Introducing Doci

Doci is the only chair in existence that has an integrated lid to protect it from weather. The eyecatching chair with its cheerful, retro design has a patent, a functional design registration and an aesthetic design registration. 

 

While its unusual shape and attention-grabbing looks set it apart in terms of design, Doci is also extremely comfortable and relaxing to sit on.

What is the inspiration behind this unique, character-filled chair?

We live in sunny South Africa, and as a typical South African I like to spend a lot of time outdoors.  The biggest dislike I’ve always had is that while it’s great to sit on a comfortable chair outside it’s a huge hassle to bring cushions out whenever you want to use a chair.  For many years I’ve wanted to find a solution to this hassle, to design a chair that I can just walk up to, open a cover, and sit down on a cushion.  But I also did not want the hassle of having to take a cover off the chair. 

Solving the technical challenge of inventing a chair that has its own integrated mechanism to protect it against weather led to an invention that is more of a Functional Art Object, that, while functioning as a chair, is also a sculptural piece of art.

 

Doci is available in different colours and can also be custom painted to include a company logo or other patterns or artwork. It is a living, usable piece of investment art!

In order to maintain Doci as a Function Art object and to ensure its originality and authenticity, all Doci’s are hand made by South Africans in South Africa and every Doci has a unique serial number.

Doci's Story

Engineers are born.  When you pop out of your mom you are either an engineer or not, it’s as simple as that, a lucky draw, or I should say perhaps unlucky as your folks can forget about having aspirations that their offspring is going to be a doctor or financial wizard.  Instead they will have on their hands a weirdo who, right from the first coherent thought will begin to make and break stuff and cause general havoc.

Such was the case with me.  From the earliest recollection I have I always knew that I was going to be an engineer, way before I even understood what an engineer actually does.  When I went to University I focused on Industrial engineering, which was a brand new form of engineering.  Industrial engineers were frowned upon by the old established engineering society. We were a new animal that no one really knew what to do with.

Industrial engineering is all about optimization, efficiency and productivity, applied to almost any situation whether it be a product, a manufacturing process or an office environment.  Challenges such as designing the most efficient, productive and ergonomic working environment was originally the realm of industrial engineering, although nowadays it has been replaced with industrial designers, architects and the like.

As an industrial engineer I was taught to think logically, to consider as many potential solutions as possible and to design or choose the solution that resulted in the most optimal outcome.  In order to achieve this I had to take on large amounts of information, creatively identify solutions from the information, formulate them, and then discard the information once the solution was identified. 

What I found is that my brain continued to work on solutions in the background, unconsciously even though the challenge may be over.  I’ve had many experiences when all of a sudden, a solution will pop into my conscious mind for a challenge that was posed a long time ago. These realizations tend to be more prevalent during times of stress.  Our brains are weird!

I live in sunny South Africa, and as a typical South African I like to spend a lot of time outdoors.  The biggest dislike I’ve always had is that while it’s great to sit on a comfortable chair outside it’s a huge hassle to bring cushions out whenever you want to use a chair, or the outside cushions become all dirty and dusty.  For many years I’ve wanted to find a solution to this hassle, to design a chair that I can just walk up to, open a cover, and sit, nice and clean and comfortable.  But I also did not want the hassle of having to take a cover off the chair because I knew that chances were I would forget to put the cover back on, or even lose the cover and the chair would then get dirty. 

At the time – this was a number of years ago, I could not think of a solution so I forgot about it.

But as an engineer my brain did not forget the challenge….

Skip to mid February of this year.  My girlfriend / life partner Jassy and I found ourselves under a huge amount of stress.  Jassy was fighting to make her new business sustainable and I found myself in a precarious situation with my current employer. There was a huge risk that our entire division would be closed down, and everybody retrenched.  Although I was trying as hard as I could to negotiate a management buy-out, it seemed very likely that this would not happen and my team and I would lose our jobs.

 

What do you do in the most stressful time of your life? Well, with Valentine’s Day coming up, we decided to go on a romantic long weekend at a gorgeous hotel (the Mount Grace) to de-stress and try to forget the serious troubles overshadowing us.

You would think that while enjoying a dip in a heated splash pool with a glass of champagne, my mind would be focused on romance – and it was. But suddenly, into my head, popped the chair solution!

Up to that time I’d never mentioned my chair challenge to Jassy but as we were talking about our business futures, for some reason, I brought up the subject of the chair.  Normally I keep these whacko thoughts to myself but somehow it seemed an appropriate topic to discuss, something positive.  At that moment, the solution that came to me was that the chair had to be spherical with the seating part been in a core sphere with another sphere that rotated around the core forming a cover that could open and close.  Jassy thought it was an amazing idea and in that moment she christened the idea as “the chair of hope”. 

That’s how the design was born. 

When we got back home the first thing I did was a google search on spherical chairs.  While there were many chairs that are spherical or egg shaped, including some very famous chairs, none of them had fixed solid rotatable covers, and they were not like standard chairs but more like reclining chairs. You could not sit in any of them at a table, and none had legs.   Those that had rotating covers like the famous Ulm Daybed and Sunball Chair by Rosenthal had no legs and were daybeds / recliners and not standard chairs.  This investigation made me think that just perhaps I had come up with a unique idea…..

I made some CAD drawings and made a model out of plasticine.  At first I imagined just a sphere resting directly on the ground, as shown in the plasticine model, but while the model looks like it can work, I discovered that the seat was not able to have standard seat dimensions and the seat base was too low.  This explained the existing designs to me, the reason why chairs like the Sunball are recliners.  The chair needed legs and a way for the cover to rotate around, between and underneath them.  The biggest design challenges were to have a seat of standard dimensions and to enable the cover to rotate around the body, and around, beneath and between the legs.  To achieve this I realized that the cover needed to be located on the outside of the legs and that it needed to have a special shape.  It is this unique shape and ability to rotate around, between and under the legs that subsequently was able to be registered as a patent. 

The solution developed through a combination of technical designs and drawings that were physically built as a fully functioning prototype, with some trial and error for the finishing touches.

Physically making the prototype was a real adventure.  First I had to teach myself all about fiber glass and rubbers, and then I had to make a fibre glass sphere from nothing! 

After the prototype was complete I engaged with a Patent attorney to attempt to protect the design.  As it turned out the chair happens to be unique and as such it was possible to register a design for the aesthetics, a design for the function and a patent for the ability of the chair’s cover to rotate.  

 

A really interesting observation I had was that a standard seat with armrests fitted exactly within the spherical cover, it was as if it was a law of nature and meant to be.  It’s as if humans have a symbiotic relationship with spheres.

Dion