October 1, 2003
Kirsten White’s Table
A panel of experts from the industry convened to evaluate the producibility and marketability of emerging designers’ work.
Kirsten White, an industrial designer from Toronto, Canada, presented her two-tier coffee table made of steel tubing with nickel finish and quarter-cut walnut veneer on Baltic birch ply (part of a collection designed for use in confined spaces). The frame accommodates multiple tops, with different versions of holes cut in the center. The table is designed to come apart and be flat-packed into to a 2-and-1/4-inch box. Wanting to produce it herself, White “found having it done locally in small quantities wasn’t cost-effective. I wanted this to be an accessible product. The prototype isn’t made as I would like it to be produced. Originally I wanted the whole piece to go together without using screws, but it was getting too complicated.”
RF: The way the details are handled and the quality of the materials will dictate its price. The thinking behind it is very solid. It’s great that you’re dealing with packaging, flat packing, and distribution issues as much as with appearance. Visually, it’s resolved quite well. I’m hedging on what I would sell it for, but a manufacturer might give me some idea of the cost.
ND: I think of all the disreputable low-cost manufacturers you might take this to and what they would say about this beautiful quarter walnut and multiple-layer laminate plywood: “Some lithographed laminate will look just as good.” Or: “We can get edge-banding that looks just like this multiple-layer stuff, with a bunch of chipboard in the middle to cut the price. And you could make these legs out of 1/8-inch thick wire, coat-hanger material. Then we can sell it for $100 and get 50% markup on that.” That’s your biggest problem.
It has the look of a folding table. This is something that years and white hair will tell you: if you get an object deliciously close to doing something quite different, then you should make that next step. It seems to me that it could fold easily without coming apart, without screws or anything. You’d open the box, and if you put a spring in there, pop!
AM: I think this shows very strong direction. You should be able to pursue a number of executions, such as several sizes and trays. A good idea doesn’t necessarily mean one good product. It could be several.
LC: It’s a shame that the beautiful parts—the interesting moments that are really working—are all on the underside.
MK: I would look at this and say, “If this is designed and manufactured to last, then a $500 price is absolutely reasonable.” But that assumes that the value comes with use over time.