As traditional conferencing areas in the modern office continue to shrink, it seems like task
and conferencing chairs have gotten bigger and louder. From boldly architectural backs to neon-colored mesh, our chairs are rapidly becoming the focal points in a world without walls. And while it’s certainly an interesting trend, it also begs the question: What’s a designer looking for a little nuance to do?
For designer Joe Doucet and the staff at Bernhardt Design, that question was the starting point for what would eventually become Duet.
“What we wanted to do was create a conference chair that’s a bit of a chameleon. The issue with most conference chairs is that they have a lot of technical constraints. People tend to start off addressing those constraints and you end up with very overly engineered pieces of furniture,” Doucet says. “What we wanted to do instead was develop a chair that could sit within any architectural environment and not dominate it.”
As Todd Campbell, design director for Bernhardt, tells it, the decision to opt for simple and subtle instead of trendy and technical made for a novel challenge.
“It’s much easier to design something trendy for the day than it is to pare it down to a simple form that feels comfortable in any environment and will feel comfortable in that environment for years to come,” he explains. “Joe had the idea that he wanted the chair to be unique without trying to be unique. For us, it’s about trying to develop a product that’s simple and still kind of universal.”
Doucet certainly didn’t choose an easy project for his first contract piece. The design group
created numerous prototypes during the months-long collaborative process, not settling for anything less than exactly what everybody in the group wanted. They would eventually put together 16 prototypes in all.