Michael Yates Design
This is a rocking chair -- and in addition to its namesake movement, the chair has a balance that lets it function expertly as a sitting chair while not in motion. Contemporary and comfortable, it employs tried and true joinery techniques and traditional materials that co-habitate in settings ranging from the traditional to the most modern. The primary materials are solid American walnut and paper cord, and it is finished with an oil and varnish blend.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
The goal was to make a contemporary version of the rocking chair using visually uncomplicated materials, with the further intention of adding it to the line of seating i've been developing this year. The chair rocks freely with just the tap of a toe, but is balanced enough to serve as a practical "still" chair as well...this was the primary challenge of the piece. And knowing well the complexity of chair making, another self-imposed constraint was to design around a symmetrical profile to allow for streamlined production -- identical leg components and increased number of similar joints.3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
An uncomfortable chair is a useless one. My viewpoint has always been that the only times a chair should be perceived are (1) while standing, or (2) during the first minute or so of sitting in it. Otherwise, a good chair should go unnoticed, allowing the body to do what it wants to do without conscious effort. The design process for seating always has to begin with comfort as the absolute paramount priority. In my case, craftsmanship and aesthetics are neck-and-neck for second billing, with craftsmanship always ahead by a nose. If i end up with a product that looks good, this hierarchy ensures that the piece is inevitably comfortable and of the highest quality.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
When prototyping something dynamic such as this, we have to leave flexibility in the construction process in order to allow for some real-time experimentation -- in order to get movement and proportion correct without scrapping entire components. By leaving legs and armrests long, I used an iterative process of shortening components until the balance and comfort let me know that they were correct. Then the production version of the piece can take the necessary cues from the outcome of this process.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
Thoughtful design and craftsmanship has always been a pillar of true sustainability, equal in importance to material renewability, carbon footprint, etc.; And a thoughtful material employed in a disposable design is the worst kind of waste. When the fad is over, will your design still have relevance? As the decades pass, will your construction hold up? While visceral (and audible) responses to a new piece are well-appreciated feedback, affirmative answers to questions like these are the real foundation of its value.