Folding chair opportunity

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Executive Summary

At this point in our design process we have completed phase two, Opportunity: Market Research and Design Concepts. Building upon phase one, where we dissected competitors products and investigated different areas for improvement upon a folding chair, in phase two we moved into market research and idea generation and selection. We performed four main market research studies. We first looked at consumers in a large group. From this study we found that each individual unfolds and moves chairs in a unique manner; while some unfold in mid-air and then set the chair on the ground, others unfold the chair directly on the ground. We also found portability to be an issue. Our second study was an individual user study where we simulated a consumer using a folding chair at a sporting event. In this study we found that consumers prefer a fabric chair over a metal chair for watching a sport event. Once again we discovered portability was a big issue. For the third market study we interviewed a retailer. A Target employee was interviewed and we found that storage of chairs takes up too much space in the back of the store, which is why they do not keep many in stock. We were also told that the best-selling folding chair is the more traditional chair, and not the fancier models. Our final study was a survey that we sent out to our friends and family. From the survey we obtained large amounts of information about what a consumer wants in his or her chair. The most important characteristics are comfort and portability. After our market research we conducted brainstorming sessions where we came up with a hundred ideas of potential chair improvements. We compared our ideas to current patents and competitors and found that while most of our ideas do have similar products on the market today, all have significant room for improvement. Based off this and our other market research, we picked our four favorite ideas: a chair walker combination, a chair that folds into backpack, a folding desk, and a chair with modular accessories. We made a Pugh chart comparing our ideas to the current standard and a top competitor. Our chairs scored similarly to the top competitor and, given the inaccuracy of a Pugh chart, not too much was drawn besides the implication that all of our ideas are acceptable. We took a final vote and decided to go ahead with the chair that folds into a backpack. We feel this idea reflects our market research well, while also being a good mechanical project. We finished this phase by making a Gantt chart planning out the rest of our semester.

Team Member Roles

Tammy Dvir - DFE, Large Group Study, Patent Search

Sarah Kunka - FMEA, Survey Analysis, Retail Interview, Competitor Search

Mark Sandusky - Stake Holders Liaison, Retail Interview, Competitor Search

Will Maher - Team Leader, Individual Use Study, Gantt Chart

Joe Wynant - DFMA, Large Group Study, Brainstorm Leader

All our group members continued their roles from phase 1 and took on new roles as we entered phase 2. Our group meets twice a week to discuss and work on our chair project; these meetings are collaborative. During these meetings we assign tasks that are to be done for the following meeting. We divided up our market research and for the most part did it individually. Idea generation and top 4 ideas picking, however, were done in our meetings. Our final design choice was decided by a vote. Overall we feel our group has worked very well together.

Market Research

Individual User Study

The purpose of this user study was to observe a consumer who owns and uses folding chairs as an individual. Originally we wanted to go to a little league sporting event and watch the fans as they used folding chairs throughout the game. We were unable to do this due to the time of year. Instead we simulated this by having our friends use folding chairs at intramural games occurring on campus. The main conclusion we found from this study is that consumers using a chair for these events want it to be very portable - more portable than current chairs offer. Also, it was interesting that users preferred cloth folding chairs over metal chairs for sporting events, even if the event was indoors. This is mainly due, once again, to portability. Overall we did not find this to be the most useful market study since the main conclusion we drew was already known from our own experiences with folding chairs.

Large Group User Study

The purpose of this large group user study was to observe how chairs are used differently when a larger event is being set up. We did this by observing a group of five members of a sorority set up for a chapter meeting. We reached two major conclusions based on this study. First, people do not use the chair in the manner expected. Initially we assumed that people store the chair, move it to its location of use in a folded position, and then upon reaching its intended location unfold it. In this observation we saw some girls do that, but others unfolded the chairs at the initial location and then moved them while they were open. Others unfolded the chairs in mid-air while moving from the storage location to the intended destination. The other conclusion we reached is that portability is still one of the greatest issues with the current folding chair design. Girls could, at most, carry two chairs at a time, making the process much more time-consuming than necessary. In addition, as stated before, some girls chose to carry the after it was already unfolding it, demonstrating that its portability isn't much improved with the current folding design. Finally, a major impact on portability is the fact that, because some of these girls are short, these chairs just are not convenient to carry in the intended manner. If someone of a smaller stature were to carry a chair using the handle built in to our original competitor, the chair would likely drag on the floor.

