Design

The Kevi Castor

Jørgen Rasmussen (1931-)
Design Museum Denmark, Copenhagen Se kort

By Charlotte Jul, skribent, editor and curator, 2006

Small wheel, big change 

A wheel that rolls effortlessly. The thought is almost ridiculous. We have become so used to everything just working. The invention of the Kevi Castor led to considerable improvements in many offices in the years after 1965. Before that, office chairs had been heavy, unwieldy pieces of furniture that couldn’t easily be moved. 

Health and safety on the agenda 

The Kevi twin-wheel castor has been developed and enhanced since Jørgen Rasmussen first invented it in 1965. It now comes in a soft version that doesn’t scratch wooden floors, and an anti-static version that doesn’t generate electricity when rolling across carpets. The Kevi Castor received the Danish Design Centre ID Prize in 1998, because the “product solved an important and relevant task in a sustainable way”. 

Concepts of ‘health and safety’ and ‘ergonomics’ emerged in the 1970s and have influenced working life ever since. Suddenly, there was a correct way to sit and tables needed to have the right height. Jørgen Rasmussen designed the Kevi Castor while working on an office chair for Fritz Hansen furniture manufacturers. The Kevi chair became one of the most popular office chairs in the 1970s, and to this day it can be found in many educational establishments all over Denmark. You may not even have noticed that you are sitting on a Kevi chair, because it is that common. 

International success 

The Kevi Castor quickly achieved world fame and it is produced today by ScanCastor - a Danish company that is still going strong despite keen competition from China, among other countries. Danish design, technology and innovation guarantee Danish jobs and recognition in the global challenge. When it comes to castors, there is no better alternative than the Kevi Castor. The Kevi chair was also selected for the Danish Design Project in 2004, when the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York was furnished with Danish design, which is seen there by 15-17,000 visitors every day.

The Kevi Castor from the 1973 design, Designmuseet. Photo: Pernille Klemp.
One of Jørgen Rasmussen's sketches for the Kevi Castor. Engelbrechts A/S
Design

Did you know?

Source: Scancastor A/S.

It looks simple, but the Kevihjulet offers a myriad of small finer things: The small rolling design wonder is available as a hygiene wheel, which as the first wheel can be disassembled and cleaned. The Kevih wheels also take into account the speed, as the wheels roll fastest when sitting down. This way you avoid shooting the chair far away when you get up.

The committee's justification

By the Committee for Design and Arts, 2006

Today, almost everybody has an office chair that can roll freely in all directions. It is practical for work and better for the body. But in 1965, office chairs were nothing like that. Old-fashioned office chairs were fixed and heavy. Wegner had designed a wonderful office chair with five legs on ball bearing wheels. It was real craftmanship, with a beautifully modelled back, but the movement could not be controlled. With the development of the double-wheel caster and the Kevi chair, a worldwide standard was created, improving working conditions for millions of people (and today, the Wegner chair comes with double rollers). It’s a good example of what industrial design can achieve. 

When Jørgen Rasmussen developed the wheel, he had to define the task first and then solve it. And he was innovative on both counts, based on a visual and material understanding of the task. We can see from his sketches of the wheel how he worked with the shape and function in a continuous process in which his drawing ability played a significant role. Well-designed products seem so obvious that no one thinks about how someone might have worked on them for months or years. Industrial products in particular are perceived as pure technology. But the Kevi wheel could never have been developed without design. Or the iPod. Or the IC-3 train. The design process brings together academic expertise and technological opportunities into a comprehensible whole.

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