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BASE: Designing a Collection of Desk Accessories

I’m a firm believer that the more organized your desk is, the more productive you are. Earlier this year, we fell hard for San Francisco-based design team BASE and their brand-new collection of objects meant to keep your desk clutter contained. The minimalist pieces have a smooth, matte finish and feel like ceramic, yet they’re made with polystone, a material that has some of the resilience of plastic. We go back for more insight into how this design duo created such a smart set of modern office objects, in this month’s Deconstruction. Take a look.

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Here are some of the initial sketches during the conceptualization phase of our first line of products for BASE. We wanted to create highly versatile objects that paired well with the design cues of a well curated home or office environment and here is a glimpse into the first steps into that process.

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One of the advantages of creating a product line in the modern age is the amazing set of tools available to designers today. We were able to go from sketches to a physical prototype in a matter of days by using 3D printing which then allowed us to quickly assess, select, and iterate on the designs we wanted to proceed with into production.

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Once our files were finalized, we sent them over to our manufacturer overseas. They were able to use our digital data to recreate exactly our design intent with high res SLA 3D prints. This photo shows the 3D print in the back and the cast reproduction in front without paint.

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The usage of 3D printing in our workflow was not limited to just the prototyping phase. We worked with our manufacturer to not just accomplish form evaluation using the 3D printed versions but for part of the production phase as well. This is an image of the entire line post 3D printing and ready to head into the next phase: mold making.

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We worked with our manufacturer to formulate a custom polystone mix, which is shown here being poured into the ceramic molds. This was one of the more demanding steps in the process, as we wanted to find a way to differentiate the products with not just the design but the material as well. The polystone mixture we developed with them gave us a smooth, matte finish akin to plastic but with a very nice weight and feel reminiscent of traditional pottery.

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Once the cups have air hardened in the molds, they are removed. Here the casted parts still have flash (excess casted material) that will be removed by hand. Although we wanted to use as many digital tools as possible, for most physical products there will always be a reliance on age-old methods for crafting fine items. This is a good representation of the more analog phase of our production process.

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Here was the first preview we had of our logo embedded into the bottom of the one of our cups. We chose a logotype that was simple and modern to represent our design perspective for BASE.

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Our overseas vendor sent us PMS color matches and how they looked on the casted polystone to help us finalize our decision on the final production color. We highly recommend always getting actual samples from your manufacturer; it is a rarity that it matches your original request.

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Using HVLP technology, our parts are finished, primed and painted. BASE parts are cured, color matched and ready for shipping.

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Here is an image of the finished product, shot by our photographer. The entire process took about 6 months from concept to shipping and we were definitely excited and satisfied with the end product for our first launch.

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BASE founders, designer Mark Kelley and Richard Liu

Caroline Williamson is Editorial Director of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.