While office chairs are de rigueur for Vitra, they were uncharted territory for Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby in 2008. The British designers ’ previous collaborations had been with luxury home brands B&B Italia, Flos, and Louis Vuitton. Then the Swiss furniture giant challenged the duo to create a new archetype for school furniture; they delivered with Tip Ton, a desk chair with a fun, minimalist plastic frame and an ergonomic forward-tilt, which remains a company top seller. “After the success of Tip Ton, Vitra wanted to see what we could do with a more complex chair,” says Barber. So the pair entered the world of contract office seating.
“At first, it was difficult to wrap our heads around this typology,” Barber admits. But after months of industry research, he adds, the two grew confident that a pared-down aesthetic worked better than one with “all these exposed mechanisms and controls.”
A studio hallmark is to create drawings that boil a design down to its essential parts. Hundreds of sketches later, they came up with a task chair that Osgerby says “you wouldn’t mind using for your home.” The Pacific chair, officially launched at June’s NeoCon, has an elongated backrest that extends past the seat pan, obscuring the levers and projecting a sleek silhouette. The chair automatically adjusts to a user’s weight and comes in unconventional office colors such as pink and purple. Specifiers can even order a version with fixed armrests instead of the usual adjustable ones. That attention to adaptability is what has Vitra scheduling future collaborations with the pair. “It’s not all about this particular office chair; it’s part of a system that will be continually developed,” says Vitra’s chief design officer Eckart Maise. “We’re already working on the next project together.”