You wouldn’t think a sofa had a great deal in common with a car, but you’d be surprised.
Stephane Schwarz, former design director at Nissan, has created the new Morph seating collection for Saporiti Italia using the same skills he used to create the enormously successful Qashqai crossover car.
Product designers, fashion designers, even furniture designers have all had a go at car design in the past, often with questionable results. But car designers have a history of transferring their skills to other areas of design too.
According to Schwarz, there are a number of similarities between car design and other types of industrial design, and you can tell a talented car designer because they can turn their hand to designing other products.
“Furniture design is like car design in that it expresses symbolic values,” says Schwarz, who now runs his own design studio in London. “Intellectually, it is about a form that conveys a particular personality, not unlike with cars.”
On the other hand product design is less constrained.
“In product design you can explore expression in a broader way than the car industry,” he explains. “Furniture is much more straightforward and intuitive. And it’s liberating, as the industry is more organic and flexible.”
Schwarz’s aim was to produce the most comfortable and beautiful sofas and armchairs he could. He started by working with Saporiti’s craftsmen to create a digital design model of the initial prototypes. He then applied his ergonomic experience to the furniture’s design, in the same sort of way he might have approached a car interior of the past.
Inspired by his automotive experience, Schwarz looked at ergonomics to make a comfy sofa.
“By taking more of an automotive approach I felt I could make furniture more comfortable. I wasn’t interested in just creating something that just looked cool, but something that would be fit for life and user-focused. This may be something that has been neglected in some areas of furniture design – which can be like the art world in the way that it is purchased.”