Against Type

In 2006, when Josh Owen was charged with creating a stool for Casamania, his mind naturally drifted toward what he calls “object typologies.” An associate professor of industrial design at Philadelphia University, Owen takes an assiduously theoretical approach to design, so an assignment to produce a simple stool is never quite that simple. He began by looking at successful examples from big-box stores like Home Depot. “You go back to the toadstool archetype,” he says. “You don’t need much in terms of ergonomics.”

He was more interested in blurring the boundaries between activities associated with the stool. “It’s a transitional object. People move it from place to place.” That meant a lightweight design was essential; a handle would be nice too. He settled on recyclable polyethylene, formed by rotational molding. (The resulting void turned it into a makeshift planter.) The handles, originally closed loops to hold water or beer glasses, ultimately opened up into hooks (from above, they form the letters “SOS,” which became the stool’s name) that would accommodate stemware—one more typology to check off. “I didn’t want to exclude the wine glass,” Owen says.

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