it’s people who breathe life into the chair by simply using it.

An interview with communication designer Florian Lambl on the design approach for PRO and working with star photographer Oliviero Toscani.
Mr. Lambl, what is the guiding idea behind the communication and marketing of PRO?
Florian Lambl: We think our idea is simply very logical. Oliviero Toscani, the photographer with whom we had the pleasure to work together, extended his arm when he saw all the wonderful chairs in the photo studio and said: “Please, have a seat!”. He was addressing the models who would serve as substitutes for all the people who would sooner or later be sitting on these chairs. In our communication strategy, we focus on people, the users, because they communicate the crucial point: that PRO delivers a very pleasurable sitting experience and, what’s more, that you can even move around on it.
What was the reason for selecting Oliviero Toscani, a photographer who clearly polarizes opinion? And did he agree immediately?
Florian Lambl: When Konstantin Grcic introduced the project to us in all its various designs, it was clear to me that we had to communicate the most obvious fact: this is a fantastic chair for everyone and for all kinds of situations. It’s a high tech product, it’s colourful, highly ergonomic, designed by a world- renowned designer, available in many different designs and reasonably priced so it’s affordable for almost everyone. And when you want to communicate via images in as simple as possible a way, then you can hardly overlook the wonderfully humorous and energy-infused portraits that Toscani has done for Benetton and Prénatal. When you then delve deeper into his work, you will encounter numerous icons that are not even shocking. So Konstantin and I exchanged a few emails containing these images, just for fun, for trying to define a visual language. And then there was that moment between two of these emails where we simply gave Toscani a ring. One month later, we met him in Berlin and from then on it was clear that he would be the photographer for the campaign. Flötotto have always supported the idea that is a rather unusual one for the furniture industry: to abandon the usual sterile milieu photography in favour of direct communication via people. It’s people who breathe life into this chair by simply using it. We wanted to communicate this aspect by means of visual language.
Which challenges did you encounter during the design process?
Florian Lambl: It’s a very complex project and this complexity was most strongly felt in the organizational aspects: we had a photo production where both the shooting with Toscani and the still life shooting were run in parallel. And if you go through all the possible combinations of the chair, you end up with some 250 possible chair designs. Altogether 60 people worked on this production. Additionally, we had to anticipate how this would look in different media. There are not only catalogues but also large format posters, smaller posters, advertisements, documentation and an image film, shot by Marc Comes from CHBP during the photo production, which will be shown at the trade fair.

The Genesis of PRO:

An all-purpose chair, originally conceived as a school chair
The Flötotto brand has been closely linked with school chairs right up to the present. “There is something like a particular Flötotto DNA, based on the specific shape of the seat and its related functionality. We wanted to reconnect to our history, yet in an innovative way”, says managing director Frederik Flötotto, who, together with his father and co-managing director Elmar Flötotto, will recommence the production of school furniture in 2012. Simultaneously, with the PRO chair, the brand will also be positioned in the object and domestic furniture markets. The original idea of ‘only’ producing a school chair was broadened in an intensive joint development process, lasting more than two years, together with the Konstantin Grcic Industrial Design studio.
“When we asked Konstantin Grcic to help us develop a new school chair, it was clear that we wanted to continue the firm’s tradition of placing high demands on ergonomic and functional aspects, and to combine these with contemporary design and materials”, says Frederik Flötotto. Recent research results regarding the requirements for school furniture were considered in the development: as opposed to earlier times, one of the main demands today is ‘dynamic sitting’. Hence the PRO is a completely ‘open’ chair that not only allows but actively encourages the user to move in all directions, resulting in exceptional comfort that immediately suggested further areas of application in addition to schools. Says Elmar Flötotto: “We put our hearts and souls into this project where commercial considerations did not play the primary role. This new chair is a real improvement, it provides many solutions that have long been called for, without being a machine for sitting.”
Polypropylene instead of Pagwood: A Material Choice for Delivering a Higher Degree of Flexibility
Initially, pagwood seemed to be the obvious choice for Flötotto and Konstantin Grcic. This composite material made from beechwood veneers soaked in phenolic resins and fused under high pressure was used to produce the flexible and highly ergonomic ‘Flötotto Formsitz’, which was patented in 1952 and has sold more than 21 million units worldwide.
During the development process, it became obvious that pagwood would not be fully able to meet today’s high demands for flexibility and would have left little design options for the desired three-dimensional form. Hence Flötotto and Grcic decided to use polypropylene. This decision implied a more industrial production process for the seat and also meant that the Flötotto family had to invest in injection-moulding tools. “So we decided to create a truly modern product, designed to be produced in large volumes,” says Konstantin Grcic.
Photography: Oliviero Toscani
Conceptual Planning: LHCK, Katharina Kemmler
Casting: Tomorrow is another day, Eva Gödel
Film by Marc Comes, CHBP
Music: Carlo Peters

Lambl Homburger - communication, branding, strategic consultancy, art direction and culture communication