Peter Opsvik, born on March 25, 1939 in Norway, is an industrial designer and jazz musician, and is best known for his innovative and ergonomic chairs. Opsvik has been a keen observer of the human form and how we interact with the space around us. His observations as a professional designer, notably of people sitting in front of computers for long periods, have reinforced his belief that this practice alone is responsible for a multitude of back related injuries. Opsvik is fervently working to change the way we sit, and wrote a book on the quest, “Rethinking Sitting”, 2009, explains the philosophy involved in his chair designs.
After graduating from Bergen arts school in 1963, he studied at the State industrial arts school. In 1965, he joined the Tandberg Radio Factory, designing portable radios until 1970, when he became a freelance furniture designer.
Opsvik’s philosophy combines that of ensuring what is best for the body as well as creatively designing the element. The result is unconventional seating solutions, in which he has attempted to overcome stereotypical sitting habits. While experts have attempted to define a correct sitting posture, Opsvik desires to design products which allow a variety of different postures using the same chair. His belief that “being in balance inspires movement as well as control” challenged the notion that body support must be achieved for sitting comfortably.
He also forces a closer look at the feet which, according to him, are overlooked by ergonomics theories. Propelling us in all situations is the responsibility of the feet and legs. The feet, therefore, are what Opsvik believed to be the natural control which the chair responds to.
Among his chair designs: the Tripp Trapp (1972) a chair designed to grow with a child, toddler to teenager. It continues to be manufactured by Stokke and has sold more than 7,000,000 copies. The saddle chair, launched in the 1980’s, was inspired by the horseback rider’s posture, allowing the user to accommodate a variety of sitting postures. In 2010, this classic could enjoy an even wider audience with the introduction of the Capisco Puls design.
Opsvik continues to innovate new designs suited to the posture and movement among different age groups. He observes, “creating awareness of the need and the possibility of improving in several cases, will be the most valuable thing during the process of designing.”