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Conversation seating: Bayou for Swiss Design

At the heart of Bayou’s DNA – Swiss Design’s commercial modular seating system – is the idea of encouraging more human interaction and conversation. Designer Frag Woodall tells all.

The Bayou modular seating system represents an amalgamation of smooth lines, gentle angles and a texturally rich palette. With harmonious, fluid and disarming forms, the collection, which comprises of a lounge, ottoman, freestanding screens, coffee table, laptop and planter table, has been developed keeping collaboration and comfortable communication in mind.

In conversation with Bayou’s creative mastermind, industrial designer Frag Woodall, we delve deeper into his inspiration and design thinking for the collection, available exclusively from Zenith.


Indesignlive: Tell us about the Bayou collection, what was the inspiration behind the design?

Frag Woodall: The idea for this collection was inspired by conversation – the way we meet and greet and the sociology of interaction. These abstract notions find their physicality in the gentle, soft and open forms of the sofa’s elements. Like the gesture of a warm welcome, Bayou invokes a form of greeting within an open space.

Can you talk about the design process, and the brief you were designing to?

We worked with about seven-eight different ideas inspired by a broad base of context and use. Following the testing of these ideas coupled with a lot of internal and external conversation, we were able to arrive at a coherent and clear design language. In that sense, the brief was a little fluid and evolving, and its ability to stay so malleable worked very well for the project. I think the final design reflects this process and does convey a soft openness where intimacy and curiosity both coexist.

What kind of environments did you design Bayou for and how does this impact your design thinking?

There is always an environment or context in mind, and this speaks directly to the design typology and resolution. With Bayou, the environment is that slightly undefined space between arriving and doing. It’s that incidental space where chat is convivial and pleasant, and not so task orientated. Integrating softer elements like planters, angled modules and diffused screening also play a role in setting the tone for this ‘work-soft’ environment.

My design thinking process really focused in on the ‘environment of conversation’ and the way we do business. This is at the heart of Bayou’s DNA. Arriving at a design solution that is open, non-threatening and conducive for the front end of conversations where collaborative ideas are put out there, and serendipitous exchanges turn into meaningful business.


What are some of the ways in which Bayou can be configured?

Bayou has within its design, a broad and varied palette of configurations, all of which are designed to enhance the way we meet and converse. Since the modules are all individual, they align and come together in a more suggestive manner rather than a regimented or strict format. Having said that, the system can work comfortably in defined spaces as easily as open-plan environments. The 120-degree module is open and inviting with its relaxed angle and generous proportions, while the soft screen conveys a sense of intimacy and works to enable privacy within an open relaxed format.

“Bayou is principally designed as a bridging element that brings together both the private and professional worlds.” – Frag Woodall

Increasingly, workplace interiors are bringing in elements of the domestic, can you talk to that?

This is a good observation and it is an interesting study to understand the factors that are influencing this change. Working within this framework of overlaying these two contexts suits me well, I think. I naturally gravitate towards domestic environments when thinking about design. The (domestic) context is often a very true reflection of our value structures and ideologies. Bayou is principally designed as a bridging element that brings together both the private and professional worlds, we operate in.  The relaxed format, the soft cushions and diffused screening are all conscious details drawing domestic cues into the workplace.

How do you feel about the final design?

The final design, I think, holds true to its inspiration and conceptual ideas. This was a very collaborative journey with several stakeholders involved and there is a risk that too many voices can adversely affect the final design outcome. In this case, I feel the opposite was true. In that it drove a greater sense and need for clarity in the design language.

Bayou by Swiss Design is available exclusively through Zenith Interiors.

Photography courtesy Zenith Interiors.

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