After his graduation from the Philadelphia Museum School of Art, Bill Stephens started at Knoll as an assistant prototype builder in 1960. Working his way up through the Design and Development Group, Stephens became its director in 1971. During his tenure, he oversaw the development of many projects and products, including a number in which he was the principle designer.
His major projects at Knoll included the Petitt chair in 1965, which was as much an achievement in technology and construction as it was design. He worked on his own line of seating—the 1300 series or Stephens Chair — from 1965 to 1967. Originally designed for the student center at the Yale School of Architecture, the Stephens Chair was an inexpensive, yet original laminated wood side chair that was in continuous production at Knoll until 1988.
Knoll Historian Brian Lutz: “Stephens’ major design contribution to Knoll came with the development of the first wood landscape system in the industry. Developed in conjunction with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for use in their Weyerhaeuser headquarters project, the Stephens system was significant in the office furniture industry. The Stephens System was a product of such exceptional elegance that it became possible to plan offices using systems furniture for even the highest level of an organization. The Stephens System provided an architectural approach to managing space, rather than an industrial one.”*
*Excerpt courtesy Brian Lutz. ©Brian Lutz