The data side to furniture design

Designers are using information about materials and human anatomy to create a more perfect fit for desk dwellers and other consumers.

When is a chair more than a chair?

It’s when design companies start using data to produce highly ergonomic products that are perfectly contoured and healthier for the human body.

Pablo Solomon

Pablo Solomon, an internationally recognized artist and award-winning green designer, explains that furniture companies have access to a wealth of data at the ideation stage.

Now designers are using data about materials and fittings to create chairs that are kinder to people’s shapes. Many of the designs are lighter than ever, which can mean cost savings in production. Design companies are exchanging information more readily with their suppliers and also using it to streamline the manufacturing process.

Software-driven design

Independent designers and large companies have access to a variety of options. The challenge is optimization — the ability to find the ideal combination of elements.

Data helps furniture designers find clarity.

Many manufacturers are using computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) systems to make this optimization easier.

“The CAD/CAM software combines furniture and interior design into an integrated process,” says Lena Kunikowski, at imos AG, a firm that develops and distributes software to furniture and design industries worldwide.

CAD/CAM systems rely on cloud systems and can connect furniture designers with suppliers in real-time.

“Industry focus is on the availability of data that includes all information about assembly or further processing,” says Kunikowski. “The cloud connects all stages from idea generation to execution and production.”

Kunikowski says that these systems can zero in on the smallest details. “It’s possible to distill information to the most granular units of analysis,” she says.

Software and data can help furniture designers create high quality prototypes.

“To provide a realistic product image, multimedia resources can be recalled during the material selection process,” says Kunikowski. “These can be assembly instructions, videos or 3D animations which can show the realistic movements of something as small as a hinge.”

Left meets right brain

Pablo Solomon, an internationally recognized artist and award-winning green designer, explains that furniture companies have access to a wealth of data at the idea stage.

He explains that furniture designers frequently look at data points connected to ergonomic design, including human anatomy, pressure on the spine created by certain designs and materials, fatigue, load analysis and strength of the materials.

“We older designers had to educate ourselves on ergonomics and the science behind the concepts,” says Solomon. “I was lucky enough to have a strong background in biology and dance, so I understood what was presented.”

Solomon says that now, science and data are part of furniture design curriculums.

“Almost all design schools require an understanding of the concept of use and ergonomic design,” Solomon says.

Solomon emphasizes that data is only part of the furniture design equation. In addition to understanding the scientific principles of ergonomics, designers must maintain their creativity.

“When furniture designers first had access to interesting data, they may have put too much emphasis on function and not enough on design,” says Solomon. “The challenge for any designer is to create something pleasing to the eye, that is a great combination of form and function, that is economically practical and that a client will actually buy.”

Pushing limits

Industrial designer Martin Keen says that data-driven furniture design can increase creativity.

Keen, who launched office chair brand Focal Upright in 2010, built his company around what many health experts have called the sitting disease epidemic. People are suffering a range of health problems, including back problems and weight gain, because they are spending too many hours sitting at their desks.

“Experts and pundits alike are calling sitting the ‘new smoking,’ which means it is a major national health issue,” Keen says.

Keen created Focal Upright to design a healthier way of sitting and working at a computer.

Information and data are the keys to advancing the paradigm shift,” says Keen. “It is hard to argue against scientific data that demonstrates the links between long-term sitting and diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.”

Ritika Puri
Ritika Puri is a San Francisco-based blogger who covers the intersection of data, sociology, and technology. She transforms marketing strategies into revenue-generating growth engines.
Ritika Puri
Ritika Puri
Ritika Puri
Tags: Data Center,Industries,Retail,Technology