Retailer Interview

An employee interview was conducted at a local Target in Pittsburgh, PA. Various topics were discussed regarding aspects such as chair storage and consumer behavior. The main conclusions drawn from the interview were the following:

  • Due to storage limitations in the back of the store, the store only keeps 3-6 chairs of any given type in storage. The rest are put out in the front of the store on display. Not many chairs are ordered because of this.
  • Chairs are ordered and stocked when they sell out or run low which may lead to a certain chair not being in stock for a while as orders do get delayed and/or put on hold. This is to prevent too many chairs being in stock/storage.
  • The more expensive chairs that had more features are only put out on display and are not kept in storage.
  • The standard black chair (see padded traditional chair in the Pugh Chart) was the most popular selling chair. The main reasons were that it was relative inexpensive, had a comfortable seat, and had certain aesthetic features (patterned seat) not present in other similar less popular chairs.
  • The more expensive chair we examined and was available at Target is commonly bought as a desk chair by students.

It is important to note that that although we did gain a lot of valuable information regarding storage and consumer behavior of folding chairs, we did gain very specific knowledge on the Target store and Target consumer. Other consumers of folding chairs may go to other stores, which have different procedures when it comes to storing and selling folding chairs. These consumers may also different purchasing behaviors than consumers at Target because they may be a different time of consumer. Regardless of this, we felt that the information gained from this interview, while valuable to keep in mind with our design, was not instrumental in how decided on our final design choices so a trip and interview to another store was not necessary.


In order to gain more information about what consumers would like to see in a new folding chair, we sent out an online survey to friends and family members and received 72 responses. The age of the respondents ranges from 18 to 60, with the majority between the ages of 18 and 22, and roughly two-thirds of the respondents were female. We recognize that our data will be slightly skewed towards the preferences of one gender, and even more skewed towards the preferences of a particular age group. However, we feel that the data collected can be used to create a product that will appeal to a larger age group.

When we asked how many times a week they use a folding chair, we discovered that 50% of the respondents use one less than once a week, while 41.7% use a folding chair 1 to 4 times a week. This implies that, at least among this demographic, folding chairs are not being used in place of standard furniture, but are rather used for a specific purpose every so often. Therefore, it may be beneficial to focus on developments that will improve the specific experience for the user, instead of developing a more general chair that tries to meet many needs at once. Following this line of thought, we asked further questions to determine the exact situations in which our respondents utilized folding chairs. Many of the individuals use folding chairs at weekly meetings, sporting events, and for camping and/or hunting. Some other situations that were mentioned are barbeques and beach trips.

The respondents were then asked to rate the importance of various characteristics of a folding chair on a scale of 1 (least important) to 5 (most important). The options were: color, weight, comfort, safety, ergonomics, storage, portability, general aesthetics, durability, life expectancy, material, and eco-friendly design. The chart below shows the results of this question. The top five attributes in terms of importance to the user are comfort, portability, durability, weight, and storage. The least important qualities of a folding chair are color, eco-friendly design, and the general aesthetics of the chair. Therefore, we should concentrate on improving one of the most important five characteristics in our re-design, rather than focusing on a good-looking or tremendously “green” design.

Before we began our market research, we had considered the idea of an easily repairable folding chair. We figured that some consumers may want the option of simply replacing a broken part instead of throwing the entire chair away. However, our survey showed us that this idea is not very popular with most users, with only 33% of the respondents indicating that they would like to be able to repair their own chair. Many of the comments in this section of the survey specify that a chair should be durable, and that if it breaks the user will most likely just buy a new one rather than fixing it.

The last two questions of our survey were more open-ended, and were intended to get a better idea of both what consumers like about the chairs that are currently produced, and what they would like to see in a new chair. When the respondents were asked to describe their ideal folding chair, we received an overwhelming response in favor of a chair that is comfortable, light, durable, and portable; this matches up with the characteristics that came out on top in the previous question. The last question was a bit more enlightening, as the respondents were asked to list various desired features that they have never before seen in a folding chair. The most common responses were cup holders, a footrest, and a headrest. Many people also wanted a tray or table for eating, reading, doing work, etc. Some other uncommon, but still rather interesting, answers were an AC adapter plug, a built-in stereo system, and heated seats.

Overall, the survey was extremely useful to us in our market research phase. It helped us get an idea of what consumers want (and don’t want) in a folding chair, which was useful in generating and then narrowing down possible design concepts.

Top Stakeholder Product Needs

Following our market research, we were able to update our list of stakeholder needs. We narrowed down the list from Report 1 in order to accurately represent the most important needs of both the user and the retailer.


