ABChairs by Roeland Otten

This month’s Deconstruction features the ABChairs by Roeland Otten we talked about back in June — an alphabet of chairs and stools consists of all 26 letters. Otten dreamed up the idea of these chairs back in 1999, but was finally able to see his dream come to fruition in 2009 — ten years later! Take a look at the 10-year journey below.

Small sketch of the idea on paper for “communicative furniture in public space” (1999).

Models made in 1999.

I started working out these sketches in 2009.

As a graphic designer it was a challenge to design these series of chairs that also had to form a consistent font (typeset). The forms of the characters arose from totally different rules where capital and cabinet are by each other depending what is best to sit on. I used sans serif, unless necessary (and then the radius of the serif corresponds to the curves of rounded letters and as there were still quite some serifs needed, I decided to change the thickness of the lines significantly: 15cm for vertical lines, 5cm for horizontal lines and 5cm for the thickness of the material when used as the back of a chair. The seat height is either 46 or 80cm.

I also made small foam models of the new sketches, but my kids ruined them :)

The next step was to put the design in the computer, making the 2D graphic characters.

After that with help of designer Ivo Vrouwe importing them in a 3D modeling program that also generates the output for the CNC miller, not exactly the one above, but in this image you can see what the machine does.

We had big trouble with the imported Illustrator files, so a tip for designers: you better draw the forms again in 3D CAD, or start immediately in 3D CAD, it’s easier to export the files to Illustrator if you need those as well…

And this is what comes out of the machine.

Carpenters Joris Jansens and Elmer Koopmans constructed the prototype ABChairs. Later we decided to use only MDF because it looks better after lacquering.

Some models (G, L, S, T) need a steel construction to make them extra solid for the lacquer not to burst.

The T with pieces of curved wood used.

This is Joris, Elmer took most of the pictures…

V, A, R and B, almost done… after this all chairs are finished with HPL (plastic) before they’re lacquered.

First, the chairs get 3-5 layers of primer, and are polished, then after that 3 layers of colored lacquer finishing.

The first two prototypes I had (January 2010), the prototypes are all black.

But people can choose their color! This one came in last week, end of August 2010.

The first presentation of a few words during the event 100x Summer Design in Almere, Holland.

The overview of the complete collection of prototypes.

But the project isn’t finished yet!

Now, I’m contacting labels/manufacturers that could produce them in (recycled or LDPE) plastic by rotational moulding and distribute them. That way the chairs would be more affordable for the mass market, lighter in weight, less fragile and suitable for outdoors use. A smaller version for children is in the pipeline.

Therefore I’m also working on presentations of this prototype collection, like the next one during Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, Holland October 23-31, 2010 and getting orders of the limited editions (made like these prototypes) produced and shipped worldwide.

If you’re interested in limited edition ABChairs delivered signed and numbered in 2 months in the color of your choice, you can contact Roeland here.

Jaime Derringer, Founder + Executive Editor of Design Milk, is a Jersey girl living in SoCal. She dreams about funky, artistic jewelry + having enough free time to enjoy some of her favorite things—running, reading, making music, and drawing.