Designing the MX Keys Keyboard Tray
In the latest and greatest adventure in keyboard accessories, we made a tray for the Logitech MX Keys. Here’s what went down (and around!) in the design process.
Seeds Planted Long Ago
We designed our original Apple keyboard a long time ago, and it’s gone through a few alterations. It was the only keyboard we had a product for, for various reasons. But over time, the Logitech MX Keys started to catch our attention as a hole in our lineup. The idea came to us when two conditions intersected:

  1. We were all using Logitech products. We admired their product design.
  2. The Apple Magic Keyboard changed from sharp corners to bigger, rounder ones, with bigger radiuses and a radius on certain keys. These corners were reminiscent of the MX Keys.

In that two-fold moment we realized it might be time to make a tray for the MX Keys.
Sean bought a couple of the keyboards and tried slipping them into the newest Apple keyboard tray, confirming that the corners truly were similar! This was exciting. Sean already liked the Logitech MX Keys. They’re purpose built, have straightforward functionality, and bring good looks to any workspace. Now all they needed was a tray.
Ask Questions
Starting a new product design always starts with questions: Can we adapt our design to Logitech? Can we expand our accessory product line to another company that a lot of us use, and that a lot of our customers use? What are the risks?

To answer the last question first: the major risk was in entering a new territory. We have years of experience with Apple. We know their product consistency, and rely on it.
We were nervous about jumping in with Logitech. We had to believe they would be consistent without yet having evidence to show it. The only way to answer this was to give it a shot. (Spoiler alert: they are!)
As for the first two questions, the answer was yes, without hesitation. It seemed like a no-brainer, a logical and easy next step.

We had to put a dollar in the 'easy jar.' The decision made sense, but it wasn’t easy!

Lead Product Designer
We’d find the challenges soon enough...
Various 3D printed prototypes of the MX Keys Keyboard Tray during the design phase.
Ready, Set, Enter. Backspace!
Once we started sketching, we realized we had quite a design hill to climb.

The MX Keys required a different geometry because of the back foot, and it took a lot of incremental iterations to get it just right. Ben 3D printed six different versions and tried seven rounds at the mill before nailing it.

Applying a current design language to a new product is often more difficult than designing from scratch.

What was the hold up? The front piece kept being too thick, and the angle was blocking the keyboard, not letting the design shine. What did we do? We made the front piece bigger and got it to 1/16th of an inch. Very slim, and yet no slim feat!

We tweaked that angle again and again by fractions of an inch until it was perfect. Another not-so-tiny effort for a very tiny change.
Side view detail of the steel and walnut wood keyboard tray for MX Keys.
Well, tiny in physical space, but huge for the design.
Time to Celebrate… The Materials
We’ve simplified our keyboard tray design over time. But for the MX Keys tray, we looked back to the original tray and took inspiration from its more complicated construction, feeling it would be the best way to let the materials and design sing.

SEAN KELLY (Lead Designer): The keyboard tray is fun and hard, because you have to sculpt something that exclusively houses that product, accentuating the dimensions that already exist.

The keyboard itself sort of floats, thanks to the bump out in the back. To make the whole tray feel like it’s levitating, we opted for a three-sided frame, leaving the back exposed. This also creates a dynamism, bringing energy toward the person typing and letting the keyboard almost leap up at you.
Additionally, we had to consider that the Logitech was already at more of an angle than the Apple keyboard. Keeping the back wood-free allowed us to keep the angle we wanted—an angle that perfectly matched the angle of our Apple keyboard tray.
Then there’s the fact that the back needs to be accessible to plug in!

So the three-sided frame was a path where function and beauty could meet, a contrast between wood and not-wood, frame and not-frame, that’s easy to use and easy on the eyes.
Look Closely
Speaking of eyes, use yours to notice the exposed metal piece. We use really nice aluminum and it’s fun to let it show a bit. We also leave the machine marks on that metal.

KEN TOMITA (Grovemade Co-Founder): It’s beautiful to see machine marks. It’s a sign of taking the hard road, a sign of precision.

Once the keyboard is in the tray, take a minute to gaze.
The back of the Walnut MX Keys Keyboard Tray, open for access to the charging port.
The keys themselves have round corners, and circles within squares, and the keyboard echoes it. On that note—
Turning a Corner
We did turn a lot of corners in this one. Obsessing over it was one of our favorite parts, letting us totally play with how materials appear and disappear.

Really this is an exercise in radius design.

A illustrated gradient of various degrees of radii.
Just like the keys themselves, we have a sharp radius on the outside and a rounder radius on the inside. We have a playful double-radius on the top corners—a move that took a lot more tweaking to perfect.

SEAN KELLY (Lead Designer): You notice a radius if it’s off. But a perfect radius is so pleasing it’s hard to notice.

A perfect ratio of radiuses is also hard to notice. We could’ve done the same radius on the front as the back. But on the front it’s much tighter, and the back is bigger. It’s a layered look that dances.

SEAN KELLY (Lead Designer): The big-to-small shift gives a forward momentum, almost like the hood of a car coming down.

KEN TOMITA (Grovemade Co-Founder): Or a star destroyer.

Whether your team car or star destroyer, dynamic is the name of the game.
Wrap Up
Once we’d hit the mark, we made a wrist rest with the same design language and sat back to observe our keyboards’ new home. We felt satisfied: the tray brought elements of early Grovemade days, folded in years of learning, and embraced new design language to rise to the occasion. A new favorite.
And speaking of favorites, Ken’s favorite part is the radius play at the corner. Sean’s favorite part is…the geometric play at the corners.
Precision Fit
The Grovemade Keyboard Tray is a distinguished landing spot for your Logitech MX Keys keyboard. Carved from solid American hardwood, it adds a handsome accent to your workspace. Natural cork lines the base, protecting your desk and keeping your keyboard in place. Each tray is hand sanded and oiled for a rich, lustrous finish.

Further Reading