Douglas Ball

Douglas Ball

It seems that Douglas Ball was fated to a life in design. So the story goes, when he was four and complaining that he had nothing to play with, his exasperated grandmother thrust a paper and pencil at him, challenging him to “draw what you want.” Ball isn’t forthcoming about what he drew that day, but if the trajectory of his life can be said to provide clues, it was probably some kind of workspace.

Douglas Ball Vivo Interiors open office cubicle in putty green and gray with double desks and cabinet style storage
Vivo Interiors for Herman Miller

After graduating from the Ontario College of Art, Ball set his talents to work for Sunar, a Canadian Company that let him flex his design muscle by fashioning innovative office furniture, including the CAS Chair, a forerunner of Modern, lightweight office chairs.

Douglas Ball CAS Chair split image of two chairs: on the lift in black with orange frame and man's head held sideways; on right in orange with silver frame
CAS Chair for Sunar

This auspicious early work was also a tune-up for Capsule, a work pod that Ball had been inspired to create after realizing how much he enjoyed long drives in his slim and sleek Audi. Capsule—which later morphed into Clipper—resembled an airplane cockpit and featured adjustable seat-, back-, and footrests, in addition to controls for air, sound, and light. This forerunner of today’s office pods was critically acclaimed and is presently in the permanent collections at Museums in Canada and the U.K.

Douglas Ball Clipper work pod several clippers with different views of each in showroom. Unit features wood paneling and translucent plastic panels with interior space for sitting while doing computer work
Clipper CS-1 for Newspace U.S.A.

Ball’s explorations into refining the office environment continued with the Ballet Table (originally for Vecta, now available from Coalesse). Like the art form it’s named for, Ballet evokes elegant motion within a subtext of frozen beauty. Its streamlined design renders it marvelously mobile, and its option of a fixed or folding worktop makes it extra versatile.

Douglas Ball Ballet Table partial views of three tables with blue tops and silver bases accompanied by white chairs in light-filled office
Ballet Table for Coalesse

Lucy Seating (also originally designed for Vecta, now offered by Steelcase) is Ball’s contribution to the contemporary high-performing office chair. This slick, supportive, ergonomic piece debuted to oohs and aahs at NeoCon 2000, winning best in its category and later receiving the Silver designation from Business Week Magazine.

Douglas Ball Lucy Chair rear view of high-tech chair with rigid plastic back. Chair has green back and black frame and seat
Lucy Chair for Vecta/Steelcase

Ball next worked with heavy hitter Herman Miller. Collaborating with Jeff Sokalski and Leon Goldik, the trio took six years of development to come up with My Studio Environments, a system of cherry wood panels, storage modules, and curved walls of frosted glass that takes shape as a virtually private yet open and welcoming workspace: “With a sleek, modern look and feel, the My Studio cubicles resemble sculpture more than standard office equipment.”

Douglas Ball My Studio office cubicle; two cubicles with frosted glass walls and cherry wood interior with orange and white storage modules
My Studio for Herman Miller

Ball’s late-career work boasts the shining star of Herman Miller’s Canvas Wall, a multi-functional and modular space divider that forms the backbone of the Canvas Office Landscape. Canvas Wall not only divvies up space but also supplies data and power, doing so with a palette of multiple material options and different dimensions—working well with the other elements of Canvas and “blending seamlessly with Herman Miller’s broad range of office and ancillary furnishings.”

Douglas Ball Canvas Wall system of space dividers shown with other elements of Canvas System in a palette of white/gray with accompanying office chairs
Canvas Wall for Herman Miller

Douglas Ball is one of the pioneers of today’s contemporary workspaces. His vision and dedication helped provide prototypes and shaped thinking about how to find the best compromises between the public and private office. He has been the recipient of multiple NeoCon Best of awards, and his designs are in the permanent collections of the London Museum of Design, Quebec’s Musée national des beaux-arts, and Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Douglas Ball image of Doug in gray shirt and black jacket

Read more about Doug at Douglas Ball and Jeff Sokalski Design.

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