Global success for Swedish plastic chair
P77. It looks pretty uncomplicated. What might look simple is in fact a high-tech wonder. The latest chapter for P77 chair is now being written.
It took intensive development work to create the armchair P77, brainchild of well-known Swedish furniture designer and architect Jonas Lindvall. The three-year journey from drawing board to world success has been fraught with challenges.
Many experts from all over the world have helped to take P77 from concept to finished product. Paul Johanson says the process has taught them a great deal about plastics and tooling. “The biggest challenge was getting the materials to work together and making the process work while resolutely sticking with the design,” he says. “We could have taken shortcuts if we had been willing to compromise on the design, but we let it take a bit longer instead.”
Creating a chair which is unique in terms of production process and design has necessitated major investments in terms of time and capital. Behind the advanced yet simple design is a lengthy process, the hidden element which makes it difficult to copy the chair in terms of design and material.
Last autumn the Johanson brothers thought they had crossed the finish line with development, but the production process was more complicated than they had expected. During the spring a new material was specially developed to give P77 the softer surface finish. Numerous international experts have been involved in the process. “We needed to think outside the box and look at new materials in order to stabilise the production process,” explains Dan Johanson. “At the same time, we still wanted to keep to our original design specs; for example, the chair had to be environmentally friendly.”
The seat consists of two parts: a thin, outer shell and a core. Two types of plastics were used to create a strong chair with a soft, tactile surface that enhances the chair’s outstanding comfort.
A new type of polyurethane (PUR) has replaced the original thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) for the surface. The material is unique, since it has been developed specifically for the P77 chair, but its properties are similar to those of TPE: it is weather resistant, withstands sunlight and is 100% environmentally friendly. In addition, it is fire-resistant and easier to use in the production process.
Designer Jonas Lindvall is satisfied with the finished product. “We have been thrown between hope and despair, but now the chair has the same look and feel as the early prototype,” he says. “It is a lightweight, stackable armchair with a clear identity, and a typical Johanson Design chair.”
P77 is the first joint project for Jonas Lindvall and Johanson Design. Jonas Lindvall has won acclaim as one of the foremost furniture and interior designers in Sweden in recent years. Several of his pieces have won the “Excellent Swedish Design” award. The starting point for P77 was to create a light, comfortable, tough and stackable chair at an unbeatable price.
“Jonas showed us a sketch of a chair. We loved the design, and then we started talking about materials and how we could manufacture it at reasonable cost,” says Dan Johanson. The chair has aluminium legs, both to express the right feeling and to keep the weight down. P77 weighs about 5 kg, which makes it ideal for use indoors and outdoors in private and public settings. It’s perfect for everything from school dining halls and offices to outdoor cafés. In keeping with environmental considerations, P77 is 100% recyclable - without the need for separation of the two separate layers – while its low weight, stackability and local production in Sweden, using locally produced materials, also contribute to reducing the environmental impact of transport.
The first sample chairs are now being shipped to different countries around the world. The very first deliveries went to a large train company in Switzerland and a restaurant in southern Sweden. Johanson Design estimates production to reach around 10,000 chairs during 2012. Thus, a new chapter has been written about a fantastic chair and its journey from concept to final product. Further chapters in the global success story of P77 are sure to come.