How it Works:
The Cardboard Standing Desk arrives flat-packed in a 42"x24"x5" box designed to maximize shipping volume and minimize shipping costs for standard UPS dimensional weights. The piece consists of four simple cardboard prisms folded from die-cut sheets of single wall corrugated board. Following easy to read and intuitive instructions, users first fold these four prisms, securing them with locking tabs. The prisms then slot into one another creating a light-weight yet extremely strong structure.
Sitting may be the new smoking. Long hours of static sitting while working increases the risk of neck and lower back pain, leading to uncomfortable and low-energy work conditions. Standing Desks provide a quick way to build movement into the work day, easing the transition to walking, shifting weight, and building a dynamic work style. While Standing Desks boost productivity and energy levels, they are often prohibitively expensive for those wanting to test them as a part of their daily work routine. Many standing desk designs are difficult to assemble and heavy, making them cumbersome in work environments that need be flexible.
Inspired by thrifty startup teams working in my cohort at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, I built the first Cardboard Standing Desks to make it affordable for my friends to stand while they worked. While hugely impactful, these first standing desks were made by hand, making them difficult and time-intensive to produce for a growing number of requests in the New Haven community.
After hand-building several standing desks for my friends and colleagues, I realized that if I could produce the standing desk in large production runs, I could make it more affordable and more accessible to a growing number of standing desk users.
I built a list of design goals to guide my prototypes and design iterations:
I began by prototyping in miniature. My goal was to produce the Cardboard Standing Desk (originally designed using triple-wall corrugated sheets) in single way corrugated sheets. While it's nearly impossible to die-cut triple wall sheets for mass production, single wall sheets are readily die-cut and finished pieces can maintain relatively tight tolerances. The a-ha moment was a unique interlocking cardboard joint that allowed the leg and table top to have an extremely strong slot-in-slot connection. This cardboard joint was later the basis of a United States Patent awarded in 2017.
With single wall cardboard as my material, it was easy to scale up the miniature designs to produce the desk full-scale. Full scale proportions helped me begin to tune ergonomic and structural stability. I immediately realized that the desk needed an additional support beam to increase stability and prevent the structure from rocking left and right.
With a final prototype in hand, I took measurements and created die lines for my manufacturer. The goal was to first create a prototype die to the test the crucial joint of the desk. This would insure that the tolerances of this joint was both tight enough for a rigid connection between the desk leg and desk top and loose enough for ease of assembly.
After adjusting tolerances on the locking joint and submitting a full set of die lines, we began final production on the Cardboard Standing Desk with an initial run of 1000 units. I was able to afford this large inventory investment after running a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising over $50,000 and securing more than 700 desk pre-orders.
After a successful production run, we quickly folded, packed, and shipped 1000 desks sending 700 units to 48 states within the span of a week.
The most rewarding part of the Cardboard Standing Desk production run was seeing all of the home offices reimagined with a new way of standing while working. From desks used by the red cross for a pop-up emergency office to manage flood aftermath, to painted desks in a middle school art classroom, to a father and son bonding over building the desk together, these stories made the design process all the more meaningful.