Interior design students create educational furniture


Four interior design students created, developed and tested their own educational furniture creations this semester. The furniture pieces were inspired to engage young preschoolers in the classroom through a philosophical way of learning, while collaborating with a national children’s furniture manufacturer in order to see through their entire product materialization and all the stages of manufacturing their ideas.

The two stool models prototyped by the students; the first being Simple Intrigue designed by senior interior design majors Maria Swanson and Abby Dyk and the second being Rick Normality designed by junior interior design majors Grey Waletich and Vanny Cahyadi, were the main focus in a junior design class in order to make their own creation through a real-world product with industry demand.

“We have a solid void portion of [the stool] to understand what it’s like to be in it rather than on it, and also so teachers can use it as well with their proportions,” Swanson explained. “[The design is] based upon your research and what you observed in the classroom, then it was up to you… to make educated decisions.”

The stool serves as a multipurpose tool for kids to sit on and play on when classwork is not being done. The stool includes storage bins as well.

“On the inside of the storage bin, we have different acrylic pieces that play with reflection, colors and shapes, and that helps them with different aspects [of their education],” Dyk said. “It worked for teachers, as well, so it [or a similar version] could be used for teenagers or other age groups.”

The inspiration for their design, which they collaborated with national children’s furniture manufacturer Kodo Kids, came through an early childhood education philosophy called the Reggio Emilia approach, which aims to allow “children to explore the things that they like to know and learn through experience,” according to Cahyadi.

“In sophomore year we were using Reggio Emilia Approach as our philosophy to design spaces for an early childhood education center, and now Angela [McKillip, our instructor,] applied the same philosophy to design stools that helps teachers for a learning process in an early-childhood education center,” Cahyadi said. “I think we were just doing a smaller scale project but more in depth of the relationship Reggio Approach, teachers and early childhoods. “

        Another advantage of these stools is that the students can sit at a higher level to meet the teachers, gaining more eye contact in class, which the design team found out works in practice as they tested their furniture at Bright Horizons, a preschool located in Brookings.

“We met with an early childhood education site in Brookings and got to interact with the students and see how they used the stools in their own ways,” Waletich said. “Having multiple parts to the stool allows them to use it as different things like a stool, a chair or even a boat… We wanted these different pieces so they could use their own imagination – it’s a play landscape.”

While the students continue to develop this product, with five more stools planned for production to be sent out to different preschools around the country for more testing, the students have their hopes on the success of this product that they’ve helped create from the ground up.

“Kodo kids is a nationally based company so they use their website to get their products all over, so having them as an asset can help us get this project throughout the U.S., hopefully,” Waletich said. “Building these opened this up to the other possibilities with furniture… learning about the marketing aspect of it was interesting and [so was] getting our name out there.”

McKillip is in the works of planning a field trip to Broomfield, Colo., Kodo Kids headquarters, in order see through the actual production of their furniture.

“It was great for the program because they usually don’t work with manufacturers,” Swanson said. “It shows that we understand how things are constructed and how they’re manufactured directly from the client and coming up with an outcome at the end.”