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Linder scores international design award

November 13, 2009 -- Martin Linder spent nearly six months in hospital waiting rooms, gathering information that would help him improve what is rarely an inviting space for patients. Linder made notes of worn-down, cramped seating and furniture that endured constant traffic and cleanings.

A photo of the Florabella lounge chair designed by Martin Linder.

The Florabella lounge chair.

Those challenges informed Linder's designs of the Florabella lounge collection, an innovative line of health care seating that tackles issues of comfort and function in hospitals and doctor's offices. For its work, Linder's design company, MSL Design, received a prestigious Nightingale Award at Healthcare Design 2009 in Orlando.

The Nightingale Award, given by Contract Magazine and The Center for Health Design, is considered the Oscars of healthcare design. This year, only five products were recognized out of hundreds of entries in the international competition.

"To be recognized by your peers and recognized with the type of competition that was there, it's quite inspiring," said Linder, an associate professor of design and industry. "We were trying to solve problems. It's not like designing another piece of seating that looks cool. Aesthetics are important and we've designed something that's attractive, but it's driven by performance and the need to solve problems."

During the research phase, Linder and partner Chris Morlock observed heavy use of health care seating that provided little comfort for users. Also, materials such as food, hair and liquids become trapped in traditional seating, which promotes the growth of pathogens and presents health issues for users.

To address those issues, the Florabella chair uses an innovative floating seat, allowing materials to fall to the floor where they can easily be cleaned. The chair's frame is crafted from steel, suspending the seat and providing sturdy support. The design also addresses infection control by featuring reusable contact points on the arm rest and legs, which are durable enough to withstand constant cleaning.

The chair also addresses comfort, using a barrelback design that Linder says provides a feeling of privacy that is sometimes lost in waiting rooms. "There's this emotional factor with the chair that is subtle," Linder said. "The chair is designed to provide emotional comfort as well."

As baby boomers have begun to reach retirement age, many design companies have shifted focus to the healthcare industry. The Florabella chair beat out new products put forth by the world's biggest design companies in what is becoming a booming industry.

"The children of the 1950s and the 1960s are utilizing these environments more than generations before," Linder said. "There are opportunities for designers. I love design projects that are grounded in performance, rather than aesthetics, where there's research and a search for problems to solve and innovation to occur."

For a larger image of the chair, visit: http://www.sfsu.edu/~news/2009/fall/images/25b.jpg

-- Michael Bruntz


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