A tribute to one of IKEA's most prolific and influential designers
Noboru Nakamura, a Japanese product designer who worked with IKEA for several decades, passed away on 18 April 2023. His memory lives on through an impressive porfolio of furniture – in particular the POÄNG chair, which remains one of IKEA's most popular and recognisable products to date.
The POÄNG chair, first known as POEM, was the fruit of the first collaboration between Nakamura and IKEA's former head of design, Lars Engman (both would later co-create the equally beloved KLIPPAN sofa). It was launched in 1976 to immediate success: appearing on the cover of the 1977 IKEA Catalogue, and enjoying prominent features in virtually every edition printed over the following decades.
Key to POÄNG's long reign have been its easygoing looks and low price, but not least of all the undeniable feeling of comfort and enjoyment upon taking a seat. Discussing the chair back in 2016, Nakamura explained that the U-shaped cantilever design made from molded plywood created a gentle flex that would allow the sitter to swing in an elegant way. This was part of Nakamura's firm belief that furniture should fulfill more than just a purely functional need.
"A chair shouldn't be a tool thats binds or holds the sitter," he said. "It should rather be a tool that provides us with emotional richness, and creates an image where we can let off frustration or stress by swinging."
Some adjustments have been made to the chair over the years – from new upholstery styles and wood finishes to construction improvements in the early '90s that introduced its new name and new, reduced pricetag. But overall, the essence of POÄNG remains unchanged from the first chair that Nakamura envisioned almost half a century ago.
POEM chair on the cover of the 1977 IKEA Catalogue.
More peeks into the past with POÄNG
POEM series, 1980
POEM as a complete lounge suite, 1984
Images sourced from the IKEA Museum's digital Catalogue archive. On the IKEA Museum website, you can learn more about IKEA's rich design heritage, current exhibitions and more.