Cardboard ‘Chair Affair’

Cardboard seems to have more uses than just storage because Jonathan Coop, an industrial design major, is being honored for his cardboard chair design.

After reviewing 171 cardboard chair designs from 11 universities and colleges, the judges of the American Institute of Architecture Students 2009 Chair Affair Design Competition chose Coop’s chair design as one of the top six designs.

All six finalists will have their chairs displayed at the AIAS 2009 National Convention and Design Exposition in San Francisco on April 30. A second panel will look at the top six designs and choose those who win first, second and third place, while the three others will receive honorable mentions. All six will be displayed at the National Building Museum this summer.

This was Coop’s first try at making something functional out of cardboard.

Cardboard is made from a natural renewable resource and has the best recycling rate of any packaging material used today.

“I wanted a simple form that transitioned from the armrest into the backrest,” Coop said.

Coop used a cookie-cutter stamp, razor, glue and hammer and voilà! Thirty hours and 260 layers of cardboard later, he had built a chair.

All the students in Coop’s class were required to build cardboard chairs, but entering the competition was optional.

The Chair Affair Design competition is meant to challenge students and also introduce the students to the cardboard industry, which has career opportunities for students graduating in architecture and design.

Industrial design is a true passion for Coop.

“I finally found my calling,” Coop said. Being an industrial designer is being an architect for products, Coop explained. “It’s sort of a mix of an engineer and an artist.”

Anything and everything inspires Coop. He and his roommates, also industrial design majors, live and breathe it, and that’s what is really inspiring, Coop said.

“It’s basically seeing people’s creative idea inspires other ideas,” Coop said.

Even with two jobs — one full-time and the other part-time — as well as nine units and a lot of homework, Coop still has been able to find the time to grab every opportunity presented to him, whether it is a competition or a scholarship. He has already been the recipient of two scholarships and his cardboard chair will earn him his third one.

Time is Coop’s biggest challenge and also his biggest motivation, he said. Having the concept is not enough, you still have to build it, and that’s where it gets tricky, Coop said.

“You can’t get your concept across and it’s not working, so you’ll have these high and low moments of going through everything,” Coop said. “Sometimes you have to keep hammering at it until you get it right.”

The sophomore design portfolio exhibit will be held at the CSULB design gallery from April 24 to 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. where Coop and other industrial design majors will have their work exhibited along with interior architecture majors.


  1. poptarts are good

  2. Richard Flaherty

    Richard Flaherty, President, International Corrugated Packagng Foundation

    Congratualations, Jon. Your “corrugated board” entry was actually selected from an initial 49 colleges and universities that participated throughout North America. The final top winners were selected from the top entries form 11 colleges and universities. So your placment in the competition was very internationally significant!

    The Chair Affair was created to alert design and architecture students to structural design careers in corrugated packaging and display, a $25 billion a year industry. As you and others with your skills approach graduation, we hope you will consider a career in structural design in this industry, an industry that produces the most earth friendy packaging on the planet.. We could use more talented structural designers to make our products even more planet friendly for the future. Visit for more about a stuctural design career, and feel free to contact me directly as well. You can make a difference in our future.

    Again, congratulations!

    Sincerely, Richard

  3. Congratulations! You are an amazing representation of the design department and and inspiration to all of your fellow studio mates.

  4. I feel so privileged to be in the same class as you! You deserve it. Stunning chair from concept to finished product.

  5. Sweet, I like the article.

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