An interview with the designer of Smith System’s new multi-purpose, entry-level seating line for schools.
Just like its counterculture-vibe name, Smith’s new K-12 Groove chair questions the norm: Why can’t every school have the best learning environment without paying top dollar, especially when it comes to chairs?
Groove makes it possible, says Dorsey Cox, the award-winning designer behind Groove and the founder of Alabama-based Dorsey Cox Design. He explains how here.
First off, what makes Groove a big deal?
Smith figured out a way to bring high-tech shell molding to this new chair line. As a result, Groove puts refined aesthetics and awesome ergonomics within reach for school design budgets.
What’s the concept behind the cool name?
It’s about getting into the groove of learning faster. Groove is immediately supportive and comfortable for students. They can feel great and get to work, with less settle time. Subconsciously, we all try to find that sweet spot when we first sit down. When a chair is comfortable, we don’t really think about it. But if it’s uncomfortable, we squirm and shift and move continuously. It’s distracting.
You have a lot of experience designing for K-12 environments. What directives did Smith give you for Groove?
To achieve the look and function of a high-quality, modern K-12 chair that meets the price-conscious needs of many schools. Groove makes great features available to schools that previously might not have been able to obtain them, but their students certainly deserve them.
Let’s break down the design. What makes Groove comfortable for kids and teens?
Groove has a large seat surface with a gentle contour and slightly higher upper-back shell to spread the student’s weight over a bigger surface area. But we use a slim “waist” design with good lumbar support, so kids can turnaround easily and maintain good posture.
Kids are creative sitters! The ergonomic seat pan and subtle shell contours support movement in a working posture at a desk and sideways sitting. Material flex at the top of the shell opens the contours up for a reclining position. We also added a generous waterfall seat front to support circulation to students’ legs and feet.
How did you achieve Groove’s streamlined aesthetic?
High Tech injection molding and materials not only keeps the seatback strong and flexible, but it eliminates the exposed structural “ribs” on the back of the chair’s shell. We also used a smaller tube diameter for the frame. Groove doesn’t look like an institutional classroom chair. It’s sleek and calm, yet familiar. It’s a crossover chair that quietly blends in anywhere: classrooms, cafeterias, flex studios, maker spaces and more.
Why doesn’t Groove have a handhold on the shellback?
It was another way to simplify and smooth-out the back. Instead, Groove has a brow – a slight drape across the top back. It’s easy to grip and designed to hold backpacks, courier bags and purses.
Why do you think designers and architects will like Groove’s look?
Many K-12 and higher-ed plastic chairs have harsh geometric-shaped backs. They can become the strongest visual element in a space. Groove is a transitional form. It doesn’t overpower the overall design of the environment.
How does Groove help schools streamline furniture shopping?
There aren’t that many top-quality K-12 education chairs in the entry-level price range. Smith’s popular mid-priced seating, Flavors and Plato, may be out of reach for some schools. Groove offers a smart option for specifiers of price-conscious schools to do one-stop shopping for all furniture needs from one trusted supplier – Smith.
Describe Groove’s options in size, color, etc.?
There are three base options: a standard stack chair with casters or glides, a sled base chair, and five-star-base chair with casters. Each comes in three sizes: 18-inch initially, followed by 16- and 14-inch. Smith will also offer five-star-base fixed stools at 24 and 28 inches. Groove comes in multiple shell colors and two frame finishes.
To sum up, what makes Groove a great multipurpose chair?
It has it all – comfort, support, competitive price, and a simple, yet elegant, look. It’s like a chameleon. It blends in and complements any space, but doesn’t dominate it.
Lastly, you’ve been an industrial designer for over 30 years. You know the K-12 furniture industry well. What is Smith System’s reputation?
Three things. High-quality products, great design and exceptional service. I’m honored to partner with them on Groove.