In May 2009, the Pratt Design Incubator partnered with the home furnishing company west elm to design and produce a line of sustainable home office furniture. For eight weeks during June and July, a 12 recent graduates, led by Pratt Industrial Design professor Robert Langhorn, went to work. The challenge – to collaboratively design a line of furniture – desk, chair, lamp and shelf. The group divided into two teams and was handed a “top secret” design brief about the upcoming season – a look that was visually lighter,was reasonably priced. and met the criteria of the third party certification programs of Greenguard and the Forest Stewardship Council.
The design teams went to work – researching materials, developing strategies and concepts envisioned through sketches, scale models and full size prototypes of key details. They developed and presented their ideas to west elm’s engineering, design and lighting group. “What really made this project successful,” said Robert Langhorn the project’s design director, “was the straight forward feedback from the clients – this guided the designers in refining and solidify the ideas with west elm’s consumers in mind.”
For the final presentation two concept lines were presented. Each included a desk, a chair, a lamp, a side table and a shelving system. Of the eleven pieces, west elm selected five designs. The next step – to have full sized prototypes fabricated from their manufacturing plant in Vietnam.
UPDATE: November 2009. The full size prototypes have arrived at west elm and the designers got the first peek at the realized products at west elm’s design headquarters in DUMBO (Brooklyn,NY). After an extensive review of the products by west elm’s core design team, all five designs made the cut – and will be in showrooms and on the West Elm website this July.
UPDATE: July 19, 2010
THE PRATT HOME OFFICE COLLECTION
5-piece office collection utilizes eco-friendly materials and processes
BROOKLYN, New York (July 19, 2010) –Modern home furnishings retailer west elm and internationally renowned art and design school, Pratt Institute, introduced today the Pratt Home Office collection, an eco-friendly office collection created by recent industrial design graduates at The Pratt Design Incubator for Sustainable Innovation. The centerpiece of the collection is a simple and highly functional home office desk made of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood. The collection also includes a chair, file unit, wall shelving and accessories set, and table lamp. The complete Pratt Home Office collection will be available at west elm July 14.
The designs use eco-friendly materials and processes including FSC-certified woods, powder-coated steel (a process that is less toxic than traditional plating), non-toxic glues, and water-based stains was also necessary. In addition, the desk lamp uses energy-efficient Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology. Both teams presented their proposals to the west elm design group and continued to work with them in an apprentice-type relationship to develop the concept, create scale models and eventually produce full-size prototypes of the pieces.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled to introduce the Pratt Home Office collection as our latest west elm collaboration,” said Paulo Kos, director of furniture design at west elm and lead designer for the Pratt collaboration. “As a Pratt graduate myself, I am especially exited to see that the Pratt designers were innovative in their process and design, and the final result truly embodies our brand principles. The collection is well-designed, affordable, and sustainable.”
“This group of Pratt graduates had literally just taken off their caps and gowns,” said Debera Johnson, the Incubator’s founder and director. “We brought them together to work on the west elm project as they were making the transition from student to professional. It was a remarkable collaboration and the results really show how Pratt has prepared them for their careers.”
The Pratt Design Incubator for Sustainable Innovation was founded by Johnson in 2002. She brought in a member of Pratt’s industrial design faculty, Robert Langhorn, to lead the project at the Incubator’s headquarters in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The Pratt Design Incubator is a creative space that brings together an energetic network of people who share a common belief — that economic sustainability must also account for our world’s environmental and social well-being.
The Pratt Office collection will be available in west elm stores, on westelm.com and in the west elm catalog. Prices for the collection range from $99 for the wall shelf and accessories set to $299 for the desk. The Pratt design team included Alex Binsted, Gregory Buntain, Sally Ann Corn, Evan Dublin, Sara Ebert, Rachel Feeser, Zachary Feltoon, Joseph Kent, Brian Persico, Jason Pfaeffle, Vanessa Robinson, Grace Souky, and David Wright.
Robert Langhorn – Design Director
Kristina Drury – Project Manager
Sally Ann Corn