To understand what makes a chair design iconic, we first need to define the word iconic itself. For something to be considered iconic it has to be groundbreaking, innovative, inspiring and revolutionary. Its features and functionality should be unique, unlike anything seen before.
Iconic design also cements itself in the minds of those who use or see it, often using the “old” in a new and exciting way. These designs and their designers are trend setters, whose creations are often admired and emulated by other designers.
Quality, functionality and design
An iconic chair can transform your living space, changing the way you interact with a room. Not only are iconic chairs timeless by their design, but they are also crafted together meticulously, using the highest quality materials. Beyond being exceptionally pleasing to the eyes and touch, they are also engineered with peak functionality in mind.
There have been a number of iconic chair designs over the years. To further explain what makes a chair iconic, we can go back in time to look at a few of the most extraordinary chair designs – and their designers – in history.
Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, and Charlotte Perriand – 1928
As an example of iconic chair design, the LC Confort range was groundbreaking in its creation. It turned furniture design as we knew it inside out – literally. Named after the Italian word for comfort, “confort,” this collection of chairs was designed for “conversation, relaxing and sleeping,” with comfort at the forefront of its features.
The cushioning of the chair was placed on the inside, held together by its exterior structure – a frame which acted almost like a cage. This showcased a design that would go on to be one of the most iconic furniture designs in modern history.
The material used for the frame was made using tubular steel, which was previously only used for industrial use. This is a classic example of using an existing material in a completely fresh way. Together with plush black leather, the chairs were entirely unique for their time.
The use of these two materials for commercial use quickly created inspiration and widespread excitement amongst designers.
“Le Corbusier waited impatiently for me to bring the furniture to life,” – Charlotte Perriand
Eero Aarnio – 1963
Yet another example is that of the Ball Chair, designed by Eero Aarnio. His design was so profound for its time that it became an overnight sensation which remains timeless to this day. Instead of designing a chair simply to be used within a room, he created a “room within a room,” by creating a pod-like chair that surrounds those who sit in it.
He also made use of bright colours, kickstarting his reputation as an iconic pop artist. His design was completely outside of the box, so much so that he removed all of the chair’s corners entirely.
In the words of Eero himself, “Since I tend to simplify things, I removed all the corners.”
Frank Gehry – 1972
Last but not least, the Wiggle Side Chair by Frank Gehry is often considered as one of the most beautiful and unique chairs of all time. In theme with what embodies an iconic chair design, the material used to make this chair was made using layers upon layers of cardboard. Not only was producing furniture with this material entirely unheard of, but it also came with a surprising amount of strength.
“I discovered that by alternating the direction of layers of corrugations, the finished board had enough strength to support a small car, and a uniform, velvety texture on all four sides” – Frank Gehry.
These designs are still sought after today, alongside all the other chairs which share their rightful spots in iconic history. Their remarkable ingenuity remains a reminder that in the design world, anything is possible.