Paper prototyping: Chair epilogue

I recently finished my cardboard stool and decided to share some quick documentation about how I streamlined the workflow and made it easier to help create the cardboard stool/stilts that I made.


Breaking larger tasks into smaller ones

It’s like ideas, working with shapes in sketches or just like any problem solving, you would want to make the parts you work with very manageable. So, the thought with working with modular pieces sprung to mind when making this cardboard chair. For every layer of a large u-shaped part there are five smaller boxes which each in turn are stuffed with strips of cardboard. With that in mind that means I was able to divide the parts into four smaller parts which have their own workflow. At first, every u-shaped part took about an hour and a half, though in later iterations I was able to create one in about 40 minutes.

You may notice that I shaped them as a square initially, but I later changed that to L-shapes that formed a resulting u-shape. The reason for this was to lessen the amount of containers used which made for a lot less work. There was also an idea to hollow out the chair if it went that direction, though after some time evaluating what I should do, I focused on creating something sturdy as a proof-of-concept.

Focused workflows, simple repetitive tasks

I would first start by making the containers to hold the strips of cardboard. For these I created a straight edge which spanned longer than most cardboard pieces I had. It also had the height for the containers so it was only a matter of lining up the straight edge and drawing then cutting the pieces away. Doing so removed the extra step of having to measure each container every time. There was also a template made which held the markings used to cut the corners of the containers. This too removed an extra step of measuring.

For the cardboard strips themselves creating the first one was set as a template for others as I simply put it on top of a prepared cardboard piece, mark it and then cut it. The basis of the filling did not require the sizes of the strips to be perfect, so this allowed a lot of margin for error and very quick work to be done.

The rest of the process was to tape the smaller boxes into larger pieces. Here it was just important that the pieces taped together were stable when I tried to twist them apart (I am imagining that I may shift my weight while sitting on them). As long as I taped across all the different surfaces both through width and length, the pieces became pretty stable. There were three directions to tape for this to work. Using techniques mentioned before I limited my use of how many pieces of tape were used, and due to the shape of the containers there was a lot of crisscrossing patterns while taping which helped lock them down and made them stable.

Using already made edges

If I found edges that are straight while cutting cardboard, I tried using them to my advantage. It saved both time and effort and works especially well if one just wants something approximate. As mentioned before I also used straight edges and templates to help mark and make cutting easier. When working with a material you always want to use the affordances given and the properties it has as an advantage.


I hope this advice can be put to good use for those who have read it all the way to this point! I may have tried to explain a bit more than I should, though if one explores the material and figures out reasonable methods in using it (which keep things like cost, time and effort low) these posts should prove useful.


The paper prototyping series

Part I – Paper prototyping

Part II – Knowing your medium

Part III – Repurposing or following purpose

Part IV – Differences in the purpose approaches

Part V – Reinforcements and affordances

Part VI – Final thoughts on construction

Part VII – Chair epilogue

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