Innovative Desk Unit


New Member
Hello all,
I'm currently working on a project to design and prototype a new and innovative workspace for students. This unit should provide storage and a suitably sized area for work.
Has anyone got any ideas for things I can base my design on or potential inspirations?
Be as out there and creative as you like.
Sounds very much like a project that a school/university would set. You can put up ideas and then we give feedback :)
Yes, it is the project that I have chosen to complete for my A level course.
But as far as ideas go, I haven't started to design yet.
Currently I'm working on the inspiration section of my portfolio which involves research into ways to meet the brief. An example of information I've found is looking at origami and how a flat, easy to store starting material can be transformed into a larger, usable end product. I have also found inspiration from Russian doll and how they begin compacted and can expand out into multiple pieces. Do you think these concepts could be applied to the design of a collapsable workspace?
Also, if anyone has any suggestions for existing products that could potentially be applied to designing a workspace please share them :)
I'd have a look at some workspaces from designers, artists, writers, etc and see what they need in terms of storage and resources at hand and how they make use of the space around their work environment. Something modular would be useful, so you can tailor the desk to your own needs.

Personally I'd like a section that can be angled slightly like a drawing board, which would make typing and writing easier, but still have flat sections either side for things that need to remain level (like cups of tea).
Must be something about the way product design is being taught don't look for inspiration and copy it, you look for the problem that needs solving. From what you're saying you've looked into how to make something using alternative techniques... which is completely pointless and a waste of time until you actually know what you're trying to fix. Also innovative doesn't mean a complete overhaul, innovation can be as simple as including something that makes life easier for a person... we may take it for granted now but cable management on desks was innovative when it was first added.

So have you done your breakdown of the brief, the spider diagrams of initial thoughts and ideas from your breakdown of your brief. Have you done product analysis of existing products in the same field (ie desks)... in other words the bits that lead to finding problems that need fixing. Just going out there looking for something to replicate is not going to end up as something innovative because someone has already done it

@Paul Murray - you know there's tables out there already like that right..... I'm sure ikea did on like what you suggested too.,
@Paul Murray - Thank you for the advice, I can definitely see the modular concept you've suggested having scope to be developed.

@Levi - Doesn't all design stem from some sort of inspiration? Perhaps I'm being unclear. I have completed my brief, my task analysis and I have identified the issue that I intend to design for - that most desk units are often too big or basic for student accommodation. I also have a client for whom I will be producing my designs.

As far as looking into alternative techniques is concerned, I thought that it would be best to take unrelated concepts and see if they can overlap into the design of a desk/storage unit. I thought creating something new based on existing furniture designs would be a bit old fashioned and not entirely meet the demands of the new A level course - perhaps the course is being taught to inspire more lateral thinking nowadays.

I do, however, agree with your thoughts on innovation. It hadn't fully occurred to me to focus on one aspect of the design. Thank you.

- Doesn't all design stem from some sort of inspiration? [/USER]
IMO Not really when it comes to product design.... product design is about creating something that solves the problem that the brief sets out not looking for someone elses design and recreating it - the latter is what you seem to be doing at the moment. A good designer will come up with what they want to solve, draw up some rough ideas and then refine them as they look into different ways of creating those ideas. You've basically missed out the stage of finding out what you're going to fix and so all the research you're doing isn't going to help because you don't know where it's going to be used....

This is one of those things where it's really hard to explain because it's kind of a process that you should have been taught in the first place.... I will say that product design isn't really something that should be taught at a-level as 90% of the teachers don't know enough about it.

Say for example we take Pauls tilting table idea, ignore the fact we found one. Well our initial idea would be in essence a single pivot with a flip up part of the desk surface but is that the best idea. Based on your posts this is where'd you stop and then go off and find 'inspiration' but what you should be doing is coming up with alternatives first which may be better could be better to have a tilted table with bits that fold flat or maybe a section that slides out like a keyboard drawer for example so you don't have to clear the top surface but your inspiration might stop you from finding them. Please note it's always hard to put things in writing when you aren't seeing things first hand because you often go on limited information.

In essence product design goes like this
  • Breakdown of Brief
  • Analysis of Brief
  • Spider Diagrams
  • All the above can include quick sketches as ideas pop into your head
Market Research - surveys (things like what people want via multiple choice etc), looking at what tables etc are out there
Analysis of market research
  • Good and bad points on good/bad tables
  • Hands on testing etc if possible
Initial Ideas stage - taking what you've done above and coming up with initial ideas... no refinement, no creative elements, just the basic 'concept'.. ie like adding in the tilting table part or an extending table or an origami folding table. You don't need to know exactly how they'll work at this point.
Initial Idea analysis - analyse these ideas like you did the market research to see if any are viable or would interest other people.

'Inspiration' - This is the point where looking at 'inspiration' should be imo because any point before this could stifle finding an area that needs fixing. For example your origami could have pigeon holed you into folding desks because your research shows small desks for students etc.

The below can be repeated multiple times if the client isn't happy with direction etc:
  • Develop chosen concept(s) further into development stages working out how they'll look (ie materials etc) and how they'll work (ie the pivot on the tilting table idea). Includes prototyping, 3D modelling/rendering etc. - This is where your 'inspiration' should be being used, not trying to come up with solutions.
  • Take feedback from client (this can be quite repetitive) and do further refinement to design until client is happy
Create technical drawings/3D models etc
Sign off on final item

Oh and my uni desk was HUGE.....size of desk is often defined by the size of the room rather than any other factors these days.[/user]
I think the miscommunication here are the ideas we both have about what constitutes 'inspiration'.

I understand that recreating existing products is not product design - that's not what I'm doing. When I say I'm finding inspiration, I mean I am looking at things in all aspects of life that could help me in my design. This could range from looking at the joining mechanisms I might consider to looking at natural and manmade shapes and even to looking at products that serve a different purpose and applying that concept to my designs. These inspirations just occur to me randomly, in any place at any time.

I also understand the structure that the design process should follow, this isn't my first rodeo. The difference between us being that I am researching before design because my A level course specifies that that is what I need to do to achieve success.

From this research as I starting point I can then draw up some rough sketches and ideas and include the shapes and mechanisms that I have found if I believe them to be usuful. If not I then develop the idea to include my own mechanisms. But if, for example, I have found in my research that a wing nut will do the job then why would I waste time designing an alternative. The end product will be unique and that is what I need to meet the brief, I can rely on existing things to help.

I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel so why would it be such a crime to include other existing ideas in my design.
Let's take your idea for the tilting table, the table rotates on a pivot into a different position. The inspirition/information needed to design that would be knowing that the pivot is the right mechanism to use. Or potentially it isn't and there's something better. Either way I will know because I have researched it.
But you're not getting my point about having no direction for your research.... how can you research something if you don't know what it is you're trying to fix....
The only reason you can bring up the tilted table as a suggestion is because that has been suggested as a direction for you to research, before this you've just been looking at random stuff and hoping it might end up being useful.