Rapid Prototyping + Mockups
With a design direction in mind, I had to decide — What was too large? Too small? Awkward? Uncomfortable? The fastest way to figure this out is to build it. I got some basic supplies from the hardware store and got to work. Three elements I wanted to show in the build were the worksurface, a communal/group seat (couch) and seating for a solo traveler. This is the final system I will show at DAAPworks as a demonstration of how the modules act together to accommodate for various types of travelers.
The first prototype I tested a system of furniture in which the modules had the frame built-in, and would merely connect side-to-side to one another. I quickly learned that this system was not as strong as running the frame underneath the modules and having them bolt on. My measurements were way off, too — I was building it to a residential lounge height of 14" with a flat seat pan, causing users to stick their feet way out due to the low arrangement. Some people did enjoy the low-slung feel but the extra legroom it requires is a no-go in an airport environment. My seat pan was way too deep, too, causing the user to lean far back into the seat which is uncomfortable for elderly or disabled passengers.
I fixed some of these issues with the second prototype; raising the height of the seat, introducing a rail system underneath the modules, and reducing the depth of the seat pan. I bought some upholstery foam for the seat pan and the backrest from Sunshine Foam in Spring Grove (they were super helpful in helping me choose which foam product for which application). I thought the addition of upholstery foam would allow the seat pan to stay flat for a more planar look, but after testing it out it just was not as comfortable as a tilted seat. I needed an amount of tilt that was comfortable to hang out in for an hour or two, but not so lounge-y that it became difficult to get out of the seat. I added or removed wooden blocks to find an optimal seat angle. Some users complained that the single chair was too narrow, and after comparing its width measurements with that of the classic Eames airport lounge, realized I could go a little bit wider.
Having gotten the basic measurements down, it was time to start refining my model in CAD and getting into the design details.