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Design Studio Collecting Tray

PDI Studio Tray

     Good designs come from everyday life, Product Opportunity Gaps lay around us. As a designer, it is crucial to identify these opportunities among the surroundings accurately. The task of this IHSS-2610 PDI Studio 3 course project is to identify a POG within the PDI Studio, a 2,700 square feet maker space where the students of PDI program have their lecturers and build their prototypes. The PDI Studio Tray is a set of tray designed to address the problem regarding tools and wastes collection during the daily operation of the studio. The product is developed through the process of integrated New Product Development (iNPD).

Project Type /

Product Design

PDI Studio Course Work

Role /

POG Research

Ethnographic Research

Concept Design

Rapid Prototyping

Year /


The integrated New Product Development 










PDI Studio is a suite for the 4 cohorts of students of the Product Design and Innovation (PDI) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Insitute. The suite includes a 1,600 square feet maker space, offices, storage, and fabrication shops. PDI students spend the majority of their time in school here in this suite: the maker space provides an open space for students to take lectures and do team works, the workshop allows students to fabricate prototypes for their design concept, the storage has all kinds of essential tools for students' convenience. PDI Studio is essentially a home for all PDI students, they study here, they work here, they live here. 


Maker Space




Meeting Area


Tool Storage

As an open working space, the most common problem students encounter every day is the organization of the room. After students pulled an all-nighter working on their project the day before the deadline, the PDI studio seems like a nice place for treasure hunting: tools left on the desktop, and garbages scattered around the work table. Not to blame the students for causing the mess, it is indeed very hard to keep everything organized while rushing for the deadline. While it is easy to create the mess in a few minutes, it would take hours to place everything back to where they belong. 



Every obvious problem in real life is created by one or more pain points hidden behind. By interviewing fellow classmates at the studio, and research typical user's journey through the studio, I was able to extract the pain points from the obvious problem space. 

User's Journey


Retrieving tools from the storage.

Need a new tool. Go back to the storage to retrieve it. 

For convenience, tools are spread all over the desktop.

But some other tools were left behind.

Start working on the projects. 

Keep working on the project.

Finish working and return tools back to the storage room.

Garbages are collected and dumped, but some offcuts and small wastes such as scraps of paper were left on the desktop or on the floor. 

Identified Pain Points

  • Hard to pick up multiple tools at once with two hands. Requires multiple runs to retrieve everything.

  • Difficult to manage all the tools in a place easy to reach. Always need to look for a specific tool because they are spread all over the tabletop. 

  • Hard to keep track of all the tools. Often forget how many tools were taken out, results in some tools being left behind after working.

  • Difficult to keep the environment clean and organized with all the small cutoffs here and there. 



Opportunity Map.png

According to the design opportunity map, several concepts were generated in order to solve the identified pain points within the PDI studio. A weight matrix was used to evaluate each concept.



As shown above, in the concepts evaluation weight matrix, the fan shape tray concept has the highest quantized score, which means it fulfilled the most requirements compare to other potential concepts. Thus, this concept got to proceed to realize. In this stage of the development, a cardboard rough prototype was quickly built to test out the usability of the design. The feedback was used for later iterations. 

  • The size of the tray is appropriate for carrying around.

  • The curved edge doesn't really fit the wist, resulted in a wired feeling around the wist. 

  • In general, it is functional.

  • The clamp does not look strong enough to hold heavy tools.

  • A bit chaotic and tight to fit tools and wastes by sections within one tray.

  • The flat handle is against the way people holding things. 

  • A better handle design can make plugging and unplugging from the table leg much easier. 

The final concept was iterated from the rough prototype according to the feedback received on multiple usability tests. The final concept separated the tool collection and waste collection into two different trays, added a clamp holder to reinforce the installation, fixed the handle design. 

A modified handle shape is easier to hold in any position.

An open handle on the bottom makes plugging and unplugging easier. 

A stiffening ring is added to strengthening the clamp mechanism. The ring is attached to the table leg by two screws.

Tray 3.png
Tray 2.png
Tray 3.png
Tray 1.png

Waste collection is separated from tool collection providing more space and easier to organize.

Short walls make dumping small cutoffs easier.

Open notch made carrying oversize tools also possible.

  • The inclined edge intimates ancient Greek Doric Order, keeps shape dynamic

  • The ferrule structure not only strengthened the structure physically but also give users a feeling of strength emotionally. 

  • Trays can be hidden under the tabletop to give more working space. It can also be left outside to serve as an extra platform to hold tools and wastes at a very handy place. 

  • Special designed color scheme signifies the different functions of each tray, while ensures the product fits with the environment at PDI studio. 

New User Journey with the Tray Set


Finish working. Return the tray with all the tools inside. Place the tools back on the shelf according to their category

Clamp the tray on to the table leg. Start working on projects. 

Pick a tray at the storage room, retrieve all needed tools. Take all the tools to the workspace with the tray at once. 

Switching tools during the work. Pick the one needed from the tray and place the finished one back in the tray. 

Sweep all the cutoffs to the trash tray. Dump them into the dumpster. 

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