Handkerchief chair by Massimo and Lella Vignelli

Dezeen's A-Zdvent calendar: Handkerchief chair by Massimo and Lella Vignelli

Next up in our alphabetical look at the history of chair design – the lightweight Handkerchief office chair designed by husband and wife team Massimo and Lella Vignelli in 1983.

The Vignellis designed the Handkerchief chair for American furniture label Knoll, which they had been collaborating with since being approached to oversee a redesign of the firm's corporate identity in 1968.

The chair is the result of a five-year development process, during which the Vignellis experimented with compression-moulded plastic to find the optimum way to achieve a visually light yet robust shell.

Its gently rippling form is intended to follow the contours of the body and, according to Knoll, manages to capture "the lightness and organic ease of a handkerchief drifting in the wind".

Handkerchief Chair by Massimo Vignelli_dezeen_sq
Handkerchief chair with arms

A slender metal frame supports the fibreglass-reinforced polyester seat and backrest, which is available in a range of five colours.

The chair is designed primarily for use in offices and can be stacked when not in use to save space.

Massimo and Lella Vignelli were both born in Italy and married in 1957 before setting up their first studio in Milan. In 1965 they moved to Chicago and founded a company called Unimark International that specialised in corporate graphics and branding.

The duo gradually diversified into three-dimensional design, claiming that designers should be capable of creating anything "from a spoon to a city" and became known for their aesthetically refined and function-led products.

The Handkerchief is one of the Vignellis' most enduring product designs and was recently included in the exhibition Designing Modern Women 1890–1990 at New York's Museum of Modern Art.

Dezeen is publishing an A to Z of iconic chairs to count down the days until Christmas. Catch up with the list so far »