The Passing of David Rowland

Clean airy lines and striking simplicity dominate

I've been very busy lately working on next generation ThinkPad design. So busy in fact, that I've had to take a short break from blogging. Don't worry, more posts are coming from me very soon. Today, however, I learned of the passing of design great David Rowland and feel compelled to give him the mention he deserves. His most notable work is clearly the invention of the 40/4 stacking chair. If you didn't know, the stack efficiency of this design wonder has never been beaten.  Imagine 40 chairs in a stack 4 feet high. The name says it all. Considering it was introduced in 1963, this is really rather amazing. Millions have been sold around the world. All of this, and it's still comfortable and beautiful to look at. The chair is included in the permanent design collection of the MoMA. Well done.

The stacking efficiency is stunning

I have always admired the work of Rowland dating back to my days at the University of Kansas. I can still vividly remember sitting in rows of his 40/4 chair in room 300 listening to a lecture, or making a project presentation.The room was always hot, but the chairs were cool. Later, when I started working for IBM in Rochester, Minnesota his chair seemed to follow me. The cafeteria, and our small design studio, were filled with beautiful molded oak versions of his masterpiece. What better way to enjoy lunch with colleagues and friends than to sit on a design classic. When I took over the design leadership role for IBM's Personal Systems Group, I often used his 40/4 chair as an example of how true design can link both form and function. It's still one of my favorite design leadership examples. Great design and designers, like David Rowland, are a rarity in this world.  He will certainly be missed, but his chair lives on. Cheers!

David Hill