15 Years of Design
A lot has happened since 2009. We've launched hundreds of products, learning and growing from each success and failure. Join us as we look back on a decade and a half of product design.
The very first Grovemade product—rounded Bamboo Case for the iPhone 3GS.
The iPhone Era
Grovemade started as a bamboo iPhone case company. It was the early days of iPhone, and the first case we designed was for the iPhone 3G.

KEN TOMITA (Grovemade Co-Founder): The curves and complex geometry made for an incredibly difficult case to manufacture.

From the start, our product focus was on making something exceptional that you really couldn't find anywhere else. 'Made the Hard Way' meant flexing engineering muscles and learning how to make a durable, natural case for your iPhone that respected its industrial design. The early bamboo cases were really a canvas for art—back in 2009, a big part of our business was the Artists' Series, where customers could select laser engraved art that would go on the back of the case.
But the industrial design was still a factor—consider the space-door inspired notch that allowed the case to register and look good as you slid it together. The simpler method to bring the halves together was to make a straight line joint—however, it was much less visually interesting. (Hint: keep an eye out for this jog as we journey through the years.)

For the first couple years, we continued developing cases for iPhones (thankfully, with simpler geometries on the iPhone 4 and 5!) and introduced new ranges of iPad skins and wall art. We were learning—about business and product design—and getting our hands dirty in the difficult work of designing, manufacturing and selling physical products.
As we learned and grew, our industrial design muscles were growing. Our manufacturing evolved as well, moving to more complex multi-step machining processes. We continued launching new iPhone cases and in 2013 we unveiled a new, and very heavy, product—the iPhone Dock.
There are common threads here—the minimal aesthetic, the tech focused accessory, and the simple material palette that's totally honest (no adhesive, just solid steel and brass for one handed operation). The ethos of products that look beautiful when they're in use or on their own, and that make your life with technology better.
The original Grovemade Desk Collection featuring bent-wood monitor stand, leather mouse pad, walnut keyboard tray, and various planters and lamps.
Pioneering the Desk Setup
This evolution set the stage for 2014—the year when we started experimenting away from the iPhone, and into more complex industrial design and customer needs.
The Wood Watch was an iconic design, where we took our technical abilities and collaborated with watch designer Stefan Andrén to make something truly unique for the market. As we grew our industrial designs skills, we approached collaborations as ways to learn from experts in adjacent fields. The watch brought our abilities and learnings from the past into a new type of product, and was really about a new approach to telling time, rather than simply slapping wood on a watch.
This brings us to the original desk collection, a first-of-it's kind ecosystem of products for your work. The full design story is here, but in short, the desk collection was a new vision for Grovemade, and a new vision for the market. We realized that the desktop was neglected, so we set out to bring high-level design to that space, to inspire your work. In the years since, this market has become much more mainstream, but it wasn't that way in 2014.
Array of original maple desk collection items—iPhone dock, minimalist wooden ruler, succulent planter, and tool pot.
Investing in the workspace opened up new futures for Grovemade, and it was no longer just about iPhone cases. In that spirit, we discontinued the Artists' Series in February of 2014.

KEN TOMITA (Grovemade Co-Founder): Discontinuing the Artists' Series was a huge gamble. But we were confident—the future was all about the industrial design of the Grovemade products themselves, and less about the products as a canvas for art.

