workplace furniture development from benchtop to market by cia mooney, vp product design + development
project: tonic benching sector: commercial workplace furniture
we brought design collaborators to the project to help the watson team innovate.
with the client-manufacturer based near seattle and the designers in san francisco, research began by looking inside start-up's and large enterprises, meeting with architects and designers, listening to customers and gaining a deeper empathy with the end user.
focus on millenial workforce
as the team captured research, the intended focus on generational changes in the workplace led to solutions addressing mobile work, teamwork, and technology support.
one young woman frequently worked late at night in a big company and did not like being alone when the lights went out in the building. Adding a light to the Tonic design was a way to bring her voice forward in the project while providing a functional sense of place in open plan environments.
product development + lean manufacturing
building a big table like this one shouldn't be too hard, but when it can grow to 27 feet, power 10 individuals and their digital devices, be easy to assemble and re-assemble many times, use the greenest materials and flow through a lean manufacturing plant without hiccups, well...it took our product development team a little head-scratching to make Tonic real.
a structural problem to solve.
the key engineering challenge was to design a steel frame that could hold the weight of the table surfaces. The frame had to be modular to simplify manufacturing and repetitive installation.
think about all the stakeholders.
as employees shift spaces, installers have to assemble and re-assemble the furniture inside a big organization. for Tonic, setting up 6 users at a fully powered bench is achieved in 3 hours. that's the same time required to install one traditional workstation and a measurable costs savings for enterprise.
make the hard things easier.
connecting electrical conduit in office systems can be tedious. in this design, all power is packaged at the factory so it can be dropped into the table with quick connections.
keep it green as possible.
the factory is near seattle, so engineered wood board from the pacific northwest and steel tubing from california are major materials. PET textile is used for privacy screens and paper fiberboard serves as the screen's substrate for tackability. any wood board waste is used for smaller Tonic tables or sent to steam power a nearby paper mill.
keep clarifying and simplifying.
during the entire development process, cost reviews were done to keep pricing competitive and common parts reduced to essentials. the team lived at bench mock-up's to continually evaluate the design. at launch, airbnb installed 300 positions in tonic benching.