Otto Zapf German product and furniture designer

Otto Zapf
Otto Zapf

Otto Zapf has created an essential system of furniture designs. Including the Zapf Office System by Knoll and 7500 workstations by Pacific Telesis. He and Dieter Rams designed their first furniture in the 1960s and 1970s.

Design reaches its maximum when form, function and price are in balance

Otto Zapf

Biography

Otto Zapf arrived in Knoll in 1973. He was a successful product designer in Europe. He chose to work for Knoll because, in his opinion, Knoll was “still an island of humanitarianism.” Seeking to design office products that improved the feel of the workplace, Zapf designed furniture that was user-friendly, comfortable and welcoming.

Softline Modular Lounge Chairs by Otto Zapf
Softline Modular Lounge Chairs by Otto Zapf

Before coming to Knoll, Zapf designed the Softline System. This unique retail display system used vinyl-coated metal frames as the main component. Intrigued by the idea’s potential applications, Bobby Cadwallader, President of Knoll, asked Zapf to create an office system based on these fabric-covered frames.

Otto Zapf. Softline shelf system. Produced by Zapf Möbel
Otto Zapf. Softline shelf system. Produced by Zapf Möbel

The resulting Zapf System, one of the industry’s first fabric-based panel systems, was essentially a system of components and connectors—vertical panels and horizontal surfaces with storage and filing accessories designed and designed to give architects and interior designers free rein in the planning of open or conventional office spaces. The simple vocabulary of components combined to create flexible open plan environments with screens, workstations, returns, stand-alone desks and storage units.

Otto Zapf Swivel Chair for Knoll International, produced by Topstar
Otto Zapf Swivel Chair for Knoll International, produced by Topstar

The Zapf System represented Knoll’s first significant foray into systems business and set the stage for the company’s future.

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

King, C. S. (1994). Furniture: Architects’ and Designers’ Originals. Architecture & Interior Design Library.

Otto Zapf. Knoll. https://www.knoll.com/designer/Otto-Zapf.

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