Should a Design Tool let us design a Chair with only one leg?

3 years ago from , CTO at Toolabs

(By a chair with one leg, I mean which can not remain standing against physics and falls down) If NO, does it mean that the tool is limiting creativity of the designer?

I would like to learn what you think about this in terms of digital design tools.

PS, I am working on an article for our Component Design Studio DS-101 and want to shape it with your feedback. Thanks.


  • James FutheyJames Futhey, 3 years ago

    Design should always be building on top of other well-designed abstractions. If you're "designing a chair with only one leg", you're coming up with new and untested solutions beneath the level of abstraction you're currently working at.

    To go a bit too far with the example you've provided, I have two chairs with only one leg. They're great. A bit like this one: https://www.lexmod.com/globalassets/lexmod/dining/dining-chairs/eei-115-ora_1_.jpg?w=730&h=730

    It's an interesting design task is to come up with a solution for a stable single-legged support that could be used in a future chair design. Integrating it into a larger design is a separate task.

    The best tools seem to help you focus on the level of abstraction you should be working in, and hide the parts that can become distracting.

    An example would be Framer. You're either building components or building prototypes, but rarely do the two tasks need to be performed simultaneously. And while Framer provides a lot of deep flexibility which lets an advanced user rebuild and recreate low-level components, this isn't even something most people are going to concern themselves with when they're prototyping.

    9 points
    • Mario RebuffiMario Rebuffi, 3 years ago

      I always have the problem of not being able to expose this as clearly (to designers AND developers, and I am both) I think of it as logical steps, but it doesn't necessarily mean everyone thinks in these terms, thanks for the clarity in this comment, I will use it in the very near future.

      0 points
  • Andrew C, 3 years ago

    Yes: https://bit.ly/2G7GDis

    A one legged chair sounds insane, and then you realize some brilliant human tried it anyway and made it work. Design is about divergence—constraining ideas will always be based on existing paradigms, and imagination is about finding unknown ones. So empower creatives to do just that.

    5 points
  • Ezekiel BinionEzekiel Binion, 3 years ago

    If the meta question here is "how much should a design tool provide safety features against a lack of design expertise," I have mixed feelings.

    As a designer, I think the thing people hire us for is both our knowledge and skill. Most often the best clients I've had are the ones that have taken the time to try to design or implement things themselves. By doing so, they've had an opportunity to understand some of the mechanics of design and how much skill it truly takes to be a good designer.

    However, design (at least in the UX/Web space) has become more democratized. Anyone can read something like the Sprint book and begin to implement its practices on their own. In effect, everyone has become a junior-level designer. To help newcomers bridge the knowledge gap it may be necessary to have some tools that have guardrails to prevent disastrous mistakes.

    2 points
  • Mattan IngramMattan Ingram, 3 years ago

    I dunno a chair with one leg will work alright on sand or soil if you wedge it in or keep it upright while sitting on it.

    1 point
    • Dirk HCM van BoxtelDirk HCM van Boxtel, 3 years ago

      Or if the leg is attached to some sort of platform, or the floor, or a support beam.

      In case anyone misses the point; don't make tools decide what's good/bad, because you'll impair the user - they might have a use-case you hadn't though of.

      1 point
  • Namık Özgür Aydın, 3 years ago

    Thank you for all the comments. Most of them reflect the dilemma challenging me.

    On one end, I question how free is an artist when drawing a horse, given that somehow the form of the horse exists in her/his mind. Do we treat that "horse form" a limiting factor of creativity? ( I think it is available even for the swallowing elephant drawing of The Little Prince, "Don't let others dictate your talents", but the form of elephant still exists) :


    Extending from this example in art to digital product design (UI/UX), as it is in case of CAD tools, enforcing the "button" to be "button" whatever visual style it has... This is the point where I get confused.

    May be a checkbox example is more suitable to this case. Whether it has a check box or switch form, or a toggle button, requiring that element to have two states (true/false, yes/no) is still related to limiting creativity?

    0 points
    • Samantha S, 3 years ago

      no, a checkbox, switch form or toggle button is used in very specific scenarios to complete a user flow and should follow design best practices. You aren't creating art, rather you are solving problems and helping users accomplish their goals preferably by studying them using your designs.

      1 point
  • Chris CChris C, 3 years ago

    I would hope a design tool wouldn't limit me or my imagination and I could reimagine what a chair could be. Maybe it's a chair without any legs at all.

    0 points
  • Samantha S, 3 years ago

    Yes, in a perfect world a digital design tool should never impose a limit to the creativity of a designer's imagined solutions however flawed they may be in the real world.

    Designers push the 'pencil first' principle because it has merit, as design tools are created by biased humans and their inputs and output will always be limited by the product feature set and may suggest certain ways of designing things by how the UI is oriented. Compare this to sketching by hand which is only limited by your imagination and time.

    0 points