Today’s feature chair would fit perfectly into Jasper Morrison and Naoto Fukasawa’s “Super Normal” Design Philosophy. It will even fit into the Japanese Design Principle of “Profound Subtlety”. The Doyl Chair, designed in 2011 by Gabriele Buratti and Oscar Buratti for B&B Italia, speaks volumes of what goes into the thoughts when coming up with a design, even one as normal looking as the Doyl Chair. As a matter of fact, to many designers, it would be even more difficult to create “Normal” chair than to create one with loads of bangs. Throw in some fanciful curves and “inspirations” and viola, you got your chair with Bangs and Whistles. But to create an attractive yet “Normal” design, will require quite a fair bit of philosophical thinking.
In an interview with Gabriele Buratti and Oscar Buratti, the designers revealed that the Doyl Chair was borne out of a need for a chair that is sober, yet soft. The idea was to drape the chair with a slim-fit dress. Much like how a lady would spend efforts to keep a rigorous diet to maintain their figure for their favourite piece of slim-fit dress, the same goes for the Doyl. To create a simple and comfortable chair with refined details in just one over-stitched material, the body of the chair needs to be made to perfection.
Slim-fit dress for a slim frame.
The construct of the Doyl is simple, with a metal frame and 2 pieces of padded cushions that fits perfectly with the frame. Embedded into this simple frame are small winglets that runs along the entire length of the back of the rear legs as well as the front legs. This allows external geometric lines to become core of the design. This subtlety is what creates the subtle form which lends its hand to the creation of another subtle identity: the stitching. Traditionally, stitches are a decorative trait. However, in the Doyl Chair, it not only became part of the design, but form a part of the chair’s identity.
A smooth body is then formed and the “slim-fit dress” can be fitted beautifully to the frame. This is not the end. Another subtle design cue incorporated in the Doyl was the use of padded cushions that allows the inversion of a classic leather chair’s concave seat and back rest. With the padded cushions, the seat and back rest are now convex. All these design elements worked together to create a simple, yet original design for the public perception.
On the Doyl Chair, you will find only 2 clean, well-defined, but narrow lines that are only as thick as the stitched leather on the Doyl. These rigid lines are the only stiffness on the entire design of the chair. The first line links the front 2 legs with the seat, projecting the line forward. The second line links the 2 rear legs to the back rest of the chair, outlining the silhouette of the chair. The leather is folded, curved and turned inside out, but never cut. The rest of the chair is simply softness.
The focus of the Doyl is on the upholstery. The thickness of the leather allows the creation of the lines and definition of the shape and a typical fabric will not be able to meet such needs. Hence, B&B Italia Research Center found a technical fabric that possesses the physical characteristics of leather and created a range of bright colours for the fun applications while the leather upholstery form the formal range of the Doyl Chair.
Smooth curves of the rear winglets of the frame of the chair can be seen here. (Picture from B&B Italia web page)
This is what it will look like in a real setting. (Picture from B&B Italia web page and Abode 318)
To the designers, their aim of a successful product is to create a product that the public can easily appreciate and understand, and a product that finally does not belong to the designers. The Doyl Chair will belong to the owners who know and understand the chair. I would say that they had succeeded in capturing my attention with this “Super Normal” design, especially after viewing their interview video that tells the complex design story beneath this simple chair.