"The chair with a brain and a conscience". This is how Steelcase - the world's largest manufacturer of office furniture - presents its new office chair, Think, which adjusts itself according to how user sits in it. Think has already won several accolades, for among other things innovation.
Think's great flexibility is based on its innovative backrest where thin steel wires adjust themselves to the body, providing a special kind of comfort. And it's precisely here that Gabriel comes in, in close cooperation with Steelcase.
"We were given the task of developing upholstery that supports the backrest's flexibility and comfort, and at the same time is airy and translucent. The back was not to be completely covered" explains designer Inger Mosholt Nielsen of Gabriel's development department.
The entire innovation process over the past two years has been a partnership involving Steelcase's head office in the USA and its office in France, which is responsible for markets in Europe and the Middle East. This collaboration owes itself to Gabriel's key account manager in the USA, and indeed, Gabriel's entire key account strategy has played a crucial role.
"It's very important for us that Gabriel is represented in France," explains Michèle van Praag, product manager for Steelcase in Strasbourg. "Their local key account manager has served as coordinator, and has ensured us quick answers and fast responses."
An innovative Office chair
The involved designers, craftsmen and others from Steelcase and Gabriel have met throughout the process and exchanged ideas back and forth until the final solution was in place: a light, airy 3D solution inspired by the Nike Air concept.
The fabric itself has been given the name Nemo. It's a knitted fabric that has been adapted and refined into a visible upholstering with an open net structure.
"The three main technical challenges in development have centred upon transparency, wearability and stability," says Inger Mosholt Nielsen. "Then came the aesthetics, which should combine it all into a sporty, sitting-on-air concept."
One tangible result of this successful partnership is Gabriel's inclusion in Steelcase's "Idea-Lab" as an innovative partner in new projects and products.
"Gabriel proposed a number of alternative solutions for us, and went to great lengths to understand our needs," adds Michèle van Praag. "They've been deeply committed to the project, and Nemo meets all the demands for quality and feel. We'll certainly continue this cooperation in the future."