IDEO’s NODE Chair for Steelcase: Failed Potential

So, IDEO and Steelcase just released the NODE chair, a reconfigurable seat that supposedly complements the way students learn and improves the classroom experience. Imagine a desk that allows students to easily transition from a lecture to group activities, changing their formation effortlessly like a perfect little marching band. It all sounds well and good, but in reality is this really how students are going to use these “innovative,” problem solving desks? Definitely not! If you think otherwise, you have obviously never taught children or teenagers.

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First of all, a desk on wheels is just asking for trouble. Hasn’t anyone ever heard of bumper cars?! I mean, put yourself in the mind of an 8-year-old boy, what would be the first thing that came to mind if you saw a desk on wheels – race car, bumper car, chariot, bulldozer – the possibilities are endless. Come on IDEO, get it together, do you want America’s classrooms to be full of even more chaos and disorder!


Another feature that IDEO and Steelcase are promoting is the NODE’s swivel feature. The idea behind this feature is that it will enable students to “swing around” to watch other students make presentations or speeches. Once again, IDEO completely misses the mark. Putting swivel desks in classrooms is just asking for a bunch of ADHD-like behaviors from your students.


The promise of more student collaboration through innovative design is an empty one. No matter how good the intentions were behind this design, the fact of the matter is that the NODE will not be able to fulfill its potential. I’m sorry, but updating the design of a “desk” is not going to solve this country’s education issues.


There’s no doubt that IDEO has consistently been one of the most creative and innovative design firms since its birth in 1991, however, we highly doubt the NODE desk is here to stay.

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