© 2019 Audrey Levy all rights reserved

Groove

A versatile stool for fidgeting and storage

(n.) a long, narrow cut

(v.) to enjoy oneself

This project was a collaboration between UW's Advanced Industrial Design class and Hightower, a furniture design company based in Seattle. Throughout the 10-week course, we met with Hightower's leadership team several times to present designs and gather feedback.

 

Perry and I responded to their design challenge to create a piece of fidget furniture that aligned with the Hightower aesthetic and design values. The final deliverable was a complete, weight-bearing prototype and a presentation before a panel of judges from Hightower, Gray Magazine, SkB Architects, Objekts, and Amazon. Groove was selected as the strongest concept from the class and featured in Gray Magazine.

MY ROLE

Collaboration on all design

Sketching and storyboarding

Prototype collaboration

Final fabrication collaboration

COLLABORATOR

Perry Burke

STUDIO CLIENT

Hightower

PROJECT DURATION

10 weeks, Spring 2019

Whether you choose to sway from side to side or rock back and forth, Groove adds motion and play to any meeting or study session.

The stool’s lightweight portability allows the user to reconfigure a workspace as they see fit. If the group expands, it’s easy to grab another Groove to join the party.

When not in use, the seats stack together for space efficiency and extra storage. The seat and base cushions protect the wooden sides from scratching each other.

Groove also functions as a cubby for those disillusioned by a world devoid of purse hooks.

Research

Findings

Posture Changes

People change their posture roughly 53 times per hour in a meeting environment

Play to Focus

NYU researchers found that secondary playful interactions support primary serious tasks.

Shifting Workplace

Industry trends suggest work spaces are transforming from conference and individual desks to modular

“work points.”

Process

Behind the Design

Hightower Brief

Design a product for the office that combines movement with ability to do focused work. (Hightower launched a high-back fidget lounge chair in 2018 (Gimbal Rocker), so they were looking for something other than a high back lounge chair.)

Application

Open corporate office, public spaces, adjacent

to workspace

Feature Considerations

Does the product have a stable position option?

Multiple base options,

Privacy (if applicable),

Placement for devices (iPad, phone, laptop)

Manufacturing Strategy

Domestically produced in North Carolina or Michigan supply chains

Materials

Foam / Upholstery

Wood

Metal

Plastic(if required for

molded parts)

How might we provide office workers with an adaptable seating option while promoting movement and fidgeting?

Identifying

the

Stakeholders

Through email and in-person interviews, we spoke to many people regarding office furniture and fidgeting. These included the woman who designs UW common spaces, friends and family who work in different kinds of office environments, furniture manufacturers, and students. We condensed learnings from these interviews into three primary personas.  

The Restless Worker uses movement to fuel productivity

Pains

long, sedentary periods

limited seating options

Desires

new work environments

a workspace that adapts to her needs

storage for personal belongings

During our research exploring fidget furniture on the market, we identified the intersection of adaptability and portability as a ripe opportunity space.

Market

Analysis

Hightower Analysis

We looked into Hightower’s own product offerings in parallel to our general market analysis, finding that there was space to push multipurpose design (like the Log Bench that marries interior storage with simple seating) in conjunction with portability (like the Jackson Stool with it’s integrated seat handle).

Honest

Exposed construction

Approachable

Rounded features, soft surfaces

Fun

Bright colors

Design

Criteria

Encourage Intuitive Fidgeting

Support Spontaneous Meetings

Adapt to Different Environments

Sketch Iterations

and Feedback

Through sketching, we explored possible ideas for a seat that would allow the user to fidget. Critique from Hightower and classmates led us to pursue a low stool with a simple rocking mechanism.

Quick Sketches

Once a design direction was selected, we wanted to expand the field of potential by considering as many contexts for the concept as possible. A generative exercise I find really helpful is 1-minute sketching. Here we spent 16 minutes throwing down variations, then grouped them.

Concept Refinement

From there, we built upon the initial form to search for a refined direction with elements of delight through unique movement and storage opportunities.

 

One meaningful critique we received based on these sketches was that we were perhaps complicating something that could be more beautiful in its simplicity. As we moved into prototyping, it was our goal to heed this advice by creating a basic form with no unnecessary interactions or elements.

Prototypes

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"I enjoy the flexibility to sway or rock."

Emily, Student

Prototypes

We built a wooden box with three variations of curved bottom. We took it with us to different places and asked people to sit on it and tell us what they thought. 

"I enjoy the flexibility

  to rock or sway."

Emily, Student

Client Feedback

At this point, we had generated several modeled iterations with slight feature variations. We met with Hightower to present these concepts and gather feedback.

Features they liked were the handle, thin upholstery, and stackability. One issue they had run into when prototyping the Gimball Chair, a fidget seat in their line, was that hard surfaces can be abrasive to floor material when dirt or dust is present. A solution we agreed upon was that mirroring the seat upholstery on the bottom would protect the stool’s environment. It would also serve to pad the sides when the stools were stacked together.

Efficient Patterning

The dimensions were patterned to fit the components for 3 stools within a 5 ft x 5 ft sheet of baltic birch plywood.

Kerf Testing

To get the perfect rocking bend, we did several test experiments with slotted wood.

Crying​

It took four people, plenty of wood glue, two ratchet belts, and most the clamps from the shop, but damn did it feel good to finally put it all together.

Key Learnings

Client Relations

It was really valuable to see what it is like to work directly with a client, responding to their feedback and balancing their vision as the design develops.

Simplify

A defining moment during the process was when we received the feedback to aim for radical simplicity. This became a mantra at points when we would consider added features.

Material Efficiency​

When patterning the web, we took into account Hightower's manufacturing capabilities and saw how decisions on the part of a designer can save material.

Working with Wood

It was so rewarding to get our hands dirty (or dusty really) in the wood shop during this project. I'm excited to experiment more with wood in the future!