“It wasn’t about creating a chair but about a graphic element that became a chair.”

Christian Heikoop × Designer and Creative Director × Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Christian Heikoop is an industrial designer based in Amsterdam. He describes his process as a near-meditative experience in which he draws an idea ad infinitum until he thoroughly understands it.

He studied at the Design Academy Eindhoven and upon graduation worked for Tim Coppens in New York and was later hired by Stefan Scholten, gaining a multifaceted experience before branching out on his own. For his first collaboration with Dims., Heikoop worked tirelessly to weave a complex structure into its simplest form. Drawing from the classic wire chairs of the 1950s and the intricate botanic geometries lensed by Karl Blossfeldt, his first design for Dims., named Logos, appears to defy logic.

“When I’m designing, everything should have a reason, it should make sense and have a relation to the object.”

RE: DOODLING FIRST

This project started very graphically. Doing some line work, without it even being a chair. The objective was to create a chair which could be easily produced from standard industrial materials but still have a very bold language. So we chose basic metal rods and worked from there.

I love all the old wire chairs, like the ones from [Charles and Ray] Eames and [Harry] Bertoia. Those, for them, were research projects that were then translated into other furniture pieces with the same look and shape, but not made from rods. The classic wire chair is so understandable because it’s made from rods — you feel that you can easily produce a shape out of them.

RE: MAKING SENSE OF THE LINES

I tried to find a way to create a surface with wires. It was about designing a 2D shape, which has to become 3D, and find a way for it to become unified. The biggest struggle was to find out how to create this volume and connect all these ends — how to make it into one shape. Because, looking at the Eames and Bertoia chairs, you can see that the rods are cut off at the ends. The line goes from one end to another, and then there’s another line. They just cut the ends off so it doesn’t feel quite ‘finished.’ It’s like one of those pop songs where in the end the music just fades out.

For me, this design is about being infinitely connected. When I’m designing, everything should have a reason, it should make sense and have a relation to the object. It should feel like it belongs there, it should feel intuitive. I sketched by hand, repetitively, drawing the same thing over and over, to allow enough time for the form to fully reflect my intent. Like handwriting, it adds feeling, a personal touch.

Process photo w/ Wade & Leta

RE: BUT, DOES IT WORK?

I’m the type of designer that, once I know what the look will be, then I’ll make it proportional to the body. It wasn’t about creating a chair but about a graphic element that became a chair. Once I arrived at the design, I thought about how to fix it to a human ratio. How to keep the grid the same everywhere in the shell, because you don’t want any distortion and have it look funny from a certain angle. You also don’t want the back to be too low or the front to be too short. Of course, I know every chair has almost the same height and I know the kind of dimensions I want, but for me, it only becomes real once I put it into 3D programs in the right dimensions. Sometimes this is a little surprise, but sometimes it quickly works out.

”For me, the chair seems to defy logic. It’s presenting something that is almost impossible.”

RE: MINI TESTING

I take all these steps to convince myself that the design looks good. If it works on a miniature scale, it often also works on a larger scale. If I can make it myself, it’s also easy to produce. But this quickly became a challenge.

Because there are 28 different rods, all in different dimensions, all with different curves — it’s a puzzle! But this helped me realize that the sheen creates a super-nice sense of depth on the metallic finish. It reflects nature, so it blends in even more. I also saw how to weave it — what goes over, what goes under. I could see it, but initially I could not see how it would work. You have to play with a double dimension that starts and finishes at the same centerline of the tube. Then I 3D-printed some models to see the relative scale and how it looked in daylight. And when I made these images of the miniature models, I was almost convinced. This is something that could work.

RE: BRIEF OR NO BRIEF

Brief? This was very free. Just a wire chair, playful. And through the process, I started to realize more and more what Dims. was as a company, what they’re like, and what they want to say to the world. It started from the flat sketches. I showed the whole process throughout the year to Dims. Every step of the way, they had comments, which is what makes this chair fit the brand — we really worked on it together. Over time, I got to know them better. And I could sense what the team gravitated toward and what they could do as a company in terms of production. In the end, the brief was working together and observing each other’s reactions while designing the chair.

RE: FORM AND MEANING

For me, the chair seems to defy logic. It’s presenting something that is almost impossible. You don’t see where the rods end. It’s almost like it’s a floating shell — it doesn’t feel like there’s any support. It should be very delicate, but in fact it is a strong metal chair.

I think it’s also because of how the legs are integrated with the chair. They don’t feel bolted on, they’re really part of the design. Normally, when you have a chair, you see all of these braces and stretchers to add extra strength. Here, we have a network of interwoven lines that effectively do the same thing. We tried to engineer the chair in a way that it feels like it’s all coming from one thing.

RE: THE TABLE

You have this chair, which has a lot of character. It appears delicate, very light. So I wanted to contrast that with a very strong archetype. A solid outdoor table, which feels very durable and fixed. The only purpose it would have is to be there, outdoors, always there for you. Not moving. I took one of the rods of the chair and just blew it up. A table normally has a thick table top and thin legs. But I thought I’d play with that and they could both have the same thickness. It all almost looks like both are cut from the same material, and made in the same dimensions.

RE: FINDING HIMSELF

I love the Design Academy [Eindhoven]. It really shaped who I am and the way I work. I was taught so much there, but none of it came from books. None of it came from the teachers. The whole experience — it’s a four-year program — is trying to get the best out of you, out of each person. So the first year, you’ll just be thrown into the deep end. And it’s just about finding yourself, which I hated as a person.

Because I wanted to talk about the work, not about me. It was always about me, and what I like, what I bring to the world, and what I was afraid of. They really break you, in a good way. And the assignments were never the same for everybody. They were always different, very specific for you. All of the teachers tried to get the best out of you and help and support you. It really made me find my own way in designing. I still try to challenge myself to try to learn new things. When I left the school I didn’t leave with any books. I just left wanting to learn more and wanting to explore and wanting to work in the industry and never take no for an answer.

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