A revolutionary chair for a new way of sitting

When designers can't sit still. A chair then should be designed allowing movement for better sitting position...

1. The stories of a new chair typology: 

In 2008 the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce asked the British design duo Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby to develop a concept for furnishing the new Royal Society of Arts Academy in Tipton. The fact that the chairs in market for school were nearly all based on outdated pedagogical concepts – static teaching to forward-facing pupils who were supposed to sit upright and listen in silence – was apparently secondary.  

Barber und Osgerby embraced the challenge and compiled a list of the ergonomic, economic, and aesthetic characteristics that they felt should be incorporated in a modern school chair for young students: indestructible, light, easy to produce, quiet, stackable, colorful, and fully recyclable. And it should allow movement. While they had some initial contact with Vitra – and knowing that Vitra was engaged in a research project with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) on ‘dynamic sitting’ in connection with office chairs – the designers saw the task as an ideal first joint project with Vitra. The findings of the ETH study were clear: a forward-tilt sitting position helps prevent physical ailments and promotes circulation – and hence the ability to concentrate. Vitra’s interest in the Barber-Osgerby idea was just as evident, prompting the start of an intensive design process that would take over two years.

2. The Design of TipTon Chair

The name ‘Tip Ton’ not only provides an onomatopoeic expression of the two seating positions but also references the original project for the school in Tipton.
Tip Ton defines a whole new chair typology: the solid plastic chair with forward-tilt action. Its name refers to the characteristic dual sitting postures – from a normal position, Tip Ton can be tilted forward a few degrees where the chair then stays in place. The forward-tilt position, until now the preserve of mechanical office chairs, straightens the pelvis and spine and thus improves circulation to the abdominal and back muscles.Tip Ton is made of polypropylene and manufactured from a single mould without any mechanical components. This makes the chair extremely durable and 100% recyclable. Tip Ton can be stacked up to four chairs high and comes in different colours.

3. The Challenge in Developing TipTon Chair:

The initial premise was that the chair’s construction would encourage a variety of sitting positions and keep the body – and mind – active. This triggered countless technical drawings, numerous models made of artificial resin and prototypes. The first version which combined a shell with a metal base served to resolve technical problems, eliminate mistakes and refine the stackability and tilt function – the chair should be able to tip forward in a controlled fashion, reaching a stable position for the user. Over time, now in a version made entirely of plastic, and it became evident that this was the material that would fulfil all the necessary requirements. Without the complex technology of an office chair, a tilt function was achieved with a nine-degree angle at the front of the skids. As the chair was to be employed in educational environments, it had to pass a battery of rigorous tests to comply with the quality and safety standards in numerous countries – which entailed further adjustments to perfect the structural details.


Edward Barber, born in Shrewsbury in 1969, and Jay Osgerby, born in Oxford in 1969, studied architecture and interior design as fellow students at the Royal College of Art in London. In 1996, they founded their own studio for design and architecture under the name Barber & Osgerby. Since that time, their collaborative work has probed the interface between industrial design, furniture design and architecture.


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