Design Students Take Their Final Projects to ICFF
Design students at RIT reimagine the modern office.
Metaproject Book is one of the many messaging strategies created to deliver the Metaproject collaboration with Poppin to NYCxDESIGN 2016.
The workplace and workforce have changed drastically in just one generation, and millennials are at the forefront of this shift. Metropolis and Poppin have partnered with the undergraduate industrial design students at Rochester Institute of Technology as they dream up what the future office could be. If you missed previous installments, you can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
Industrial design is not only about turning ideas into tangible objects–it involves attacking a “problem” with creative solutions and making that solution understandable and accessible to the intended audience. When we first approached Poppin’s furniture line at the beginning of the Metaproject course, we would have never realized the complexity and progressive thinking that went into the collection had Jeff Miller, Poppin vice president of design, and David Branham, Poppin director of merchandising, not told us the stories behind the products.
Now the question is how to communicate the stories of our solutions during NYCxDESIGN? What’s the best way to explain complex thinking, fabrication, execution, and the value of a project effectively? Communication becomes an essential part of the design process, and often collaborations with other disciplines come into play in order to achieve the clarity we seek. The challenge with Metaproject and Poppin is that they both carry very strong brand identities, and our projects had to balance academic integrity with commercial feasibility and experimental design.
My concept is the Foot Pebble, whose purpose is to promote a more dynamic workday as well as increase office health and, ultimately, happiness. I started by observing people in my own environment. It quickly became obvious that sitting with poor posture for hours each day was a prevalent issue–and one that exercising in the gym cannot solve. The Foot Pebble elevates your feet off the ground while supporting and encouraging a better posture by lowering pressure on the legs and lower back. It also allows your feet to rock and move, if you choose, while seated at your own desk. Made out of solid cork, it is sustainable, lightweight, easy to clean, and the easy-grip silicone handle lets you carry it around wherever you go. But how can I communicate this story and engage ICFF attendees in just a few seconds?
The Foot Pebble
To help us articulate our products’ stories in interactive formats, our class teamed up with the New Media Design department at RIT. After some back and forth, we collaborated on building an iPad experience for my Foot Pebble that would allow people to easily navigate the design, especially since its rationale may not be obvious at first glance. We took my process work, specification of the product, and 3D files, and created a virtual rendering that highlights the problem, the materiality of the project, and how it fits the Poppin brand in one continuous experience. Above and beyond articulating my project, I was using methods that were deeply connected to the generation of users linked with Poppin and, by association, my product. In this day and age, a fundamental learning outcome was connecting product to experience overall.
A few of my classmates similarly struggled to show the value of their projects until they built out their iPad experiences. Kayla Rakower’s Lattice Storage, a modular storage system designed for office personalization, utilizes intersecting loops that make new volumes through different configurations. The digital page shows the system’s multiple options: a unique product feature you may otherwise not discover. Another student, Kyle Laidlaw, designed a Universal Holder: an upright stand for phones, tablets, notebooks, and more. His process was heavily focused on testing many iterations to achieve the perfect angles for the best workflow, so it was important to show the story behind the many attempts and failures in the digital presentation in order to explain the perfect ergonomic solution–an important part of the design process that would otherwise be lost to the user. Describing the complexity of our work, which results in ‘simplicity,’ is important in order to educate consumers about the value that we as designers can bring.
Metaproject presented unique opportunities and experiences in a fast-paced timeline that challenged us to stretch our creative boundaries and experience a real-world design brief for a real-world client. Thanks to the guidance of Josh Owen, the reviews with Poppin’s design team, and the multidisciplinary teams who helped us build the messaging around our products, we developed concepts that were simple, creative, and tangible. With the support of combined digital and physical experiences, we will be attending NYCxDesign Week as a class, promoting our collective efforts and exciting outputs.
The projects will be showcased at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) Booth #3583, and be celebrated at the Metaproject + Poppin Event on Saturday, May 14 at 5pm at the Poppin Showroom, 1115 Broadway, NYC.