With Yonda, neunzig°design has transformed the archetype of a versatile shell-structure chair into an entire forward-looking range. Yonda is not only a sustainable object because its material complies with ecological standards – its design is also based on the idea that a chair can be a cherished object with a long useful life.
In Wilkhahn Design Talk, Barbara Funck and Rainer Weckenmann from neunzig°design tell us what is so unique about the design of the new shell-structure chair range, why attention to detail was so important during the development stage and how the versatile Yonda chair embodies the Wilkhahn principle of “less is more”.
What is unique about Yonda, the new shell-structure chair range that you have developed for Wilkhahn? And: as we know, sustainability is also a very broad term that covers far more than just the materials used. What criteria are important for you when it comes to sustainable product development?
RW: For us, the most important task in any project is to evoke emotions. With Yonda, it was important for us to generate sensuality. Yonda needs to wow people – it needs to be sexy and desirable. We can only make an impact with a new object if sustainability is attractive.
And what makes sustainability in product design attractive from your point of view – how do you approach that?
BF: From our perspective, sustainability means being responsible but at the same time not losing sight of the fun aspect. Compromise is not an option – if something is responsible, it needs to be appealing as well! We need to understand that sustainability adds value that enhances our quality of life. This is why we designed Yonda as a comfortable chair that also has a timeless aesthetic quality that will outlast short-lived trends.
RW: An important part of sustainable design is making more out of less. A shell-structure chair like Yonda does this by fusing all functions of the shell in a single form, with the seat, backrest and armrest forming one unit. Everything is connected with everything else – including design and sustainability! And then there is the variability of the base frames. This allows us to create four different types of chair with just one seat shell.
The design was clearly a great success – but how exactly did you meet the high standards of ergonomics and sustainability for the shell?
RW: We felt our way gradually towards the final form with lots of sketches and little models. A process like that involves an awful lot of fine-tuning. We were able to produce the high level of comfort by adapting the shape of the seat shell to the user’s back – the gentle curve of the shell fits like a second skin and supports the back. You rarely find that kind of ergonomic design with other shell chairs. This loving attention to detail is plain to see – but you can also feel it as soon as you sit down.
BF: The material and the construction of the seat shell also meet the standards of a circular economy. The seat shell consists of recycled plastic and filler made from small waste wood fibers from sawmills. Apart from the ecological aspect, this impacts the aesthetic. Larger wood fibers remain visible in the material and influence the shade – so black is not deep black and red is not bright red. The colors look softer on the whole. The wood fibers create a natural, velvety effect that also makes the inner qualities visible on the surface.
We live in a throw-away society in which enormous amounts of products are consumed rapidly. How can you design a new product and still do something to counter the culture of wastefulness?
BF: Personally, I see durability as the most important aspect when it comes to designing sustainable products. Having a long useful life is at least as important as using ecological materials and processes. An object that we have an emotional attachment to and that we use all the time doesn’t just disappear. Ideally, it will be passed on to the next generation as well. That’s the kind of durability that we want Yonda to have. And if the materials can also be beneficial for the circular economy, then that’s better still!
Last question: Do you have plans to continue working with Wilkhahn in the long term or is this just a one-time project?
RW: We would love to continue working with Wilkhahn. The feedback about Yonda has been very positive so far – so we are optimistic that this will happen. And if it does, we have a few more things on the back burner that you can look forward to!
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You can find out more about neunzig°design here.
Download the digital Yonda brochure here.
You can read more about the Yonda shell-structure chair range here.