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When you’re a kid, you don’t care what bar stools look like. As a parent, you generally care mostly for stools sturdy enough they won’t fall over when your kids are standing on them.

When you’re a sophomore industrial design student at BYU, you learn to care because you have to make several of them to pass a class.

“A sitting stool wasn’t something I spent my time thinking about before this project, but it was cool to see that after taking on the assignment, I could come up with lots of ideas about it,” said Garrett Hazen, one of 18 students in David Morgan’s sophomore-level industrial design class.

Hazen and his fellow students were given the challenge of building stools that are both structurally sound and visually appealing—but there was a catch: they could only use extremely tiny steel rods (think 5/16 of an inch) for the legs.

After that, each of the five groups decided which additional materials they would use for the seat: felt, cane, resin, concrete or maple wood. As each group used their steel and preferred materials, they were able to put a unique twist on their design. They even chose different ways to finish off the stools, such as powder coating, paint and wax.

  • Photo Credit: Chelsie Starley

“It is one thing to write about inventions, memorize different processes, and know the theory of stools, and it’s another to actually build an object,” said student Kelsey Roberts. “You can theorize what a ‘perfect’ stool is, but it wasn't until we built full-scale models we began to understand what actually looks good and what could support a person.”

As each group brainstormed they submitted ideas, made prototypes and modified the material they were working with. In the end each group had to build at least 10 stools from beginning to end—designing, molding, manufacturing, etc.

Some industrial design students appreciated the chance to learn about the varying materials used to build stools. They also learned about the importance of the process of trial and error, specifically with concrete.

“We all designed toward different demographics,” said Aislynn Edwards. “It was a fun challenge to find something that would actually work.”

Dr. Morgan explained that this student project is an adaptation of the Tinker Thinker project that began many years ago at the Rhode Island School of Design. This specific adaptation encouraged the students to mass produce their own personal designs and then sell them in a face-to-face setting.

The stools will be sold at the Teräs Exhibit at Actual Source, 50 E. 500 North, Provo this Friday from 7 to 10 p.m.

“This project was a good trial run for how the real world of design is,” Hazen said.

Writer: Natalie Castillo