Norman Teague on rewriting design history and designing to ‘chill’

In a new short film by Brazilian film director Hugo Faraco for R & Company, American designer Norman Teague discusses his work and influences, on the occasion of the exhibition ‘From Lawn Road to South Chicago: Progressive Plywood in Times of Change'

Notman Teague, still from a film by Hugo Faraco created for the exhibition ‘From Lawn Road to South Chicago’, at New York gallery R & Company, 2020

Studying design history, Chicago-based designer Norman Teague couldn't find a figure that represented him. ‘Design history needs to reinvent itself in a whole lot of ways,' he says in a new short film by Hugo Faraco. ‘Your world is the history that you read about, and if you’re wrapping your head around the things that really say that you don’t belong here, then we have to create other books, or we have to create another world.'

The film was released on the occasion of New York gallery R & Company's exhibition ‘From Lawn Road to South Chicago: Progressive Plywood in Times of Change', where Teague's work was presented alongside historical plywood design from Gerald Summers and Marcel Breuer. 

Furniture design by Norman Teague and Gerald Summers

On display at R & Company, Norman Teague's Sinmi Stools are shown next to Gerald Summers plywood chair, designed by Gerald Summers for Makers of Simple Furniture, England, 1934

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The exhibition featured Teague's Africana Chairs as well as his Sinmi Stool, inspired, he explains, by the word ‘chill' and images of people relaxing by leaning on a car or on a sofa's backrest. ‘I settled upon this motion that could intrigue a person to approach it but that was also really inviting to anyone,' he says. Named after the Yoruba word for ‘relax', the Sinmi stool is the result of five years of research into bent plywood, and is produced by Teague in collaboration with a team of young designers and Black artisans from the South Side of Chicago, while leather goods specialist Yohance Lacour collaborated on the leather saddles.


Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.