KARMA’s Innovation; Appearance Is Just As Important as Function

As part of our series of KARMA blogs, where we chat with Eric van Olst, Chief Innovations Officer at KARMA, to get under the skin of what truly makes a KARMA chair, and the processes and considerations that go into every aspect of producing our wheelchairs.

Today we discuss the importance and considerations when it comes to the aesthetics of a chair, most notably in our EVO range. Are looks just as important as functionality?

Eric van Olst, Chief Innovations Officer at KARMA

Aesthetic of Wheelchairs

So Eric, how important is the look of a wheelchair? And why?

The wheelchair to me is a part of the person you are. You personally pick your clothes, your hair style, and also your wheelchair. It is part of you. So the design should fit your personal taste. If you wear fancy clothes, you do not want to sit in a wheelchair that looks old fashioned, do you?     

What processes do you go through when designing a chair?

We set the boundaries for size, functionality, but also about looks. It’s not just a sum of practical parts, but about designing wheelchairs where all the parts, accessories and options work in harmony with the design. 

Often you see a wheelchair which looks like a Christmas tree with lots of different materials, parts and colours where the individual is hidden behind the chair. We make sure there is a harmonised design of all the parts and accessories. This in turn creates a wheelchair which is more in the background and the user is the center of attention, as they should be.

An early concept design of the EVO chairs.

Has the process evolved over the years?

Oh yes, definitely. I do remember in the early days wheelchairs were made out of chromed tube frames with blue leatherette upholstery. The plastic covers were often made out of glass reinforced fibre. We have come a long way from there. Nowadays we use modern cloth that can breathe, or water repellent cloth that also can still breath. The plastic covers are made out of recyclable materials. Colours have been added to give it an element of personalisation. We have moved away from a “hospitalish look” to more automotive look. 

How would you describe the look of KARMA chairs? Do you take inspiration from anything else?

I would describe them as modern, automotive-ish, and harmonised. Of course design is a matter of taste. Some markets prefer individual colours to match more with the user’s own taste. Other markets where chairs are owned by the government or health insurance companies may prefer a more neutral look, so the chairs can be reused for other users as well. We can offer both options and even individual requests are possible.   

Once a user came to me and said, “Do you know what came into my mind when I saw your wheelchair designs?” They look like lamborghinis… 🙂

You can check out the full range of KARMA wheelchairs and find out more about our unique power functions on the KARMA website.

Keep Reading