Modernist Design Chairs: the Design Lineage of the IKEA Poäng

Recently I bought myself an IKEA Poäng as a comfortable armchair for reading. I’m quite fond of the chair. For the low price one gets a pretty classy looking piece of furniture.

In the Bauhaus year 2019 I had already learned a lot about modernist furniture design. Researching a bit more about the construction of the Poäng, with its cantilever construction made of bent laminated wood, it fascinated me that the chair could be linked to some of the most renowned designers and chair designs of the modernist epoch. Names that thus appear in the Poäng’s ancestry are:

The IKE Poäng is thus a good point of depart for discussing some basics about modernist chair design.

Just after finishing this infographic, I coincidently stumbled into a chair design exhibition in the Lippisches Landesmuseum Detmold. It was great to see all the iconic chairs named in the infographic there. The most renowned museum for chair and furniture design in Germany is the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, which I also visited some years ago. The museum also has a great digital catalogue available. There even is a museum dedicated solely to cantilever chairs, the Tecta Kragstuhlmuseum in Lauenförde, which I hope to visit some day.

IKEA is known to sell variants of famous design classics. A variant of Alvar Aalto’s stool 60 is also available in the form of IKEAS stool Frosta. At the time of this writing, in August 2020, IKEA does not sell this model anymore, but similar stools are also available from other manufactuctures. They work beautifully as side tables for the IKEA armchair.

Below now the infographic showing the design linage of the IKEA Poäng armchair. The infographic can also be downloaded here as an A3 sized pdf for better viewing or printing.

Infographic showing modernist design chairs and the design lineage of the IKEA Poäng armchair. Design and text by Data Visualization Dr. Johannes Wirges

In the following, I want to add a few notes on the making of this graphic. Initally I started with a free flowing layout (see photo below on the left) but noticed that the large amounts of text, taking up more space than the pictures, would need careful planning. The basic idea was to use a modular grid with each picture corresponding to one and each text to two adjectent grid modules. Some puzzling was required to find a balanced arrangement (see photo below on the right). The content turned out to fit into a grid of 5 x 7 modules.

Sketches for planning the layout of the modernist design chair infographic

Paper cutouts were quite useful for testing different arrangements. The photo below shows the final layout I ended up using.

The screenshot below shows how layout ended up in Scribus. The baseline grid provides the underlying structure. Strictly following the modular grid structure looked quite clunky and cramped in many parts, so captions and text were indented. This lead to the forming of text columns that give structure to the infographic.

Modular grid and baseline grid used for layouting the modernist design chair infographic

Another interesting detail was the scaling of photos. These were gathered from different sources and thus had different dimensions. I wanted to display them correctly to scale. For correctly sizing them, I thus looked up or estimated their seat height and used this as a reference length.

Scaling of modernist design chair photos by use of their seat height