Atlason Studio, an industrial design studio that designs products for the future, won the product design category at the 2023 Cooper Hewitt National Design Awards.
Helmed by Icelandic designer Hlynur Atlason, the strategic innovation studio dives into history and culture to predict how humans may use objects in the future. When they design a chair, razor, or packaging, they introduce people to new ways of interacting with a familiar product. The Limbo Chair creates a new sitting position; the Billie razor has unexpected, ergonomic touchpoints; and the Xbox packaging, 40% smaller, and thus more sustainable, unfolds like an exciting jigsaw puzzle.
The National Design Awards, now in their 24th year, selects recipients based on their innovation and impact in the field. Atlason stood out with recent furniture collections for Design Within Reach that break down gendered aesthetics and cater to aging populations, as well as a chair for Heller that was designed as a “cradle-to-cradle” product.
The Vala swivel chair for DWR uses curvature, soft shapes, and pebble-like forms to work against recliner stereotypes. Atlason intended the Vala to be gender neutral, not just for old men shouting at a football game with a beer in hand (though it could certainly accommodate that). When upright, Vala looks like a common swivel chair, hiding its dual function. When pushed back, the shapes separate to create a floating sculpture that supports relaxation, leisure, and meditation.
Atlason’s other notable product for DWR is the Pastille collection, released in 2022, which is described as “easy sit-to-stand for aging populations.” Wide, plush cushions let a person plunge into the seat, but its height, 18.5 inches, makes it easy to get out of the sunken place. High-density memory foam provides plenty of support for sore backs, a subtle pitch helps one pop to their feet, and sturdy armrests can also assist with the push.
In addition to socially-conscious design, Atlason was honored for their contributions to sustainable design. In addition to its ergonomic form, the Limbo Chair for Heller is made from just one material, a recycled, low density polyethylene. When the chair reaches the end of life, it can be ground up and recirculated back into the world.
“I am truly honored to accept this award and be acknowledged by my fellow peers. As an immigrant who arrived in the United States as a student at Parsons, I hold deep gratitude for the opportunities that this adopted nation has provided me. I have been on a singular road in crafting well-designed objects and enhancing our world through the realm of design, whether through products, packaging, or furniture. This honor validates our studio’s approach and underscores how design can shape a better future,” Hylnur said.