I was recently speaking with a good friend of mine who also happens to be a student of architecture. He was telling me about his summer internship and was so excited about the company he was working for. As I enquired further, it was brought to my knowledge that this company is building a chair called Formid, the first-ever made-to-measure, active seat. Or in other words, this seat is designed to improve your posture and remediate the common and very rampant issues associated with chronic sitting. It also comes with digital haptic feedback- an app that will tell you how and when to adjust your posture. And to make things better, it’s sustainably made. Given my vested interest in ethical brands (and just cool brands in general), I had to learn more about this seemingly revolutionary chair, and its founder, Patrick Danielson.
So there I was, last Tuesday, I walked over an hour from my home to visit the headquarters of Formid. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I was greeted at the door by Patrick’s little pup, Kaya, who, understandably, is a valued spirit in the office.
Check out our interview below!
Abigail: First, I love your product, not only for its sustainable qualities, but its remarkably innovative design. What propelled you to build Formid?
Patrick: Thank you. Your feedback, visit to our office, and interview is much appreciated! The idea for Formid began four years ago, when I had transitioned from an active construction job to a seated career in architecture. Since peak cognitive performance is unavoidably tied to physical performance, the idea of a career with seated inactivity depreciating my cognitive and physical performance inspired me to design a solution. I wanted an active seat to stay physically healthy and maintain a healthier cognitive performance. We had a modest intent at the start to make one seat but here we are four years later with a full design team ready to offer a better seating experience to address the rampant issue of seated inactivity affecting so many people. Formid allows those in careers dependent on sitting to finally customize an active seat, fit for their occupation.
A: Coming from someone with a job that involves a lot of sitting, can you tell the community at Ethical Brandz about the benefits of using Formid, as opposed to other standard chairs?
P: A simple difference is that we offer a tailored seat that allows a wider range of motion while seated. The counterweighted narrow base offers a comparable range of motion to standing, while seated. With Formid, you can comfortably lean deeply or subtly and explore many configurations of your hip-spine angle, which often remains unchanged for the majority of the day. Typical chair alignment settings are fixed and can often cause additional problems since compromising settings are often used for too long and the body suffers long-term side effects. By tailoring our seat to each individual we limit incompatible positions. The elimination of settings and knobs allows you to move freely to the next most comfortable position at any time, hands-free, bringing freedom and control back to the body’s core. We have also integrated digital and haptic feedback systems to prevent poor posture and encourage cardiovascular activity. Simple reminders to move are conveyed through vibrational cues and we can also remind you to stand up. We are especially excited because the Bluetooth-connected electronics module provides an opportunity to further integrate with open-source programming from the Formid community.
A: Can you talk about you and your brands’ commitment to sustainability? Why was it important to build your chair out of sustainably sourced FSC paper?
P: Our goal has always been to produce a solution with minimal environmental impact. This concept drove us to develop a method of assembly that could handle customization in an additive way so that we avoid producing waste. Similar to a 3D printer, we consume only what we need to build each seat. Any excess material from the cut paper tubes or sheets is ground or shredded and converted into an important part of the structural components. However, unlike 3D printers we can make large objects like a seat much faster because we start with a flat product and fold it to develop strength. Paper is fundamental to this combined performance. Also, in order for the seat to stand up with a narrow base, it requires a counterweighted bottom so we incorporate slag and scrap metal into the concrete we cast. For those who don’t know, slag is a waste by-product from the mining industry here in Sudbury. So not only are we using sustainably sourced FSC paper that helps to sequester carbon from the atmosphere for the life of the seat, we’re removing a waste product productively.
A: What are your thoughts on the future of sustainable architecture and design? Do you think that design seeking to minimize negative environmental impacts is growing?
P: Thankfully, I think sustainable design is an important and growing concern. The difficulty we face these days is coordinating the wealth of information available on the internet and the countless perspectives of professional specializations into one clear and sustainable solution. Designers are now fortunately able to integrate and synchronize many design benefits thanks to software that allows us to focus on augmenting a design set rather than starting fresh every time. The difficulty is setting aside enough time to solve complex coordinated problems in this fast-paced world. Therefore we are inspired by evolution. We work toward a more precise more coordinated whole while considering future adaptations and opportunities. We see the future of design as solving problems iteratively over a very, very long timeframe and expect products to evolve into generational strategies.
A: It’s not an easy feat to design a chair with so much versatility (e.g. playing the piano, practicing yoga, doing desk work, using virtual reality) that, all the while, improves your posture. What has been the biggest challenge in bringing this chair to life?
P: We started with a focus on the largest bone in the body – the pelvic bone and introduced seated movement. This initial focus is common enough that it aligns well with many applications. Once we returned movement to the pelvic area, we pursued other compatible ideas. With every added design criteria such as functionality, strength, customizability, assembly, longevity, feedback, etc. the balance between them became progressively more challenging. For example, adjusting one variable can adversely affect a seemingly unrelated component elsewhere and we have to learn how to manage this continuous cycle of relationships. The difficulty lies in having all parts fit together perfectly and still make the chair stand up on its own. With every seat being unique, our assembly process is also never identical. Plus the inclusion of both haptic and digital feedback in a tailored paper chair has never been done before so we have had to iterate many, many times. Learning how to pack these design ideas together has been a rewarding process and we have received lots of help from those around us. We hope the irony of sitting down every day to solve the problem of seated inactivity will hopefully soon be a distant memory.
Their Kickstarter launches August 1stat 1 pm, please take the time to check it out and donate.