Handkerchief Chair for Children

Xiaoyu “Sherry” Wu

My design for the Handkerchief Chair was inspired by Vignelli’s paper model for a children’s version, which was never produced. In my design, sharp edges of the original were softened and new functionality was imbedded in the back portion to accommodate children’s needs.

Children Chair Xiaoyu-1

Children Chair Xiaoyu-2Children Chair Xiaoyu-3


Vignelli and Knoll Relationship

In 1966, Bobby Cadwallader, the director of marketing for Knoll, choose Massimo Vignelli as a new graphic designer to renew the Knoll image. At the end of 1971, Vignelli left his co-founded graphic design group Unimark. Vignelli continued to work with Knoll through the publication of Knoll Design in 1981, for which he did the graphic design.

Handkerchief Chair

Designer: Vignelli Associates
Date of design: 1983
Date of manufacture: 1985-present

Massimo and Lella Vignelli’s long term relationship with Knoll made the company a logical choice to develop the idea for a simple side chair. The handkerchief chair was a practical piece with a strong visual execution. This approach was not surprising, given the graphic character of Vignelli’s work.

Massimo’s Coffee Table Design

Casigliani Metafora
Coffee table 1979
Designed for Italian company
Just in several days, sketch turned into real product.
No marketing, no production problems, just in and out.

“Very different was the process of the ‘Handkerchief Chair.’ Originally designed to be stamped out of sheet metal, it ended up being produced by Knoll in reinforced plastic. It took about seven years from day one to get the final product on the market.” -Massimo Vignelli.


The chair’s intended contract was enabled by a wider range of options, including arms and upholstery. There are also paper models of kid’s size Handkerchief Chair, but never produced.


The handkerchief chair is widely used. The Paperclip Table was designed to complement the Handkerchief Chair in 1993.

“The work done in previous years begins to produce cherished rewards from our peers. Our design language is ripening and some of the best projects of our career came out of these years.” – Massimo Vignelli

Research Citation

Vignelli, Massimo. Vignelli: From A to Z. Mulgrave, Vic: Images Publ, 2007. Print.

Lutz, Brian. Knoll: A Modernist Universe. New York: Rizzoli, 2010. Print.



For a children’s chair, I try to focus on children’s needs and think about what they will do with the chair. So I decided to design a chair which can keep children’s toys or books, pencils, etc. Then I come up with a image that a child hiding behind a chair and peeping from the chair back. So in my final design, I cut a part of the surface, which enable children to get their stuff easily. I’m happy that the design keeps the main image of handkerchief chair, and it looks like a floating T-shirt or dress.

Handkerchief Chair for Children Process

Children Chair Xiaoyu-Process2Handkerchief Chair for Children Process