W chair. Latvian Ergonomic Design Jumps Onto Kickstarter 0

Agnese Čivle

“I hate to piss on the party, but chairs suck. All of them. No designer has ever made a good chair, because it is impossible. Some are better than others, but all are bad. [..] It sounds absurd to claim that chairs are dangerous. They’re comfortingly ubiquitous and seem almost too boring to be harmful. But when one considers that the average Briton, for instance, spends over fourteen hours seated per day, relying on chairs for support while working, relaxing, commuting, eating, and sometimes sleeping, it’s easy to believe that chairs could have a serious impact on public health.” This quote from Colin McSwiggen's tract, titled “Against Chairs”, clearly illustrates the designer's thoughts on the subject.

It must be said, however, that today's designers are slowly heading towards some sort of a resolution to this dilemma. A good example is the ergonomic office furniture offered by the American company Steelcase, and another is... Sweden's switching over to a six-hour workday!

And then there are a handful of promising entrepreneurs who base their design ideas on the premise that health is one of the most important markers for quality of life, and instead of traditional marketing, are attempting to bring their products to the people through the crowd-funding platform Kickstarter. In February, this group increased by one more with the Latvian designer Guntis Ziņģis and his ergonomic W chair – a project that is exceptional not only in terms of its design aesthetic, but also with its unique geometry that keeps the user's back straight during working hours and improves both concentration and productivity. The W chair was created through Ziņģis' close work with ergonomics specialists at the Riga Stradiņš University, in the school's laboratory for occupational health and safety studies. During the design testing process, a special infrared camera and an accompanying computer program were used to determine how load and pressure are distributed throughout the body and relevant muscles when sitting in the chair, thereby allowing for optimization of the chair's design.

W Chair has launched a Kickstarter campaign and hopes to raise their goal of 120,000 EUR by March 16. If the campaign turns out to be successful, backers will receive gifts based upon the amount of their pledge: coasters, bracelets, or even the project's end result – the first W chairs to be mass produced.

While the project is underway, Arterritory.com would like to publish Guntis Ziņģis' mission statement and give an insider's view of the project.


In the beginning... there was the Lotus Position

It all began at a meditation retreat where we had to concentrate for hours on end. After just the first few days, most of the participants were complaining of back problems while sitting in the Lotus Position. So they used pillows and pads in order to forge on with their sitting. I thought to myself, Why can't this same sitting technique be used at home or at the office? I knew that there were these “kneeling chairs”, but most of them look like hospital furniture. I felt the urge to make something lighter and more minimalistic – a chair that you wouldn't be embarrassed to keep in your office.

Just 3 lines

The W chair has been designed without any superfluous planes or lines. All of its lines have a function.

Its shape began with a simple sketch consisting of just three lines – a chair leg, knee support, and a seat. In working with the materials and construction, I was able to retain this clean and minimalistic look.

3D technology

The W chair is constructed in one 3D piece, from both hard and soft polyurethane. The seat and knee supports are upholstered in either velour or wool fabric, while the base is made from a thin sheet of steel.

Old office chairs = “the new smoking”

At this year's Stockholm Design Week, it was evident that the “smart office” theme is becoming increasingly significant. Sitting in the kind of office chairs that most people presently use is being called “the new smoking”, while standing desks have become the norm in practically every office environment. At W chair, we propose you spend part of your time sitting correctly, and part of your time standing. I, myself, use this chair for reading at home – it keeps me from falling asleep.

It's not Opsvik

Perhaps the most similar design classic similar to the W chair is the rocking chair created in 1979 by Peter Opsvik [a Norwegian designer known for several of his innovative ergonomic chair designs]. The W chair is different, however, and has its own patented, original design.