Interview with designer Morgan McBratney (MM), regarding views on design, and for the award-winning design Xylo Chair.

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Interview with Morgan McBratney at Tuesday 21st of June 2011: DI: What is the main principle, idea and inspiration behind your design?
MM : There really weren’t any major goals I was trying to achieve with this design when it first began. I was simply trying to create a piece for a very small, local, art show held with a group of peers. I hadn’t created any personal work for years, since I design professionally, and just wanted to do something for myself again. Creating it made me realize quite a bit about myself as an artist and how I miss creating just to create.

DI: What has been your main focus in designing this work? Especially what did you want to achieve?
MM : My main focus was to create a visually graceful chair that was easily produced, but held true to major ergonomic principals. I’ve always found that the common battle between form and function really isn’t necessary. Function very well may dictate form, but I feel like a lot of designers don’t realize that the form that function requires can, and usually does, when properly applied, create beautiful lines.

DI: What are your future plans for this award winning design?
MM : I would most certainly like to have it mass produced. After all, that was one of the major elements of the design! Efficiency!

DI: How long did it take you to design this particular concept?
MM : It really didn’t take me long to design the form. When I design something, I always start by creating what’s going on in my mind and with this particular design, the lines just placed themselves where they were supposed to go. Sometimes that doesn’t happen as easily, but I’ve always noticed that when I think I’ve created something really great it just seems to work that way. There are a lot of works that take a lot more processing to get there. The hardest part is always figuring out how to manufature the concept. A lot of ideas, no matter how great they may seem, just can’t be built cost effectively.

DI: Why did you design this particular concept? Was this design commissioned or did you decide to pursuit an inspiration?
MM : Actually, my seating class in college at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia was the only class I received a “B” in during my education there. I sort of did it to prove to myself that I’ve come a long way since then. In my business now, there is no avenue for creating such work so it became a fun challenge for me.

DI: Is your design being produced or used by another company, or do you plan to sell or lease the production rights or do you intent to produce your work yourself?
MM : I’m seriously leaning toward selling/leasing the rights to this design. I would always say that it’s better to do it yourself, but I have a lot of other future work and aspirations I would like to focus on and I believe that another entity would be much better at handling a large scale production situation.

DI: What made you design this particular type of work?
MM : I just wanted to design a chair. I’d only created one in the past and it wasn’t exactly a success. It was a beautiful piece of work and craftsmanship, but it was also a brilliant lesson to be learned from.

DI: Where there any other designs and/or designers that helped the influence the design of your work?
MM : Not really, however I would have to be naïve not to say that the recent trend in the design world to laminate profiles together to create furniture didn’t have some influence.

DI: Who is the target customer for his design?
MM : I’m hoping that with a mass production of this chair the retail cost of it would be affordable enough for a very large portion of people. I truly enjoy creating very high end works for specific clientele, but I don’t see any reason that everyone can’t enjoy great design.

DI: What sets this design apart from other similar or resembling concepts?
MM : I think that Xylo really sets itself apart by way of the ergonomic aspect of its design. Even though it is solid wood, the form of the chair back, seat and weight really are extremely comfortable and hug the natural curves of the human body. Also, the way it is constructed supports an amazingly large amount of weight. I haven’t done an actual study on it, but I am 6 foot tall and weigh 180lbs and stood on the seat and bounced without issue. It’s incredibly structurally sound!

DI: How did you come up with the name for this design? What does it mean?
MM : That’s actually one of those “coincidences that just happen” kind of things. I never come up with a name for a piece before it’s created. I have to get to know it first and when I had finished it, I looked at it from the profile view and saw the letters of XYL and O (even though that may be a stretch) and so I named it Xylo. Afterward, I looked up what “Xylo” was dictated as and the definition I found was: “a combining form meaning “wood,”. I couldn’t believe the coincidence, but it was perfect.

DI: Which design tools did you use when you were working on this project?
MM : I create everything in 3D utilizing the program Rhinoceros and render in VRay (now produced by Chaos Group). All of the CNC programming was programmed in Mastercam. In physical production after all of the parts were cut, simple dowel and glue laminate construction with final sanding and a clear catalyzed lacquer for finish.

DI: What is the most unique aspect of your design?
MM : Everyone will have their own opinion on what makes this piece unique to them, but for me it’s the lumbar support. Combined with the flex of the plywood and the depth of the arc, I have yet to find someone who says it isn’t comfortable.

DI: Who did you collaborate with for this design? Did you work with people with technical / specialized skills?
MM : No. This was just a design I created for myself in my spare time.

DI: What is the role of technology in this particular design?
MM : The technology was key in all of this. It would take hours upon hours to create each profile by hand using a pattern router. The CNC machining technology is just simply unmatched. It’s efficient, accurate and repetitive. In terms of the technology of 3-dimensional creation and plotting, An artist is capable of determining how everything works and how all of the parts are going to interact with each other well before final production.

DI: Is your design influenced by data or analytical research in any way? What kind of research did you conduct for making this design?
MM : Not unless you consider ergonomic study of the human body analytical research. That was the only real influence other than great lines into this. Chairs are a lot of fun to create. As a designer, you really can dictate to some degree how comfortable (or uncomfortable) a person sitting can be just by the ergonomics. It’s something that has always fascinated me. You don’t get the same kind of response out of lamps or tables.

DI: What are some of the challenges you faced during the design/realization of your concept?
MM : Most were purely structural issues. What were the best places to place the dowels? Is this curve too sharp for someone to be able to easily sand? Those kind of things.

DI: How did you decide to submit your design to an international design competition?
MM : I’d never entered an international competition before and I found out about the competition through a design blog and told my wonderful wife about it. She vehemently supported me in not only entering, but spending the money to do so. She believed in me. I really owe all the credit for that to her.

DI: What did you learn or how did you improve yourself during the designing of this work?
MM : I found a re-kindling of my desire to create for my own desires again. I’ve been working in the professional design world creating things that will simply “sell” for so long that I had gotten a bit complacent with the idea for quite some time. I have my fire back now and just have to figure out where to let it burn.

DI: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
MM : Not at this time. Thank you for the opportunity to express some of my ideas though. This has been a wonderful experience!