The University Record, June 5, 2000

Students design ‘Office in a Box’

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

School of Art and Design student Jason Matter (seated) with classmates (from left) Emily Stibitz and Kristina Spitale, and Kelli Gierz and Ray Kennedy, representatives of Herman Miller for the Home. The students in Shaun Jackson’s class were challenged to design and build a fold-away home office that might be a piece of furniture when not in use as an office. The design had to be lightweight, transportable, and perhaps able to be carried as a suitcase that could be set up in a hotel room or at home. Photo by Bill Wood, U-M Photo Services
Downsizing! Yes, corporations are downsizing—not only their work force, but also their workspace. So more staff are “working on the move,” which might include working in a parked car, on a train or plane, in a hotel room, or on the dining table at home. To accommodate the needs of these workers on the move, U-M students, in collaboration with Herman Miller for the Home, designed variations of an “Office in a Box.”

As members of Shaun Jackson’s class in the School of Art and Design, the students were challenged to design and build a fold-away home office that might be a piece of furniture when not in use as an office. The designs also had to be lightweight, transportable, and perhaps able to be carried as a suitcase that could be set up in a hotel room or at home.

Whatever the design, the finished product had to be able to be quickly unpacked, assembled and used; claim a clear working space for its user; function within a conventional office setting when necessary; be manufacturable now or in the foreseeable future; be durable but also easily maintainable and repairable; be economically viable, with a clear potential to succeed in the marketplace; be more sustainable than existing, comparable products; and communicate to its user the values that informed its design and production.

This type of corporate collaboration gives students the opportunity to respond to “real world design and presentation,” Jackson says. “The teams operate as self-contained design firms in competition with one another, this time to create a home office that can be shipped in a box, RTA—ready to assemble.”