The New Desk Shelf
We launched the original desk shelf in 2017—now, five years later, the fully redesigned system is here. Read on to learn how we designed the new desk shelf system, and what makes it shine.
Everyone Needs More Storage
Let's start with storage. Our design process starts with observation—and our observations showed that people need more storage. We modified the integrated aluminum shelf to span the full width between the legs, more than tripling the shelf space.
A huge increase! But each step in product design is a careful dance of tradeoffs—add one thing, take another away. In this case, we struggled to balance this with the reduced clearance under the shelf.

We agonized over the tradeoff. In the end, we trusted our observations of how people used the shelf to inform the decision.

The full width shelf brings the storage to the front, to help improve your workflow.
A Fluid Flow
As we extended the shelf, we shifted to a two-legged design. Again, this was driven by observation—removing the leg creates a full width garage to slide your desk pad, keyboard and mouse in and out—but it also aligned with our vision for the small and medium shelves (read on!).
Above the metal shelf, we added a narrow post that secures the shelf to the wood top, provides subtle asymmetric energy, and gives you a simple compartment that's just the right size for our desk tray to slide in and out.
Pro tip: Ken uses multiple trays across the metal shelf—an optimized, multi-part storage and organization solution!
Cords, Managed
Cords are a major pain in most people's workspaces.

SEAN KELLY (Lead Designer): The visual clutter is the problem—but creating a solution requires dealing with the huge diversity of cords and devices and layouts people have. It's a tough design problem.

Our approach was to create a simple, flexible solution. We originally designed a bent curve at the back of the shelf as a way to control how far things can be pushed back—the tray now snuggly bumps the back when it's fully slid in. Then we tweaked the geometry to also deftly manage your cords by creating a narrow channel to guide them. It can accommodate any and all cord configurations—centered, left justified, right justified. It's a gently organizing fix which creates a clean look from the back.
Cutting the Chamfer
Next, we considered the legs: we increased the depth to again create more storage space on the metal shelf. This allowed us to explore the interaction between the cork and the deep chamfered edge of the shelf. The legs now cut through the face and back of the shelf, highlighting the detailed level of craftsmanship.

It's a playful cutout—breaking the chamfered plane like that makes for a really interesting energy, something I played with in my days as a furniture designer.

All of the Above, Sized Down
We’d always planned to design smaller sizes. Customer feedback on the original desk shelf gave us the direction to get there. So we jumped in, thinking, “how hard can a size change be?”

KEN TOMITA (Co-Founder): We always think designing a new size is going to be easy. Just scale it down and boom.

But it’s never easy! The small and medium shelves were no exception. Every proportion mattered. Shrinking the total length of the shelf meant adjusting the amount of wood that extends past the cork leg, finding the right spacing between the legs, making sure we didn’t give up too much storage space.
We sketched and prototyped with wild abandon. We adjusted lengths down to the centimeter and stacked all three sizes, one on top of the other, to see how they related to each other. Sean spent hours at the hacksaw, chopping pieces out of the large desk shelf and gluing it back together.

The small, medium and large needed to interact with each other in a logical way.

Lead Product Designer
Our goal was to build the small, medium and large shelves from a cohesive design language—all building blocks from the same set.
Listen to the User
We knew from our research that putting a laptop on the desk shelf set the screen too far far back, making it unreachable. By designing smaller shelf options we opened up a world of modularity, and utility. A laptop could be on one shelf, ready to be pulled closer, and a monitor set back on another. A person could have three small desk shelves on one desk, each for a different use, or set up a couple shelves in an L shape, or stack them.

We’re giving our customers the tools so they can make their setup the best for their work.

Up to that point, we hadn’t fully appreciated how useful it would be to have these building blocks for the desk. We were striving to make a product that would let customers reach that next level of customized workflow.
Design Meets Manufacturing
We’d changed the large desk shelf from a three to a two-leg design in order to accommodate the smaller sizes, where three legs would look odd and cramped. At first though, we tried to keep the three legs on the large shelf, and then size the small and medium so that the same aluminum shelves on the large could be slotted into the small and medium. It would be a cool interchangeability, and a much easier manufacturing process.

But the sizes we’d need to make it work just didn’t look right. We accepted trickier manufacturing, and stuck with a two-legged design through and through.
Always Get Better
After intense iteration, we had a set we loved. Each shelf played well with the other, and all of them upped the storage and utility game. We believe that incremental improvement is real—the workspace evolves, your needs evolve, and our products evolve.

We’ve waited a long time to offer these shelves. We finished designing them three years ago. Then the pandemic hit, and supply chain delays and shortages prevented us from moving forward with a launch. But they’re all here at last, and we’re pumped.

KEN TOMITA (Co-Founder): It’s infinitely better having the small and medium options.

SEAN KELLY (Lead Designer): I like the medium because it opens up space on the desk for other things. I want the medium.

Shop the New Desk Shelf
Pair the new shelf with a desk tray and desk pad for a complete workspace solution.

Further Reading