t look like one, by Kent Parker and Paul Wilkinson of Formway.

Don't Just Sit There, Do Something

How to design an ergonomic chair that doesn’t look like one, by Kent Parker and Paul Wilkinson of Formway.

Paul: We’d wanted to do a product for the home for a long time. We’ve worked in a commercial setting for 20 years – we design and license products to the likes of Knoll. There’s a lot of understanding about health and wellbeing, good posture, all those things in the workplace. Then you go home and spend hours sitting on something that is basically a board. 

Kent: I guess the ultimate chair wouldn’t be there – you’d float in space. No pressure points, no blood restriction, no muscle deformation. Then we’d have made it. 

Paul: Our research process looks a bit like a squid – discover, design, deliver. It takes about four years and we’ll spend a year just doing the discover bit. We create multi-
disciplinar­y teams from the get-go – designers, engineers, researchers, builders. They own the project the whole way along.

Kent: It became very clear in the research how multi-purpose the dining space is. You might be doing a Zoom meeting, or it might be kids doing homework, or you could be chatting with friends or doing craft. 

Paul: One of our beliefs is that the next posture is the best posture – so a lot of the products we design let you move naturally and the chair needed to do that.

Kent: We’ve put time-lapse cameras in people’s environments for years, though this was the first time at home. Working at a laptop, you’re forward active. Having dinner, you’re forward active, and then you lean back to contemplate or ponder. Then you come back in to engage in conversation.

Then we put Life chairs [by Formway for Knoll] in, and filmed it. Then we took features out. You’d ask people what they valued, and they’d say one thing. And then you’d see the images and what they actually did. 

Paul: Aesthetically, we wanted Move to express new performance but not be too weird. It had to express performance, but be kind of familiar. It needed enough that you say, oh yeah I get that, it’s a chair for home.

Kent: The V-form is actually a rocker, which allows the chair to tip a little, and then the material bends and deforms instead of a mechanism moving. It’s not just a pattern for the sake of it – it’s a pattern that delivers a new performance. And that was a real breakthrough, to make a single-piece chair that allows the back to grow and shrink with your body. 

Paul: They’re made from 100 percent recycled materials. The frame is made from Econyl, which is made from fishing nets and carpet waste, and the shell is made from recycled polypropylene. We’re really proud to be making these chairs just down the road here in Wellington. We love that. 

Move chair


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