The desk collection has been around for 10 years—inspiring hundreds of thousands of customers, and initiating a culture around desk setups that has continued to grow. But the growth hasn't always been steady, and the years after the desk collection saw a series of new products that taught us a lot and helped us grow.
Wall-mounted entryway collection in maple—wall hooks, mirror, succulent planter, and catch-all.
2015 - 2016
Entries and Exits
From the beginning, we've been honing what it means to be a "Grovemade design." What are the elements that are consistent? What is the point of view and process that help us develop new products? The Desk Collection was a success, and we doubled down on the concepts there and applied them to very different product lineups: from wallets to key rings, entryway organization to table settings.
Overhead of the walnut tableware collection featuring black ceramic bowls, walnut placemat, and ceramic and wood salt & pepper shakers.
Detail of walnut and leather wall hooks.
Close up detail of machining marks on the Grovemade Titanium Key Ring.
Hand inserting tan minimalist wallet into shirt pocket.
Table set with the Grovemade Maple Tableware collection—white ceramic bowls, cup, water pitcher, and flower vase.
Walnut tableware collection pictured on kitchen shelves.
Maple trivet with matching maple salt dish, planter, and white ceramic salt & pepper shakers.
We ramped up our industrial design team, giving it a dedicated space and focus to thrive. The results were impressive in scope—three collections of products, across different materials and spaces. We launched:
  • A pocket knife inspired by a Japanese higonokami knife
  • Solid machined keyrings
  • A minimalist wallet
  • A lineup of ceramic and wood tableware
  • A sculptural wood speaker and amp designed in collaboration with Joey Roth
  • Coat hooks and catch-alls and mirrors for the entryway
  • A laptop stand
Isolated shot of the Grovemade Speaker system featuring a sculptural, rounded walnut shape.

KEN TOMITA (Grovemade Co-Founder): This is the era where we started asking: What does the Grovemade way look like in a new space? Audio, entryway, EDC. The design language is more polished and consistent across very different products.

We love a lot of the products from this period. But we learned that sometimes, the market isn't there or isn't ready for certain products. Some of these products live on (like the catch-all) but many have been retired.
The maple catch-all housing sunglasses, iPhone, and minimalist wallet.

SEAN KELLY (Lead Designer): Sometimes products aren't as popular as we expect—but the cool thing is we always learn from each launch and design process, getting a little bit better each time.

Focus on the Notch
The metal stop on the laptop stand holds an easter egg from the original iphone case: the notch. A small detail, a simple jog, and a testament to how iterative product design is and how we've created continuous threads through our entire history. And a hint: watch for the same notch on our minimalist wallet and our laptop riser.
Bent Walnut Laptop Stand with metal stopper featuring a centered geometrical notch.
The Desk Shelf System
The modern workspace was evolving. We saw the shifts in the technology people used and the way they interacted with their desk, from dual monitors to more and more stuff. In 2017, we dove deep into the workspace again and came up with the Desk Shelf System, a totally new product category for your desk setup. At the time, there wasn't a product that worked for people in their workspace—the term 'desk shelf' didn't really even exist yet!

KEN TOMITA (Grovemade Co-Founder): People would look for desk shelves, but they mostly meant bookshelves for your desk. Ours was purposely designed for the modern workspace as it evolved to handle multiple screens, whether dual monitor or monitor plus laptop.

How did we do it? The full story is here, but we hit the road and studied workspaces and home offices, interviewed customers and fans, and developed an innovative solution, the desk shelf system. It was a huge product for us, and a challenge to design something so large that fit in with the language of all our other products. All the details had to be considered and refined, and this system drew more on having the products interact with each other, sliding in and out and sharing spaces.
Animation of a cluttered desk getting magically organized as the desk shelf system pops into existence underneath everything, with papers and devices flying into place.
We also launched the Minimalist Belt in 2017. A part of our EDC collection, it's a belt many of us still wear to this day. A super simple mechanism, with a solid investment cast buckle and thick vegetable tanned leather strap. It was a belt designed to last forever.

SEAN KELLY (Lead Designer): I wore mine at my brothers wedding. It was so versatile. And the belt buckle was one of the things that lead to the notepad design, the shape of the post.

Disassembled minimalist belts—one tan and one black with unique matching buckles.
Material Side Note
The original Grovemade iPhone cases were machined from bamboo—it's straight, consistent grain allowed for precise machining. Over time, we expanded the palette: in 2012, we transitioned to Walnut and Maple for our cases. Both exceptional American hardwoods, they offered a mature range and finish.
Then, natural vegetable tanned leather and merino wool felt were folded in. They're both excellent at cushioning and softening the metals of tech products, and provide a textural contrast to the hardwood. Then, more experiments and more materials: machined steel, brass and aluminum, cerakote finishes, grained aluminum, and cork.
Four swatches of various materials—dark grey wool, light grey wool, tan leather, and natural cork.
Four swatches of various materials—dark grey wool, light grey wool, tan leather, and natural cork.
2017 - 2019
Eliminate Distractions
From 2017 until 2019, we refined our lineup, primarily in the workspace while keeping some of the adjacent categories going. The wireless charging pad was a classic design in that era—designed in a sprint, all hands on deck to build enough to meet demand, and a wickedly tricky build that required assembling the electronic components and laminating the cork and metal and then sanding flush to grain the metal on an edge grinder. Made the Hard Way!

