S 95: The Making of Story
After a briefing for external and internal designers, the design by Randolf Schott of the Thonet Design Team was the most convincing. The development of a conference chair was a challenge that Randolf Schott approached with respect and an enormous amount of sensibility. After the wardrobe S 1520 and the desk S 1200, the chair S 95 is the designer’s first piece of seating furniture.
Randolf Schott set himself the goal to design a contemporary conference chair family that matches the Thonet portfolio and brand in all of its details while at the same time being characterised by comfort, functionality, high quality and well-balanced ergonomics. The challenge was especially to move within the tight framework of requirements, to develop a conclusive concept, and also to create something formally new and innovative. In addition, the design had to be compatible with the conference table range S 8000 by Hadi Teherani.
Schott found his inspiration in the modern automobile designs of the premium brands, a sector representing a constant driving force for design, innovation and technology. The terms dynamics, sportiness, elegance, status, materiality, quality and sophistication played a big role, as did the design possibilities and material combinations of metal, plastic, leather and wood.
In sketches and mood boards, he penned down the initial design approach; materials were researched and initial ideas developed and refined in CAD. He paid special attention to the chair’s back since it is the first eye catcher if the chair is grouped around a table.
The development process aimed at finding solutions for many details in order to fulfil the requirements in the contract segment and the associated test criteria. Schott put special care into harmoniously combining the many individual components of the product family, which are all directly interdependent – a challenge for the product’s technical development. The production of the upholstered elements and the aluminium connectors required the production of special tools to achieve the desired form. The aluminium cross base needed special attention with regard to design and realisation: here, cutting-edge know-how was added through the close collaboration with a knowledgeable partner. Before the tool was created, however, an analysis was made to localise and adjust possibly critical areas.
With the square steel tube and flat steel, Thonet – world-famous for its tubular steel cantilever chairs – expands is portfolio of materials. In addition, it establishes a relationship with Thonet models from the 1950s and 1960s.
All versions were tested with regard to stability and durability in the in-house test lab. The test criteria and cycles are multiply higher in the contract segment compared with living furniture and therefore took several weeks.
Before the final first presentation, various material collages were developed and used for communications and photo shoots.
Among Randolf Schott’s tasks was to take care of the project’s quality-related concerns. In order to guarantee a defined accuracy of fit in series production, he examined all individual components with regard to their dimensional tolerance, surface and processing before assembly.
The design accompanied each step of the production in the Thonet facility, from the upholstery of the seat and backrest elements to the milling of the wooden armrests and the assembly. For Randolf Schott, it was an especially nice experience to witness the continuing maturation of the project.
The successful presentation at the Cologne office furniture trade fair Orgatec 2014 was an exciting experience at the end of the development process. The range was presented holistically and was enthusiastically received by our dealers and customers. The subsequent dealer road shows, press events and first reference objects proved that customers and dealers were able to identify well with the concept and vividly used the offered design possibilities: range S 95 provides a large range of versions for the high-end contract segment with cantilever chairs and swivel chairs with different backrest heights, surfaces and equipment. The use of inlays in the swivel cross base, the perforated leather for the upholstery covers and armrests made of different types of wood allow for the creation of individual versions with multiple uses for the high-end contract segment.
In retrospect, this project was a great challenge and experience for designer Randolf Schott, representing a milestone in his design career with Thonet.
Randolf Schott, born 1974 in Torgau, trained as a cabinet maker and studied product design from 2000-2004 at the Angewandte Kunst Schneeberg (department of the Westsächsische Hochschule Zwickau). Afterwards, he worked as an assistant in the office of Delphin Design. Since 2006 he has been working as a designer and project manager in the Thonet product development unit.