Tell me about your process.
I sketched ideas for something lightweight and easy to assemble for a home user. My initial concept was for a simple folded sheet of felt held together with two pieces of steel. I then met with the Design Engineers to brainstorm construction methods and they quickly created a proof of concept prototype with features that enabled toolless assembly and flat-pack shipping.
Along the way, I created a series of working mockups in cardboard, foam and felt for user-testing. What caused the most discussion was the size and proportion. We are used to a specific scale or impression in the workplace but most people don’t have that at home. Most dining tables are not the same as conference tables. Most home desks are not the same as office desks. So we had a few repetitions just to get the right size. It was critical that we sent some of those prototypes out for people to try at home to gain feedback and verify our design direction.
What findings did you have using the prototypes in your own home?
I have dedicated desk space at home but, for me, the empathetic exercise was understanding people who don't have that same luxury, so I worked at my dining table. Right now the kids are also at home and I like to join them for meals; our dining table gets used quite a bit.
The biggest discovery was that we have a bunch of stuff that we need to be able to put away just to have lunch for an hour, and then put them back out. Even if people are just casually dropping this on their table, they still accumulate a bunch of work tools. I initially thought it was just going to be a laptop and a mouse. The use cycle of the table is so different during the day that I needed to add functionality. That was consistent with the findings of the other users as well.