During my recent holiday travels I was lucky enough to see the Konstantin Grcic: Decisive Design exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago.
The exhibit begins with a ring of products, photos and text stretching around the perimeter of the gallery, showing viewers example after example of how well industrial designer Grcic marries form with function.
What also struck me was the flexibility of Grcic’s process. Sometimes he starts from a material and designs a product to take advantage of it. He designed the injection-molded Myto chair, for instance, when chemical company BASF commissioned him to develop an application for its Ultradur® High Speed plastic. Sometimes he designs a product where material isn’t even a factor because the client is only looking for concepts, like the Osorom seating unit he designed for Moroso (which the company liked so much that it DID end up producing it—out of fiberglass & resin).
Sometimes Grcic starts from scratch to solve a design problem he’s identified, like with the 360° chair that’s meant to be used in studios like his where people stand up and sit down many, many, many times a day and need to be in different positions for different tasks. At other times he’s redesigning existing products, looking to make incremental improvements like the slight lip he inserted in an Iittala glass to make it easier to stack. (Upon further reading, I learned that Grcic was also driven by a manufacturing process in this case, having spotted a glass-pressing machine at the Iittala factory that became his “muse” for the project. His ultimate design was one that could “only be produced by the two-part mould on my beloved machine.”)
The second part of the Decisive Design exhibit is the tire-ringed area at the center of the room, where several of Grcic’s chairs, stools and other seating designs are available for test sits. I was disappointed not to find an Osorom to try out, but I did dutifully try the 360° chair from all possible angles (some comfortable, some not). I climbed on and off the others too, in the end finding the Venus chair to be most comfortable (and quite attractive as well).
The show is not intended to be a complete retrospective of Grcic’s work, but instead focuses on the products he’s developed in recent years and offers insight into the design and manufacturing processes behind them. If you’re in Chicago in the coming weeks, go see it!
Konstantin Grcic: Decisive Design is on view at the Art Institute of Chicago through January 24, 2010.
You can also learn more about Grcic, the products named above and many of his other projects on his website.