The dynamic Hokki stool

13 November 2019
MoDiP has recently added a Hokki stool to the collections, donated by the designer John Harding who graduated from AUB in 1991 having studied HND Industrial Design.
The Hokki has been designed as a flexible, physical learning aid to counter traditional views that educational seating should be rigid, without any form for free movement. With supporting research suggesting that stillness of the body for long periods can actually inhibit concentration, the convex base encourages the body to move in all directions leading to healthier sitting, reduced tension and mental fatigue. This is John’s story about how he developed the stool.
Katherine Pell, Museum Collections Officer.

A seven year journey
The inspiration for the Hokki began with a cedar wood rocking stool I designed as part of a range of garden furniture, launched in 2003 at the 100% Design exhibition in London. As I became more aware of the ergonomic and cognitive advantages of active seating, I thought about developing a new lightweight, more commercial version of the stool for children and adults alike.
The first step forward from the solid cedar stools was the design of a hollow version made from plywood tube with a removable lid for storage. The next major development was to focus on making this a product for children, so I changed material from wood to polyethylene (PE) plastic, with a non-slip rubber base. Polyethylene’s chemical and structural properties lent themselves to the small volume rotational moulding process used to produce fifty stools for school trials. I took out liability insurance and selected ten different primary schools who ‘tested’ the stool over a period of six months. Having received praise from both children, teachers and parents, I was convinced that this was a genuinely beneficial product but importantly there could be a market for it.
Having approached and pitched unsuccessfully to virtually all of the UK school furniture manufacturers, I paid a marketing director to help me produce a one page “Product CV”. This featured information such as images, a comprehensive description and the financial opportunities the product could offer. I sent it out to a number of European companies recommended to me by the Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA) and was subsequently contacted by Vereinigte Spezialmobelfabriken (VS), a school and office furniture supplier based in Germany. 


The final design saw the last development from polyethylene to polypropylene, as this material was more suitable for volume injection moulding, with the Hokki being launched in March 2010 by VS in both Germany and America. Whilst it had been through several changes in both materials and shape, the fundamental principle always remained the same: to create a stool that rocked in all directions, promoting better posture and providing health benefits. It's also fun to sit on!

John Harding.