A Platform for Experimentation: Bassline Table as a Design Tool
In the Industrial Design Graduate Program at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), Professor Josh Owen, Chair of Industrial Design, challenges his students to solve problems with elegant solutions. Thanks to a partnership with Steelcase, this spring’s class used the new Bassline table as their canvas.
The students were given the task of identifying and defining a social need and applying it to the Bassline table platform. Students were asked to address contemporary lifestyle behaviors by developing a key innovation intended to push the envelope of what we know of a typical consumer product – in this case an occasional table.
“I was hopeful the students would fully consider the rituals we connect with this kind of object within the contexts we typically use it in,” said Owen.
Bassline tables were created by Turnstone to be easily personalized by designers, creating a one-of-a-kind piece for any space. The innovative platform supports nearly any custom top, which made it a truly blank canvas for Professor Owen’s students and their innovative ideas.
“Bassline was the perfect canvas for this graduate course,” said Owen. “We are very interested in cultivating curiosity and fostering ideas that can evoke discussion, using design methods as tools for iterative discourse.”
Many of the student designs turned the table into something more, such as a pour-over coffee station, bar table that holds bottles of wine and glasses, and a game table designed to accommodate those with arthritis and arthrosis.
“The course mission was to explore the parameters associated with this modest object,” said Professor Owen. “Through this collective investigation into a very narrow typology, our students learned how expansive dialog can be generated around presumed banal objects. This project expanded students’ perceived notions of what is possible using design as a tool.”
The students used a variety of materials in their creations, but they were asked to paint all models a typical “prototype gray” to focus interest on the ideas. Their final models were presented at the Steelcase WorkLife Center in New York to the table’s designer, Markus McKenna, Global Design Director of Seating, Steelcase and Turnstone.
Owen was pleased with his students’ exploration and the unique applications they created. “As an educator, one always hopes for exhaustive investigation from students. I was pleased with the results from this class.”
Photos by Elizabeth Lamark