Narrator: Looking at 3D design objects in museum collections brings alive design and technology concepts. Here are some useful themes for exploring any design object. We’re going to take a look using the Panton Chair.
Teacher: So, we are going to look at this really iconic chair designed by Vernon Panton. Let’s have a think about the way it looks first of all. Who talk me through the style?
Student 1: I think the chair is very bright and it’s bold and looks very modern.
Teacher: So you mentioned that it’s brightly coloured and this chair very much takes its influence from Pop Art from the 1960s.
If we have a look at both these chairs and compare them and bear in mind they are from similar time periods, what sort of similarities can you see?
Student 2: They look like they are made from that same material plastic.
Teacher: So actually the chair is made from fibreglass but later prototypes were then made out of plastics. If the chair was to be made out of a different material how do you think that would impact on the look of it?
Student 3: If it was made out of metal the edges might be too sharp.
Teacher: Yes, because of the material it’s been made from, it’s got a very rounded and smooth appearance.
Who do you think might use this chair?
Student 4: Mothers might buy it for their house, like in a play room.
Teacher: What makes you think that it would be good for children?
Student 4: Because it’s colourful.
Student 5: I think artists might use this chair. They might collect it because it looks kind of unique.
Teacher: Ok, so we’ve looked at style, materials and user; now we are going to have a think about function. So, how does the Panton Chair differ to chairs you might have at school?
Student 1: The chairs at school have four legs, look hard and are made from plastic.
Teacher: Yes that’s similar to our Polyprop Chair that was one of the first injection-moulded chairs from the 1960s and it was quick and easy to mass-produce.
What effect do you think the chair has on the environment? Do you think that’s sustainable?
Student 6: It’s a very long-lasting material and very sustainable design.
Teacher: Yes, I think you’re right. I think the chair will last a long time because of the quality of the material and the way that it’s been made.
Do you think this is an interesting design that people would like in, say forty years time?
Student 7: Yeah, the chair looks quite futuristic.
Narrator: There are many ways of investigating the chair. Try using some of these questions: Is the chair made from sustainable resources? Is the shape just for style or is it also practical? What factors influenced the style of the Panton Chair? Why did the designer choose this material? Why was the Panton Chair innovative? How comfortable do you think it would be?
So, how does a designer look at museum objects?
Richard Shed: My name’s Richard Shed and I design and make furniture and interiors. It’s really useful when you are working on a design to be able to come to the museum and to be able to sort of position the thing you are designing in this sort of historical context. For example, if you are designing a chair, you are able to see how materials, techniques and processes have sort of shaped the chair over the years and then you are able to sight and position your work in this timeline. When you’re in a museum you can really explore an object from 3-dimensions - you can look underneath things, you can look over things and you can really interrogate objects. The Panton Chair is an incredibly important and significant piece of design and ultimately as well it’s very functional. I think the strongest influence that I take from the chair is really how it was innovative and how it’s challenged how we use materials and this is something I try to do with my own work. I like to try and challenge how things are made.