How ideas come about

How do ideas arise, and how are they developed?


How ideas come about

Apart from cases in which a designer is commissioned to design a specific item, it is my experience that there are basically two starting points for developing a product:

1. A wish to express oneself through new forms and structural designs
2. A wish to solve a problem.

For me personally, the most common working method has been to make note of a need and then develop a solution or a product that will meet this need.
The actual creative moment occurs when I discover the need itself. Finding the solutions is often more of an analytical process.
New materials, new manufacturing techniques or new principles of construction may also provide the impetus to begin development of innovative products.



The act of observing

People who want to help shape human beings' material surroundings must be good at observing people's behaviour.
Observation in this context may be defined as the art of noticing how others (and oneself) use and interact with objects in our surroundings. Designers should question the usefulness of these objects and existing solutions



Mentally on or in the chair

When I first start working on a chair or another device intended for long-term sitting, I place myself on it or in it mentally - as opposed to merely visualising it from the outside.
Obviously, starting out by sensing the object as opposed to seeing it can result in entirely different forms than the generally accepted ones.
The reverse is when the expression or the visual form is more important than the function.



Dream design

One of the most common constraints on product development is that people think too conventionally.
When we dream, these kinds of checks are switched off, and thoughts, ideas and experiences mingle freely without being overridden by restrictions or conventions.
Often when I wake up early in the morning, I find that I can tap this creative capacity that is released during dreaming. I lie in bed; half awake, and think through the difficulties that need to be resolved in the course of the day. Often, I go back to sleep and let my dreams work on this reality.
The result can be a burst of creativity that often results in imaginative and unexpected connections between stored experiences. Indeed, very often the idea for new solutions is born from this seemingly unstructured dream impulse.




Peter Opsvik works together with six colleagues in his studio. Although Peter Opsvik comes up with most of the basic concepts, the work of translating his raw idea into a finished, manufacturable product is a team effort.
Furniture designer Per Olav Haugen has worked closely with Peter Opsvik since 1981 and after the company Peter Opsvik AS was formed in 1984 Per Olav Haugen has had an important role in heading the product development activities.


balans® is a trademark for Norwegian chairs that are characterised by their allowing users to sit in a kneeling posture. Using leg support is one way to allow the user a steeper thigh angle without sliding off the seat, meaning it is easier to retain the natural curvature of the lumbar region.
There were three of us designers in Norway (Oddvin Rykken, Svein Gusrud and I) who each developed solutions based on this principle. What I emphasised in my solutions was movement and variation between different positions.
Hans Chr. Mengshoel initiated the Norwegian experiments on sitting devices with supports under the shins, and this resulted in the design of many chairs with shin rests. For me personally, it has been important to consider kneeling as just one of several postures that can be assumed in a chair.

Chairs growing with the child

Our oldest son was two years old and had outgrown his highchair. I looked for a chair that allowed him to continue to sit in a natural way and at a comfortable height at the grown-ups' table, and discovered that there weren't any chairs like that around. My first reaction was that this was a pity, but as a designer this discovery also entailed a challenge.

Before 1972

In 1972 the only sitting devices for children from the age of two onwards were special, low chairs, or ordinary chairs designed and intended for grown-ups.


Tripp Trapp was designed in 1972

My objective was that one chair should seat persons of all sizes from approximately 8 months and up, in a natural way at the same table.  

I started by drawing all sizes of people with their elbows at tabletop level. Since the elbows and lower back are approximately at the same level, the chair’s backrest could be fixed at tabletop height. The only parts that had to be adjustable were the seat and the footrest. These had to be adjustable with regard to both height and depth. It is the feet that control most of our movements, also when we are seated. This is why it is important to have a broad and solid foot support adjusted at the correct height. This “floor” provides the child with posture control and it facilitates movement and a continuous change of sitting positions.

The concept should provide normal, functional dimensions for children of different sizes as well as adults. My hope was that this would make sitting at the table more enjoyable and make it easier to perform activities there. By having small children sit on a higher seat than adults, the height difference is reduced, improving interaction between children and adults. Mealtimes may become more relaxed, and children find it easier to concentrate on the activities taking place around the table when the physical environment has been adapted to their size and needs.


Visual form

The chair could have been given a visual form in tune with what was then the kitchen furniture trend. The side boards could have been shaped like the letter A, but I chose the shape of the letter L. This resulted in a distinct visual form that underscored the precise functional message and later the Tripp Trapp does not look outdated or old; on the contrary, it has become an icon.

Tripp Trapp product page >>