Design of a School Workspace

I am a student in my 4th and final year of study towards a degree in Product Design. I am almost two months into my thesis project and have to make some important decisions very soon.

I am hoping that some of the members of this site can provide me with some opinions, information, guidance or suggestions for my project. It would help a lot.

This is an excerpt from my thesis proposal which details the need and purpose of this project:

The reassessment, redesign and modernization of the classroom ‘desk and chair’.

The classroom attempts to provide a safe environment where learning can take place uninterrupted by other distractions. This environment requires furniture forms used for reading, writing, computer usage or other class activities. As with any furniture and seating which is used for prolonged lengths of time, a classroom desk and chair should maximise user comfort and efficiency, as well as creativity and productive learning.

Research has shown that on a day-to-day basis, children and teenagers spend just as much (if not more) time seated at school desks than their parents do at their office desks. Unlike office furniture, school furniture is usually hard, uncomfortable and does not cater for children’s ergonomic needs at a time in their life when there are large differences in their anthropometric measurements - especially during puberty.

In classrooms across the world, students spend untold hours sitting at these desks and tables working on their lessons and listening to their teachers. This lack of movement might not have been a concern in the past when children’s time away from school was typically spent outdoors playing and exercising but in the last ten years we have seen the huge rise in popularity of computer gaming consoles, with children preferring these games to active ones.

Children are now being raised in environments where a sedentary lifestyle and an unhealthy diet are prevalent. The implications of these sedentary activities are clear - childhood obesity has now become a major cause of concern. Children are now adopting these habits and carrying them into adulthood, which will undoubtedly place a burden on the health care system in the future.

Technology today is radically challenging the existing classroom environment, as well as encouraging the reassessment of pedagogical strategies of instruction. Evidence of this is to be seen in the introduction of products such as interactive white boards, or ‘smart boards’. Furthermore, a team at Durham University has recently developed a hi-tech interactive touch-screen learning station for use in primary school classrooms. This product has generated great interest and research capital and is a viable introduction to classrooms across the world in the not too distant future.

From research it has become clear that today’s dated classroom furniture should be reassessed and redesigned in line with the introduction of the various technologies to the new learning environment, should take into consideration the changed lifestyles of today’s children, their physical requirements and the aspects of a child’s place of work which have until now been ignored.

The chosen age group for this product are kids between 9 and 11 years old.

In terms of research, I have looked into the existing products, read various publications and journals on and relating to the school environment, childhood development. I have also been to carry out some field research to my local primary school where I photographed the furniture being used by the kids.

Thanks so much,

I think your topic is awesome, really interesting stuff. Another aspect to consider might be cost - workstations that cost several thousand dollars a pop would be cool, but would they really improve actual learning? I think Ralph Kaplan commented on this in his book ‘the Design of Everyday things.’ It would be sweet if you designed something that was awesome and saved taxpayers money at the same time. Just my two cents. I think your subject is sweet. As someone who will be doing a senior project next year, I’m excited to see what you do with it. Good luck!

My first reply already, this is good!

I’m kind of asking myself the question - do I want to design this product to be very affordable for budget conscious schools…? Of course price is a very important concern, but it could close some doors on the project if I really try to make it low cost. Hmmm…

Yeah, there is so much research that can contribute to this project. Actually, the reason I am posting here is because of that fact. I’m a little getting bogged down because it is really interesting.

Something important I forgot to mention before is a concept called “Active Sitting”. It is being pioneered by a few companies, the best of which is the Scandinavian office furniture company (very expensive!) called ‘Hag’.

Their philosophy is based on the concept of moving while remaining seated. This allows increased blood flow and (they claim) better concentration / performance etc. I would like to apply their approach to kids’ school furniture.

Another inspiration was an article I read on a Mayo Clinic study in which school chairs were replaced with bouncy gym balls. Really interesting:

I was talking to a friend who told me that her mother (who teaches severely dyslexic children) has to give each kid a turn to sit on her ‘office-style’ teachers chair (you know, the ones with the wheels) because it helps them concentrate. I’m in the process of researching further into this but I’m finding it difficult to locate the information to substantiate her claims. Anyone reading this who knows anything about this please let me know. :smiley:

That’s an awesome start, those are all really fascinating… I’ll post more after reading em…


My post comes a little bit late but i hope it helps.

This is why i’m writing:

I’m kind of asking myself the question - do I want to design this product to be very affordable for budget conscious schools…? Of course price is a very important concern, but it could close some doors on the project if I really try to make it low cost.

I think you are thinking the wrong way.

You should put everything on top of the table and keep every option opened - from the “simple” redesign of the forniture to some brand new forniture design.

Do some research on the companies that produce the actual forniture, find out the costs, how it is made…

Do not forget at anytime that your project should have business value otherwise you might end up with a good academic project but no company will buy it. From what you’ve written i haven’t found a relevant critical success factor that would catch the eye of any company. Don’t forget your future clients (public schools/private schools) and their budgets.

At last i leave you an example of what i find is a really good design of a school table:

(sorry about the bad scan quality)
This was the winner of a design competition organised by Staples Office Center and a forniture company.

Good luck with project!