Khushali Chawda, product designer and co-founder of DESKTalk, tells us about designing during the lockdown and developing a desk that’s easy to assemble

WHAT IS IT? The Ample Desk is a spacious workstation, made out of high-quality birch plywood, that can be self-assembled without any tools. Over the last several months, our working hours have grown and many of us have no dedicated workspace, while Work from Home (WFH) keeps getting extended every quarter with no end in sight. We took up this challenge and decided to make WFH more comfortable. So we came up with different desks for different needs. With DESKTalk, we would like to help you be organised and provide a dedicated space to help you get work done.

WHAT PROMPTED THE CREATION OF THIS EASY-TO-ASSEMBLE AMPLE DESK? WHY MAKE IT? In December, Hitesh and I often discussed what type of desk we wanted. Hitesh was looking for a desk with adequate space for everything, including two screens, a tablet/phone dock for his YouTube binges and a cable management tray to hide all the cables away. The WFH set-up during the lockdown exasperated Hitesh even further and after a lot of back and forth, we narrowed down on certain features that would make our perfect desk. Form very much followed function and that’s how the design for the Ample Desk started coming to life. Keeping in mind the current environment, we designed a desk which was easy to assemble, and at the same time, easy to store away without any intervention of carpenters at home. The philosophy behind the design was inspired by an Immanuel Kant quote — “The hand is the window on to the mind” — and the fact that the human mind is more attached to a product that is self-created.

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE FOR THE IDEA TO COME TOGETHER? The idea was brewing since December, however, the execution pretty much happened during the lockdown when we decided to make one desk for Hitesh. That’s when Urvi, the third member of our team, suggested that there are a lot more people facing similar issues, so why not produce more.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR DESIGN THINKING AND PROCESS FOR THIS PRODUCT. Rather than starting off on the drawing board directly, we decided to take a data-driven approach and conduct a survey of what exactly is the need of the hour when it comes to a WFH set-up. The response received from the survey was overwhelmingly positive and boosted our confidence to start the design process. This led to taking the designs from computer-generated 3D models to 3D-printed mock-ups, multiple rounds of prototyping where we realised that even 2mm of changes in dimensions would have a huge impact on the design and the ergonomics of the tables, and rigorous sample testing including stress tests. Then finally, the product was launched into the market!

TAKE US THROUGH CHOOSING AND SOURCING YOUR MATERIAL. WHY BIRCH PLYWOOD? As DESKtalk originated mainly during the lockdown, we had to procure material that required minimum production/finishing time without sacrificing on quality. Birch plywood was an immediate and ideal fit for our requirements. It has beautiful wood grains and it’s also multi-layered, with a great amount of strength and stability, which also makes it long-lasting. The light nature of the wood also gives us the flexibility to polish-finish our pieces in a range of finishes. We have been very particular about sourcing our material, as each ply is closely examined and handpicked to ensure that only the best quality product is delivered to our customers.

YOUR BRAND AND THIS PRODUCT HAVE BOTH EMERGED OUT OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, WHICH HAS, LIKE SO MANY OTHER FIELDS, ALSO CHANGED THE WAY DESIGNERS AND DESIGN STUDIOS WORK AND COLLABORATE. HOW ARE YOU NAVIGATING THESE NEW CHALLENGES? Long hours on Google Meet and unlimited cups of coffee later, we haven’t yet found the best solution, but we have figured out that this is the best we can do and are adapting to new ways and technology on a daily basis.

We started off with converting our 2D drawings into 3D renders and absorbing the renders from all angles. We contacted a local friend with a 3D printer and got 1:25 scale 3D models done. The most difficult part of this journey was not being able to touch the prototypes for 24 hours while they were in quarantine. After playing around with the 3D printer and mock-up for a while, and a little bit of sanding, we knew we had a winning design.

Fortunately, we found the contact details of one CNC operator who was in the ‘essential services’ category during the lockdown. He accommodated us when he had idle time to produce our prototypes, as other cut-outs were deemed as a priority. We used Internshala to hire interns remotely, with the main aim to help set up content and branding — which resulted in even longer Google Meet calls and bigger cups of coffee. And that’s how it started.

HOW DO WE GET OUR HANDS ON THE AMPLE DESK? The easiest way to get it is via our website desktalk.shop but you can contact any of our founders as well — we will be happy to help.

DESKTalk is a Mumbai-based concept-driven studio. Khushali Chawda is a product and spatial designer, currently working with Rooshad Shroff. Hitesh Thakkar and Urvi Thakkar are the other co-founders of DESKTalk.

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All photos courtesy DESKTalk.
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