Owingen, October 2016. First impressions count – that applies in particular to office furniture. But looks alone are not enough in the long term. So office furniture specialist Klöber creates products that are a practical combination of design, ergonomics and functionality. Jörg Bernauer – designer and product developer at Klöber since 2008 – gives us the low-down on the challenges this entails, as well as how it is put into practice at the company.
Editor (Ed): Good design is more than just making things look pretty – would you agree with that?
Jörg Bernauer (JB): Absolutely. Of course good looks are important. Thanks to the distinct, modern forms with flowing lines and transitions, every office chair we design is both timeless and enduring – a success every time. But that’s just the beginning: good design encompasses far more than that. Our goal is for our office seating to tick all the boxes relating to both ergonomics and function. For instance, chairs often look stylish yet don’t allow natural movement. Or a task chair has so many hidden buttons and levers that it’s almost impossible for the sitter to set it to the correct ergonomic position. By contrast we aim to design our products “from the inside out”, so that function and appearance are always closely intermeshed. We are uniquely able to develop and realise every product in line with these principles because all our mechanisms, functions and components are made on site.
Ed: What’s your usual approach to product development at Klöber?
JB: What makes Klöber special is the open corporate culture and close inter-departmental cooperation between teams: product management, sales, designers, developers, draughtsmen and craftsmen work hand in hand as a team. Whilst in some places it is customary for designers only to be consulted at a later stage in the development of complex products to basically provide the cover for the so-called “pre-development” stage, I'm always involved in the process right from the start. Thanks to this strategy it is sometimes the case that commonly-used mechanisms are questioned and adapted for our particular needs. Once these concepts become more specific, we manufacture functional models and prototypes in our development lab. We also have an in-house development upholstery workshop where we create solutions for healthy and comfortable sitting. It is ultimately these synergies that bring us to a convincing result in terms of both appearance and function.
Ed: And yet the appearance is the deciding factor for many buyers. How do you react to the latest trends in the workplace and office environment?
JB: Current trends aren’t necessarily just a matter of design. One often arises from the other. The key criteria I was looking at for the ConWork conference chair – and now for our newest product, the Connex2 – are easy operation and functionality. Most office chairs require a complex set-up procedure before the sitter can access their full ergonomic potential. This means that many users fail to realise the variety of options available to them, or simply feel overwhelmed. The result is that key functions frequently remain unused. The solution: chairs that adapt or move automatically, as well as easily-identified elements whose intended purpose is intuitively clear to users. The Connex2 has both of these features.
Ed: Can you explain in more detail? What were your main considerations during the development of your latest task chair, the Connex2?
JB: When we were developing the Connex2 we focused on the individual at all times, because we wanted to make the sitting experience as comfortable and straightforward as possible. The sitter has hardly any settings to worry about with Connex2, yet their sitting position is perfect thanks to the automatic functions. We added a touch of colour to make operation even easier: there are three colour-coded levers for regulating the seat height, depth and
. So with its automatic adjustment, really easy operation and exceptional sitting comfort, Connex2 offers all the features you’d expect from a high-end task chair.
Ed: To sum up, can you describe the benefits of the Klöber design philosophy in a single sentence?
JB: That’s easy: our design simply works!