Written by Barkman Concrete Published on March 25th, 2020
Like all new products, our Cast Bench had to go through a rigorous, 7-step design process, known as a Stage Gate
process and pass all steps prior to launch. We got to talk to Dennis Bergen, the lead designer of the Cast Bench,
who gave us insights into how this process went for the Cast Bench and his thoughts on the product.
The Cast Bench is a new product this year. Can you tell us the background on how this product came about? What issue did we solve, or what opportunity did we tackle by coming out with this new product?
The Cast Bench was created in order to fill a gap in our bench offerings as well as strengthen our new Cast line. During the start of the design process, the cast line only consisted of four different versions of planters. We thought adding a bench to complement the line would increase the Cast line’s appeal as well as strengthen our site furnishings. This product also offered an economical solution for anyone in the market for a moderately priced bench with a high end urban appeal yet rural aesthetic.
What was it like for you to work with Product Development on this new product line and what did the process look like for you?
Working on the Cast Bench project was extremely educational and will be highly influential for future design standards. This project began to re-imagine what a standard manufactured bench can become and how design can lead to economically priced products that have a beautiful aesthetic. The process always begins with the question of value, what it is we are doing and why. Creating a bench for the Cast line was important and it needed to remain economical, allowing a high-end bench design to enter the market and begin to influence the design of future products. The initial concept for the Cast Bench was to create a product that gave the user a sense of floating. This led to the idea of creating a bench that combined concrete and natural cedar in a way that hid the connection points. This creates a sense of illusion on how the wood is supported and creates a fluid and beautiful bench.
Was there anything unique about the design process or development process that contributed to the final product of the Cast Bench?
In order to have a successful product design and product development team, creative freedom and room for experimentation are needed to advance a concept and allow for innovation. This room for experimentation on the Cast Bench allowed for interesting innovative ideas to become a physical reality, which typically would never have left the sketchbook. Through vigorous prototyping and experimentation, we were able to understand the root causes of any design issues and take an idea that seemed impractical and turn it into a successful product. Over the course of the design process, we altered the design in small steps in order to create a product that is beautiful in its aesthetic, yet functional in any space.
Were there any design challenges or constraints you faced along the way and how did you overcome them?
Through experimentation and prototyping we encountered many difficulties and issues causing us to change design directions throughout the process. However, when these difficulties came about, they only strengthened the overall design. Steel became one of the major issues that had to be resolved in order to complete the project. Due to the curvature of the design, extremely precise dimensions had to be met by our steel department in order for the rebar to actually fit into the mold. However, our steel department rose to the challenge and was able to creatively build a jig that would allow them to manufacture the rebar quickly and accurately. The detail for connecting the wood to the concrete without any visibility of the fastening also became a design challenge. We were able to use a stainless-steel plate that was laser cut precisely to match the placing of the wood, allowing the plate to be bolted to the concrete and wood without being seen.
Was there anything else that was remarkable or noteworthy about the developmental process of the Cast Bench?
Overall, the process and creation of the Cast Bench project went remarkably well. From initial concept to final product, our gatekeepers understood the value of this project and the significance it will have on our customers. The Cast Bench offers an economically competitive product with a high-end aesthetic and superior materials. The feedback we received from the gatekeepers was precise and meaningful, allowing this project to become a reality quickly, with minimal barriers to cross resulting in a beautiful product.