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A History of Design

A story that begins with Danish
mid-century design

Born in 1911, Poul Cadovius was a Danish architect, inventor and entrepreneur. Said to “burn with the fire of enthusiasm,” he had an irresistible determination and untiring energy. Bearded and clad in an oversized sweater, Cadovius strode through mid-century Denmark with a cup of black coffee in one hand and a notebook in the other. He was looking for problems to turn into opportunities, and eventually those notebooks would contain 400 patented designs and inventions.

Poul Cadovius developed the Abstracta System in the early 1960s. Initially, he needed a structure for exhibition displays—one so simple it would not distract from the items it would feature. He wanted the hardware to be invisible, and his ingenious solution was a unique star-shaped connector. Each arm consists of a sphere on a cone, and when a tube is fitted over it contacts the base of the cone and the circumference of the sphere, giving the system stability.

The Abstracta System was the first of its kind to allow for the modular construction of simple and complex shapes quickly and easily. It was infinitely scalable and adaptable. Through the years, the Abstracta System has been specified for store fixtures, home shelving and furniture, space frames, trade shows and many other configurations—from small tables to vast geodesic domes. Among the awards given Poul Cadovius for the Abstracta System were a Gold Medal in Brussels for International Design and The ID Classics Prize in 1992 by the Danish Design Centre.

In 1998, at the age of 87, Poul Cadovius entrusted all of the original machinery and dies for the system—as well as its global trademarks—to Consort Display Group, and for the past 20 years authentic Abstracta System components have been manufactured in Kalamazoo, Michigan and exported around the world.

The contemporary development
of the Stille collection

Standard Issue is a Brooklyn-based design consultancy founded in 2005. With a belief that the best and most innovative work results from the cross-pollination of different interests, backgrounds, and areas of expertise, their office is composed of graphic designers, industrial designers, interactive designers, architects, artists and writers. This diversely talented team shares a rigorous passion for detail—and discovery.

Standard Issue first encountered the Abstracta System in 2010 while designing an exhibit for Herman Miller, “Alexander Girard: An Uncommon Vision.” The structure was beautiful and—for an exhibit that would travel to New York, Chicago and Tokyo—the ability to assemble it quickly with one simple tool proved irresistible. Subsequently, Standard Issue used the Abstracta System for numerous other exhibits, and visitors often commented on its beauty and simplicity.

The team sensed that they had uncovered a hidden gem. The Abstracta System was a design with heritage and history, made domestically but with little exposure in the US. While the infinite flexibility of the system was a huge asset for designers, would a curated version prove more accessible to a general audience?

Focusing on simplification and using a minimum number of unique parts, Standard Issue began prototyping the furniture that would become Stille. An edited selection of tube lengths were chosen to create solutions for contemporary living—shelving for storage and display, media consoles, side tables, bedside tables and coffee tables, all in a range of sizes. A set-in shelf and leveling foot, both designed by Standard Issue, complete the system, while a stylish and versatile color palette provides a choice for users—complementing or defining a space.