Objects and Ideas: Maker Design Chair

Chair Project:

Using your understanding of structure, design a chair or stool using only steel sheet and/or 1 1/2′ tube and 1/8″ aluminum sheet.


  • Use the elements of design to create a visually dynamic Chair that pushes the boundaries of traditional chair design.
  • Work through the idea development process from research, lateral thinking, drawings, Maquettes, Material studies to finished piece.
  • Safely use Maker Space tools and processes to fabricate chair idea.
  • Successful use of Torchmate CAD software to produce parts on the plasma cutter.

What you will need:

  1. Attention to detail
  2. Being comfortable trying new ways of working
  3. Following safety procedures
  4. Being prepared for class
  5. Sharpie marker
  6. Light cotton or leather gardening/work gloves to protect hands for sharp metal edges.


Here is some useful vocabulary for talking about structural forces:

  • Compression:  The ability of a structural material to withstand squeezing forces (closing something in a vice).
  • Tension:  The ability of a structural material to withstand pulling forces (pulling taffy apart).
  • Shear:  The ability of a structural material to withstand the force caused by a very heavy weight applied very close to a sharp edge (Shear: Just like scissors!).
  • Torsion:  The ability of a structural material to withstand twisting forces (twisting one end of a candy bar while the other end remains fixed).
  • Moment Principle:  This is the fulcrum and the lever (The Masking Tape) principle.  The longer the lever, the greater the force that is capable of being applied (the longer your jack’s lever, the easier it is to jack up your car).

Grading Rubric: Chair

 /5 Project Description/assignment:  You can summarize the project description or cut and paste.  Describe the “intent” (what the viewer will get) and what you think are the interesting parts that you were excited to do.   Also describe the challenges you see for yourself.  Perhaps it was a material you had never used or a concept you had not thought about before. With all your comments try to list at least one or two specifics.

  /15 Lateral thinking:  Explain what you are trying to do at this stage and then show examples.  These are your “lists” (or other brainstorming strategies) that you made when generating ideas.  You might take a digital image and then mark it up digitally with notes and arrows or use sticky notes before taking an image.  It could also be a written statement.  It is up to you.   However you decide to do this, it should explain your thoughts and give insight to the decisions you made about your ideas and which ones to move forward.

  1. Look at images of the history of the folding chair and rocking chair.
  2. Write a brief (1 page) history of the chair with visual examples (this adds to the length!)
  3. Show images of 5 different chairs and explain what you like about them.  Use the elements of design.
  4. Define and give measurements for the Mass-Produced: popliteal height and buttock popliteal length

/15 Sketchbook/Drawings:  12 pages of drawings (Each page is filled with multiple ways of exploring a main idea.  This is where you take the elements of design to help you try new solutions; repeat/contrast: color, pattern, texture, form gesture etc.).  Take pictures of your sketch book drawings with your phone or DSLR camera and add comments about what you were thinking.

  • 12 pages of Drawings: 3 different designs explored using 4 pages of drawings each.

/10 Maquettes:  Photograph your maquettes and include them. Explain why you did these and how they were helpful.  How could you have done things differently to improve the finished work?  Could you have made them differently or used a different material?  Bigger? Smaller? Etc.

  • Make a accurate, full size, to scale paper/cardboard maquette that shows size, folds, and list the sequence of how you will (cut, fold, shrink, stretch) the metal. This will be part of your e-Port page.

/5 Material Studies: Photograph your material studies. Explain what you thought you might learn from doing this and then what you actually learned.  This might be trying out a new material on a small scale to see what it does, it might be doing a full scale drawing to get a sense of scale or it might be trying out a painting style on a scrap before you commit to the actual piece.  The material study gives you a way to test out an aspect of the piece without committing to it only to find out it did not work.  Although this may take time it ultimately saves you time and gives the ability to find the element that works best with the overall intent.

  • Document and explain:  shrinking, stretching, process of how to rivet. Post on e-Port
  • Practice using plasma cutter, ironworker, tube bender etc. with a small sample of material to see what it does. Video or document this and put it on your e-Port.

/10 Reflections, :  This is where you have a few pictures (probably at the top of your post) and write a longer formal “artist” statement that talks about the intent or idea you started out with and how the piece changed over the process.  Then evaluate the finished piece using the project description and the elements of design. Talk about 2-3 ways you

could improve the work and how you could change your process to do this.  Be specific.  Would spending more time drawing or more thoughtful drawings, better maquettes have helped?  Also talk about the things you learned that you will take forward into other art making.  It is valid to have a piece fail or come out in unexpected ways but still have learned a great deal!  As artists we are constantly venturing into unknown territories (ideas/materials/styles/etc) and should be comfortable with a process that is rich in experimenting and play that pushes the limits (maybe even to failure). It is fine to put this at the top of your post even though it is the final step.

/40Finished Piece

  • /15     Supports Phil and does not wobble.    
  • /15    Use of repetition in the design.   
  • /10      Has required materials: Sharpie marker, light cotton or leather gardening/work gloves to protect hands for sharp metal edges on