Polytope X-Board Seating
Polytope X-Board Seating
Polytope is an environmentally conscious flat-pack seating system ideal for temporary seating needs. Comes pre-cut, flat-packed and can be assembled in 15-30 seconds. Polytope is light for easy stacking and redeployment, allowing for dynamic use of space. The shape of Polytope allows for various seating configurations and opportunities for branding.
While so many students seem to create problems rather than solve them, it was refreshing to find a simple idea tackled with confidence. This stackable stool is made from affordable and recyclable materials and would be cheap to produce on a commercial scale. Its assembly, from flatpack to completion, is satisfying and quick. It's strength is evident and its shape more appealing than a simple box. Its flatpack volume is easy and cheap to transport, making it ideal for temporary events or when conventional seating runs the risk of getting damaged or dirty. As a single material product, it can have a justifiably short life and be discarded responsibly through standard recycling schemes. The product can also be easily branded for all manner of events.
Polytope X-Board Seating
1. Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the challenge posed to you? Did it get you excited and why?
This project was the final piece for a furniture design class. The brief moved away from past years and focused on renewable resources, in this case a relatively new material called Xanita or X-board. The challenge was creating a single seat from no more than one sheet of Xanita which could hold 150kg and be assembled in 30 seconds. An additional challenge was conquering the limits of the material, and discovering how to achieve shapes and structure without compromising the material, not just making another chair out of tubular steel and plywood. This challenge is what I found most exciting as it was real chance to have hands on creative experience, using my hands to design something in 3D from the outset, something I feel designers don't get enough of a chance to do.
2. What point of view did you bring to the challenge? Was there anything additional that you wanted to achieve with this project or bring to this project that was not part of the original brief?
In the previous semester of this class (which was the first time Xanita was used) there was a heavy leaning towards trying to make the material into the conventional sense of a chair, with four legs, a seat and a back. I wanted to move away from this tendency, and create something that still served the purpose, without the blatant assimilation to the status quo. In addition after researching the material the possibilities for branding also emerged, and as such I wanted to create a chair that could take advantage of this, by both the interest generated by the form, but also the availability of branding spaces.
3. When designing this project, whose interests did you consider? (Discuss various stakeholders, audiences, retailing, manufacturing, assembly, distribution, etc., for example.)
During this project the interests of the user were always at the forefront of the design process. Ultimately it had to support their weight and be a form (especially regarding standard seat heights) that was comfortable and possible to get in and out of, as attendees don’t generally sit for long periods of time (unless in seminars or similar). The extra play factor that emerged from the design (once even using them as playing dice) was something that I looked to encourage through the branding of the stools. By offering branding spaces this then took the interests of the consumers (those who run the events) to another level, allowing them an extra revenue stream or another way to further extend their (or their sponsors’) brand throughout the event. The ability to stack in ‘totem’ poles and the wide variety of seating arrays also allows the user and the consumer to dynamically modify the feeling of each space that they are placed into by how these arrays direct the use of the space. Lastly, the assembly of each stool was required to be under 30 seconds. This stool can be assembled easily in 30 seconds, and with experience in 15 seconds. Internal arrows (added later in the design refinement) effectively convey a ‘how-to’ assembly guide.
4. Describe the rigor that informed your design. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) If this was a strictly research or strategy project, please provide more detail here.
The design process for this product began as usually with a brief and informal research stint into the way people behave at temporary events such as expos and other conferences. The summary was that attendees generally are moving the entire time throughout stalls, and will only briefly stop to have a rest.
A large amount of exploration into the Xanita board through a series of directed esquisses which enabled me to better understand the material and its limits, and how far those limits could be pushed. A very quick process of sketching took place but the real design work came about with the use of quick 3D prototype with paper and card and some experimentation with origami, which gave a realistic impression of the limits of folding the paper and how fitting different pieces would actually work (as paper can be bent without damaging the material where as 10mm thick Xanita doesn’t quite allow this) After the initial concept was chosen the aim to transform it in into a one piece assembly began, which in itself proved to be a design challenge, involving a lot of tinkering with dimensions and structures.
Following this a number of full scale models were produced to test strength, ease of assembly, and crucially, for any critical design flaws or weaknesses, particularly with respect to structural integrity. Minor tweaks were then carried out as well as investigations into additional structural support for heavy duty versions, as well as better ways to convey the assembly of the stool for the consumer.
5. What is the social value of your design? (Gladdening, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, labor-mindful, environmental, cultural, etc.) How does it earn its keep in the world?
The social value/impact of this stool is a more environmentally responsible response to the constant need for temporary short-use event seating. By using a material that is made from recycled materials and itself is 100% recyclable, this stool can be seen as an example of upcycling. It also allows users to interact with the product and create their own environments through the arrays they create with these seats, almost becoming a practical toy.
6. If you could have done one thing differently with the project, what would you have changed?
If I had the chance to change one thing differently, I would have started experimenting with card mock-ups from the very start. After almost three years of sketching to convey products, which at a late stage are prototype modelled, it was eye opening just how much starting with 3D could improve the outcome, and show outcomes that I don’t think I would have encountered had I stuck to sketching.