If you appreciate the simplicity and logic of IKEA’s product engineering, it’s not a big stretch to imagine that you’ll be a fan of Facit Homes.
Much like the infamous ready-to-assemble furniture, the Facit Homes construction system was carefully created to deliver homes with simple assembly and intelligent product design.
So, when we needed new office tables, there was a lot of design, production and assembly expertise at our disposal.
In-house skills and expertise
We moved offices from East London to The Angel in 2016 and looked at purchasing desks for our new studio. Inspired by the self taught architect and designer, Jean Prouvé, Bruce saw that we could use the basis of our construction system to manufacture bespoke tables instead.
It was the perfect side project for the team to show off their design and manufacturing expertise. So, we put our digital fabrication approach to work.
The lower ground floor in the office was designated to become the creative workspace for our in-house designers, architects and production engineers. It’s an important space to design for.
The tables needed to be large enough to fit two people, with two screens per person and extra space for large files and printed drawings, should we require an old school approach at any point during the process.
Product design inspiration
Jean Prouvé was a French designer that used a kit of parts approach in his work, similar to both IKEA and Facit Homes, among many others.
During his career, Prouvé produced prefabricated houses, building components and facades, as well as furniture for homes, offices and schools. He played a pivotal role in the development of cutting-edge technology and modular systems for mass production of furniture and inspired Bruce to consider the same approach to our homes and our tables.
Working as a craftsman, designer, manufacturer, architect, teacher, and engineer with a career that spanned more than sixty years, Prouvé had all the necessary skills to transfer manufacturing technology from industry into architecture, without losing the aesthetic qualities. You can see why he might be particularly inspiring to us…
Le Corbusier designated Prouvé a ‘constructeur’ for blending architecture and engineering.
Prouvé's chair designs
DfMA: (D)esign (f)or (m)anufacture and (a)ssembly
Intelligent product design is an integral part of our approach. The Facit Chassis™ is a perfect example of an integrated system of design, manufacturing and assembly, but our approach does stretch to other construction products, such as structural steel tree columns and staircases.
As with every product, the table required some user experience design thinking. We designed computer-cut holes into the steel structure of the table and created a handy little product to keep cables in place. This simple cable management approach keeps it organised below deck.
This product is a simple combination of small carabiners, sugru glue and small magnets. On the table top, we also designed a space for resting plug extensions and underneath we designed a space for computers to hang supported below the desks.
Prototyping and testing
One of the key principles of DfMA is considering how to simplify production of the product without compromising on design.
Our studio tables were digitally designed in 3D modelling software, laser cut from steel according to our digital patterns (translated into G code) and then assembled by our team to create bespoke workspaces.
No matter how skilled a designer is, the process of making a product will always surface something unexpected. An essential step in any invention is prototyping and testing.
Understanding the physical quality of something is so important to what we do - so everything we make ourselves has a prototype. It is a vital learning experience.
Adjusting the design
The first version of the studio table was wobbly, but not just in the legs as you might imagine. The steel table top had a slight twist to it and almost rocked from side to side. We revised the design for our final production model, adding another brace to counteract this movement.
The two sheets of steel that comprised the tabletop also behaved unusually. Once assembled, the tabletop seemed to rise where they met in the middle. Steel is stored and transported in a large roll, which may have led to this characteristic.
To design this out, we simply rotated the sheets 180 degrees so that they were facing different directions. Once it no longer bent in the prototype, we added Forbo Linoleum to the table top and they were assembled in situ in our office.