KEN TOMITA (Grovemade Co-Founder): The process was unbelievable—but worth it to achieve that almost impossible flush look.

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We designed a series of wall shelves, riffing off our desk shelf and adding to the office lineup.
Walnut and cork wall shelves in two sizes, designed to mirror the Grovemade Desk Shelf.
In 2019 we made the decision to end our iPhone case line—a big move allowing us to double down on office accessories and the workspace. The new focus allowed us to tackle product design with even more energy. We launched the headphone stand and desk pen later that year, building out our desk lineup and also jumping into new processes.
Rotating view of the walnut headphone stand with black over ear headphones.

KEN TOMITA (Grovemade Co-Founder): Positioning the pen as specifically a desk pen was a product of our focus—we really designed the pen to be a part of your desk and your workflow.

The Grovemade Black Pen and Walnut Pen Stand among the rest of the Grovemade Desk Collection.
The Grovemade Titanium Pen in use, writing in a notebook.
Detail shot of the tip of the Grovemade Brass Desk Pen.
2020 - 2023
Expand and Update
2020 was a year of flux, as the COVID pandemic reshaped many things. Our years of focus on home office accessories meant we were able to continue innovating, and we designed a range of updates and improvements to our main desk collection and desk shelf system. We also designed new sizes of the desk shelf to accommodate all different desks, but the launch was delayed several years.
The Medium Wool Felt Desk Pad runs the entire width of a standard desk, pictured here with solid walnut wood double-wide monitor stand.
As part of the desk shelf system redesign, we also designed and launched an iPad stand, an updated MacBook dock, and a new laptop riser.
Isolated shot of matching walnut iPad stand, laptop stand, and MacBook dock.
This started an era of expanding on existing lineups, offering a range of sizes and colors. We also continued pushing innovative products, but at a slower pace: a collaboration with Blackwing to introduce a new way to store and manage pencils, and a line of super heavy premium notepads.
The walnut pencil stand as part of the Grovemade Walnut Desk Collection.
Profile view of tan metal desk notepad on black leather desk pad.
Overhead view of the Blackwing X Grovemade Pencil Kit in use.
Modern desk notepad in black, with walnut desk shelf.
In 2023 we launched another round of new products as part of our Note-Taking Kit. Designed in collaboration with creative Matthew Encina (read more here), it grew up from a similar design process to the desk shelf system: start with users; interview; understand needs; and create an innovative solution. It folded in our previous notepad design and dipped more into the process of work, information recall and processing.
Walnut Note-Taking kit with matching desk shelf and dark wool felt desk pad.
The language and form of the display rail pulls from the MacBook dock and iPad stand. Bent steel, cushioned by wool, with floating wood accents—a common motif across our lineup.
A Decade in the Works
All of the above led us to our biggest project yet, a design project that has spanned the last decade, and has been a primary focus for us over the past three years: designing a desk.

In many ways, we've been pointing at the desk since 2014 with the launch of the desk collection. All our products help you to feel inspired in your work, by creating a beautiful space with the right functional innovations to actually help your work. We've been studying and studying and studying, and in many ways, the desk represents the thesis of that work. From the brushed aluminum drawer, to the minimal lines, to the subtle and flexible functions, it's designed in the Grovemade way to help you get your best work done.

Isolated front view of the solid walnut desk shelf with matching hardwood accessories and clamp-on monitor arm.
Grateful for 15 Years
Our 15 year anniversary gave us a chance to look back at all the work, all the new products, all the people and things that have happened since we started our company in 2009. We're inspired to keep pushing, and we're excited to have you along for the journey.

Further Reading