With its humble orgins, the office chair has evolved through the centuries mainly through constant technical innovation, which in turn has influenced their design. Design consultant Jonathan Olivares has taken an approach using a scientific methodology to classify and document 142 office chairs by their distinguishing features.
A Taxonomy of Office Chairs is an exhaustive visual and technical history of the office chair, from the beginning of the 1840s — a period that saw the origins of modern business management to the present. Over this time frame we selected the most innovative office chairs from the thousands that have been designed and manufactured. This rigorous selection process was been underpinned by only one rule: only chairs that have introduced an least one novel feature have been included.
The project was motivated by the unnerving fact that our society cherishes, studies and documents the the natural world, yet we keep little track of the products that make up our predominant reality. To piece together and coherently map this vast technical history we interviewed dozens of designers, manufacturer employees, and design museum curators, sifted through archival manufacturer catalogues, and consulted with biologists to create a method for taxonomizing a man-made object.
Each chair is illustrated, each innovation is explained in a short text, and the details of the designers and manufacturers are provided. In addition, the book includes over 400 technical drawings of individual components, organized into chapters that map their evolution. Few man-made objects have ever been studied in such detail, and the taxonomical approach provides an objective analysis of design history. The book will serve as a detailed encyclopedic and professionally researched tool for anyone studying, commissioning, buying or designing an office chair.
A Taxonomy of Office Chairs, by Jonathan Olivares, Designed and Edited by Nathan Antolik, Published by Phaidon Press, 2011, Hardback, 220 x 160 mm, 8 5/8 x 6 1/4 in, 240 pp, 1000 colour illustrations, ISBN: 9780714861036
Buy it here: Phaidon or Amazon