The Leap's primary evangelists are Ken Tameling, the project's coordinator, and David Gresham, Steelcase's head of design.
, 43, comes across like the canny, ring-wise design veteran, while the 39-year-old Tameling, with his taut gestures and bright blue eyes, is the team spark plug.
and Tameling walk me through the chugging heart of the plant, where they proudly show American industrial might in action.
So here is a fascinating David
versus Goliath story.
isn't among them.
"A chair is magical and wonderful because it can be sort of an icon of intent, an icon of vision," he
says, growing happy and intense.
"At its best, it transcends being just two physical planes in relation to each other, which you then perch your buttocks on to take X amount of load off your legs.
A chair becomes an outlet of self-expression; it becomes about our perception of ourselves.
really isn't among them.
Nor is Niels Diffrient
, though Diffrient is a more reserved man than Gresham
, and his ruminations are more pragmatic.
aren't just two people who feel a certain way about chairs-they're also the hopeful fathers of a couple of new ones.
Gresham directs the design efforts of Steelcase, the largest manufacturer of office furniture in the world.
chair, eight years and $35 million in the making, is called the Leap
With these chairs, Gresham
are pointed toward the same customers (big companies, the bigger the better) and the same approval from the design community.
is a man who has a collection of 120 pieces of twentieth-century seating in his
two houses and one apartment.
intention for the Leap
was to announce to everyone, not least of all the design community, that there's a new Steelcase
"At the end of the day," he
says, "our goal was to provide some level of delight, some level of I want."
The two industry Goliaths also face competition from an unlikely David
Leap's design team, led by Steelcase's head of industrial design David Gresham and George Simmons from outside design firm IDEO, addressed this issue by providing independent controls for the upper and lower back to mimic the way the spine changes shape.