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The past 10 years have seen a proliferation of “cute” furniture and design objects with exaggerated proportions and anatomical associations like big faces, thick legs, and rounded feet.
Despite their various formal and material differences, these designs share a set of common principles. More than simply cute, they are neotenic—possessing childlike features that elicit an emotional response.
Neotenic design techniques have been employed in the animation industry and the automobile industry for close to a century. More recently these forms have begun to creep into furniture and lighting design. On the whole, neotenic furniture and lighting include three primary features: thickened forms, soft or rounded terminations, and mono-materials. Together, these strategies represent a new way of thinking about the objects with which we surround ourselves. If we see childlike characters in our chairs and sofas, perhaps it will result in greater sociality in the living room and the workplace.