Iconic Series I

Iconic Chairs - seating classics of past and future

Tonon Fl@t in the exhibition "The Form of Simplicity" in Beijing 2018, © Vito Orazhem

Iconic chairs like the Thonet No. 14 from 1859, Gio Ponti’s Leggera from 1951 or Fritz Hansen’s Series 7 from 1955 have long since become classics of modern chair design. Not only are they found in numerous museums, collections, books and magazines, they are also still available to purchase. But what about the classic chairs of the future? A look at the award-winning chairs from the Red Dot Design Award provides an overview of shapes, materials and technical innovations in design.

We use them on a daily basis and generally own more of them than we need. Whether at home, at work, in a café or a restaurant, chairs are a commonplace yet essential item. Chairs are ubiquitous in every room as the piece of furniture that people use most in their day-to-day lives. Chairs are always at our service – for resting, relaxing, eating or working. Their versatility in use is reflected in the different types of designs they feature.

But what are the fundamental characteristics that make up a chair? At first glance, perhaps its composition: a seat, several legs and its purpose, namely for sitting on. Based on their composition, all chairs would appear to share the same basic concept. If you look closer, however, you will see that the diversity of shapes is determined by the materials, the design, the production methods used as well as factors such as weight and comfort. Behind every chair is the tale of its origins.

Although the act of sitting does not change per se, possibilities and societal needs are constantly evolving. Along with changes in extraneous, global events, these always give rise to a wide range of new products. Red Dot is presenting some chairs that may become the classics of the future.

Ultraleggera 1660 – a tribute to Gio Ponti’s Superleggera

This chair by Oskar Zieta is an homage to Gio Ponti’s Superleggera from 1957. Weighing just 1,660 grams, it is even lighter than the Superleggera, which at the time became famous as “the world’s lightest chair”. This lighter take on the classic Superleggera offers much more stability than its predecessor and can withstand up to 1.2 tons in weight. Unlike its ‘older brother’, which is made from wood, the Ultraleggera is made from aluminium. Innovative FIDU technology (from German ‘Freie Innendruck Umformung’) is used to create the finished chair using paper-thin sheets of aluminium. This very special piece of seating furniture won an award in the Red Dot Award: Product Design 2021.

Fl@t – "From two to three dimensions"

Fl@t is an innovation. And the name of the product tells you exactly what it does. Designer Martin Ballendat designed the shell of the chair using a flat, flexible aluminium element upholstered with fabric to create a comfortable seat. The seat is assembled onto a black, powder-coated base with transverse feet made from die-cast aluminium. This makes it look like the seat is floating in mid-air. The chair won a distinction in the Red Dot Award: Product Design 2018 for its distinctive design and shape.

A.I. – a new departure in design, or an expression of our time?

Designer Philippe Starck used artificial intelligence to design the “A.I.” chair for Kartell, which won a Red Dot in 2020. The designer-controlled, computer-optimised shape reflects the efficient use of recycled materials without compromising on stability or sturdiness. The creative collaboration between Philippe Starck as the designer and Kartell as the manufacturer has always been informed by an innovative approach to new materials. With “A.I.”, a technological dimension was added to that approach.

Pair™ – unlimited possibilities

This chair is modular, stackable and offers endless combinations. The Pair chair was designed by Benjamin Hubert for Fritz Hansen and won a Red Dot in 2017. The modular seating system is made from plywood and injection-moulded polycarbonate. Available in different colours, the material mix used in Pair offers almost limitless combinations, estimated to number up to 8,000. This is a chair for virtually every occasion.

LessThanFive – merging technology with craftsmanship

Strength combined with lightness. 2.2 kg of handcrafted carbon – that’s less than 5 pounds. Inspired by the lightness of aircraft, Coalesse and Michael Young took advantage of all of the benefits that carbon fibre has to offer. They also used a customising tool for more latitude in the design process. Users can employ the customising tool on the manufacturer’s website to slip into the role of designer and configure the colours of their own personal chair. LessThanFive won a distinction in the Red Dot Award: Product Design 2017.

KARBON – surprisingly light

KARBON has a surprisingly pleasant feel and light weight. The piece’s polished surface initially hints at a heavier material. However, the chair weighs just 3.1 kg. The reason for this light weight is the choice of carbon fibre as the material used. KARBON reinterprets lightness and resistance. The chair received a distinction from the jury for the Red Dot Design Award in 2019.

Piuma – innovative material pushes boundaries

Inspired by nature. The lightness and durability of an eggshell gave Piero Lissoni his inspiration for the Piuma chair. This innovative product pushes the boundaries of injection-moulding technology. Made from a mix of carbon and a thermoplastic polymer, the chair stands out thanks to its material of just 2 mm in thickness with an overall weight of 2.4 kg. The ground-breaking material and the shape of the chair make it look light as a feather (‘piuma’ in Italian). The design won the Red Dot: Best of the Best in 2017.

KYOBASHI – streamlined elegance

The streamlined elegance of the KYOBASHI armchair is something quite memorable. The distinctive shape of the curved backrest simultaneously forms the armrest and appears to wrap around the seated person. The chair features a minimalist design and reduced language of form. This chair from Conde House and TONERICO won the highest distinction, the Red Dot: Best of the Best, in 2022.

You can find Iconic Chairs on our Instagram @reddotdesignaward. All of the models presented here are also included in the online exhibition “ICONIC chairs”.