Do designers always know best?
No, do they….?
Back in July we celebrated the 60th anniversary of Arne Jacobsen’s Ant Chair for Fritz Hansen, including mention of the heavy criticism that greeted its presentation, in particular the criticism that it only had three legs.
Eventually however Jacobsen conceded to Fritz Hansen’s demands and produced a four-legged version, the so-called Series 7.
Which, wouldn’t you know, went on to become the best selling product in the Fritz Hansen programme.
A wonderful story which we think nicely exemplifies that a designer’s vision and what a market is prepared to accept, aren’t always on the same wavelength.
Released in 1955 the Series 7 is based around a moulded plywood shell that if not so formally impressive as the Ant Chair shell, is slightly larger, more forgiving and so more comfortable for longer periods of use. In addition, in contrast to the somewhat misanthropic Ant Chair the Series 7 is, as the name implies, a family of chairs: the basic 3107, the 3207 with armrests and the two swivel versions, 3117 without armrests and 3217 with armrests. These four original models were joined in the late 1960s by a version on a fixed single-legged base, the 3137, a bar stool version, the 3187 and the 3177 Series 7 Children’s chair.
In their comprehensive Arne Jacobsen biography Carsten Thau and Kjeld Vindum argue that the Series 7 version with armrests was Jacobsen’s favoured version,1 the “authentic”, “original” version if you will, something which of course can be seen as an attempt by Arne Jacobsen to create a clear difference between his beloved, armrest free, Ant and the Series 7.
Consequently, one can’t really bear to imagine the emotions that must have developed within him when it became clear that the version without armrests was more popular than version with.
A wonderful story which we think nicely exemplifies …..
The Series 7 is of course, sadly one must say, one of the most copied examples of post war European furniture design.
However as we all know, one can copy forms and shapes, but quality cannot be reproduced only repeated. And the repetition of Jacobsen’s carefully controlled design combined with Fritz Hansen’s wood moulding experience, high quality materials and stringent quality control mean that while the Series 7 unquestionably costs more than the copies, the quality and value of the final object is very much higher.
As part of (smow) online’s 5th birthday celebrations we have teamed up with Fritz Hansen and if you order 5 Series 7 chairs, between Friday November 1st and Thursday November 7th inclusive, you will receive a 6th chair as our gift to you.
Full details can be found at: www.smow.com
1. “Arne Jacobsen” by Carsten Thau und Kjeld Vindum.Danish Architectural Press, Kopenhagen 2002