Chairs have been one of the most important furniture for modern humans. We spend most of our time awake, sitting on them while performing various activities. But chairs have not always been a comforting friend that they are today. The chair design was furnished and refurbished to suit the needs of humans, and their idea of comfort. Through the evolution of the design of a chair, we can learn about important factors such as necessity, function, comfort, aesthetics, production, and value; the factors that play a crucial role in user experience.
Evolution of Chair Design
Analyse the situation and define the problem
Chairs were not always just furniture. The etymology of chair designs tells us that our ancient ancestors used to sit on the floor while one of them sat on an elevated platform to discuss them. Thus, suggesting that it was a symbol of pride and status. For centuries only the royalty could sit on a chair while the common folk would sit on chests, benches, or three-legged stools.
Development of a solution
Initially, the chair design was to meet two fundamental needs; function and comfort. The function was to sit on a raised platform and the comfort implied that it should adapt to human anatomy. An elevated wooden chair with the help of four legs and back support was the primary need. A medieval classic, now a DIY challenge for woodworking hobbyists.
Ancient Egyptians and Chinese became popular, for their historic breakthrough of making chairs with precious metals and artistry. Therefore, the inception of design took place with principles of purpose, structure, and beauty.
It was only in the 17th century that the Baroque and Rococo style of art was in use in architecture in Italy and France. These styles, in the particular, paved way for the use of ornaments, symmetry, and grandeur in the design of chairs. Their seats were cushiony, and they wove the fabrics into the seat, reflecting the glory of the emperors.
“Design creates culture. Culture shapes values. Values determine the future.” -Robert L. Peters, designer and author.
Prototype and Testing
Further down the road to the 18th century, the industrial revolution changed the game of not just design, but also the usage. The capitalization and industrialization demanded unique varieties in chair design from carpenters and manufacturers. Prototyping and testing products began when the need of providing for different comfort seekers was in demand.
Chairs were no more rich man’s luxury. There was a shift to the focus on efficient and utilitarian aspects before adornment and beauty. They made authentic chair designs to meet the specific functions. Today, the chair design has developed to grant usage, comfort, size, space, durability, and aesthetics to its user.
Take-Aways from Chair to UX
Design always revolves around the user. It’s clingy. It relies on the physical, intellectual and emotional needs of the user.
Let me explain.
The design integrates the physical needs for space and visual aspects of the design. It makes just as the chair design has to for a certain body type, as is a web design, with its use of colours to appeal to colour blind users.
The design integrates intellectual needs with flexibility and placement of the design. Chair users might want to shift the backrest and push it back. Website users, in the same way, would want to change the language or the website view to mobile.
It integrates emotional needs with the design, adding value to the user. Chair users might want their chair to be durable, to not invest in another soon. A website user would want to know how they use his information from cookies. Naturally, both a carpenter and a web developer must meet these needs of the users.
The trial and error
Prototype and tests are crucial to designing. The industrial revolution made an essential impact on the chair design and resulted in variations of it. This has affected how we use a specific design of a chair for a specific purpose.
Such learning has benefited UX as prototypes for creating sample versions for a product to have a prospect of the right solution. This stage also helps the developers understand what works for the product, and what doesn’t.
The transformation of the chair design over the centuries has become the conventional UX design process we practice today. It has given some fundamental stages that cannot be ignored. Use of technology has shaped the design of the chair has also determined the level of function of design in today’s world. UX design is the process to determine the value of a product to users and can be learnt from the metamorphosis of simple things around us. As Lorinda Mamo, Creative Director of Design Chronicle Studios said, “Every great design begins with an even better story”, and there are stories all around us.