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Brian Graham On Altos

Altos product seating configuration

Brian Graham explored multiple design options before settling on a simple and visually pleasing solution, collaborating with Plural to bring the shared vision to life. The aim of the Altos series is to strike a balance between elegance and robustness in creating a piece of furniture that can be customized and used in a wide range of healing and public environments.


When I’m designing something like this, it’s not just one design. I may actually do a quick sketch, even maybe relatively soon in the process, because I kind of feel like, you know, I’m just seeing this. But that’s almost like a little iconic archetypal sketch and I sort of put that off to the side. 

I probably work through a good half dozen different way to solve this problem, which is not to say I’ve got half-dozen finished designs ready to go. You know this works, you want to have a couple to look at and to try, and then when I presented, I think I presented three of these to Anthony and Barb, they immediately gravitated towards this one. I think because of its simplicity, and it just felt and it just looked right, it just looked correct–an essential statement. 

So I took that as a good sign, and I really focused on getting there. And so once you get there, and the drawings or the models that I develop then get sent off to where it’s going to be made. Then it’s a whole other design exploration because now its, “can I get that realized,” can we get that essence, that idea realized in something three-dimensional and full scale. And with that comes a whole host of challenges, refinements, restudies. And that’s what I really love about what I do is, it’s not just me drawing something and saying “ok, you guys figure it out.” Its us then figuring it out together. How do I get that shared vision out and in some form that I can sit in, that feels comfortable, that feels durable, that feels correct, and then, can we make 500 of those at a time.

Every one of those requires dozens of design decisions, even if you never see them. I love though, when people come in and they look at something and they’re just like “oh, it just looks effortless.”

To me this archetype, this system approach, has been solved a lot of different ways. And my thought was, how can I provide something that has simple, elegant, understandable appearance. Striking a balance between lightness in aesthetics, visual lightness, but with enough robustness so it doesn’t feel too delicate or too light. There needs to be a level of visual presence to the piece, a scale, especially for people coming in who don’t necessarily have as much mobility or what have you. Originally, I was thinking I wanted something that had a certain heft to it, but I also didn’t want it to look like a tank. So ultimately, we ended up with this really simple A-frame, if you will, with an arm. And it was important to me that the arm had the opportunity to have a thickness to it, and a materiality. You’ve got a solid surface cap, but it’s pretty robust and also to have the option for solid wood. So again, being able to leverage with the powder coats, all of Laura’s palette into one piece where you can dial up or dial down the presence of that piece and be able to use it throughout a project.

I’m always interested in how people use my products because, while I think of them in certain instances and applications, they always surprise me with either the way that they get specified, or the finishes that they use, and I’m always interested to learn about that. What I’m hopeful for, is that especially when we come into the ones that are bariatric and the easy access hip chairs, where those are very purpose-driven. Especially the easy access, another new archetype that I wasn’t as familiar with. And this is probably the thing that I love most about what we’re doing with Plural is, I’m taking my 25 years of furniture design experience and leveraging it into a new area, where I’m imparting those lessons in new ways. I, myself am learning about new archetypes I haven’t worked on before.