  • Comfort
  • Portability
  • Durability
  • Storage
  • Price


  • Storage
  • Marketability

Top Design Concepts

Folding Desk

The folding desk chair option is fairly lucrative given the common need for a chair user to also need a flat surface. Many survey respondents recognized the utility of folding desks present in airplane seats, popular campus lecture halls (like McConomy Auditorium) and this design strives to accommodate that need. The chair aspect of the design is nearly identical to a standard folding chair. However, an arm reaches off from the right side of the seat, which can pivot about an axis where the backrest and seat bottom meet. The chair can be used independent of the desk being used. The desk surface pivots on its right edge, and is spring loaded. The spring holds the desk surface at the correct angle for both the use and not in use positions, yet allows it to move out of the way of the backrest to be stored or deployed.

Competitor and Patent Search

After conducting competitor and patent searches we found that, although a product similar to ours already exists, we would be interested in developing it further. When we discussed this design, we discussed users like college students living in cramped dorms. Students in this situation may benefit greatly from having a folding chair with a desk that would be convenient and easy to store when it's not in use. We find the current designs on the market insufficient for such a market as most have a desk that is far too small and would not be useful for a student who would likely have a textbook, laptop, and papers out on the desk.

Folds into Backpack

The folding backpack aims to satisfy user needs of portability and storage. By folding into a smaller envelope than the standard chair and using cloth straps, a typical beach-goer could carry the chair plus a few belongings while still having two hands free. In addition to the traditional folding dynamics, this chair would also include a telescoping mechanism (NB rolling suitcases) to make the folded chair fit comfortably on even a short user. The straps would hang from the underside of the seat cushion, not interfering with normal use. Although other versions of this idea exist, ours plans to emphasize portability and storage, rather than simply putting backpack straps on an otherwise unmodified beach chair. Although this is one of our top few design choices, we are aware that fabric is notoriously difficult to design for, and an entirely different matter than Mechanical Engineering related matters aimed for in this project.

Competitor and Patent Search

Competitor research shows that though there are products like this on the market, they are insufficient in two ways. First, from what we found, most of these packs are not the most ergonomic. They are still rather large and bulky and just don't seem to comfortably work with the human body. In addition, most of the current competitors on the market don't have a storage compartment as part of their design. The ones that do have storage integrated, usually have two small pockets, limiting the use. We believe we can improve on the current products by providing a smaller envelope than the standard folding chair and adding more useful storage capabilities.

Modular Accessories

This chair is a basic folding design with room for “clip-on” accessories that personalize the chair experience. There is also a possibility to customize the seat and seat back surfaces with color or type of cushion. This idea stems from the relatively large set of features requested from our market research survey. Ideas harvested from the survey included clip on features such as a lamp, book holder, umbrella, or footrest. Rather than pursuing any of these features individually, our group thought to incorporate all of them through a folding chair design that accommodates a myriad of add-on accessories. This way, a user can purchase the chair, then select the accessories he wants to attach to the chair. This also enables the user to switch accessories in and out over the lifetime of the chair, or for different seasons or occasions.

Competitor and Patent Search

As can be seen above, there are products on the market that have the option of attaching an umbrella to them. There are also chairs designed to have a headrest or footrest attached to them, as well as attachments designed to work with most folding chairs. Still, there is nothing on the market that provides a standardized chair design along with a large variety of possible attachments. This way, people can either choose to purchase all attachments and create chairs for every occasion, or buy specific attachments to create the perfect chair to accommodate their every need.

Chair and Walker Combination

This idea was hatched from the golden egg of the baby boomer generation. Many group members (and survey takers) were aware of the existence of a cane which folds out into a small stool. However, we thought that a folding seat would be a simple way to accommodate the mobility and comfort needs of those already using walkers more than a relatively unstable and uncomfortable stool. The mechanism would allow the seat to drop down from a vertical position on the back side of the front face of the walker. The user could comfortably sit within the frame of the walker. Obviously, any wheels incorporated into the design would have spring-loaded axles so that the weight of the user sitting on the seat would keep it from moving. Hopefully this addition to the already popular walker would be a lucrative option for users looking to upgrade.

Competitor and Patent Search

As can be seen above, an exact version of our design already exists on the market today. Though there surely may be room for improvement on the current product, it is our belief that our time would be better spent developing one of our other designs.

Pugh Chart

Below is a Pugh chart comparing our top 4 ideas to a standard chair and a competitors chair. We based our criteria on things we found to be important to the consumer.

Description Standard Chair Padded Traditional Chair Modular Features Backpack Folding Chair Folds into Walker Folding School Desk
Criteria Weight Datum Competitor Design Design 1 Design 2 Design 3 Design 4
Durable 2 0 0 0 0 0 0
Portable 3 0 + 0 ++ + -
Affordable 2 0 0 - - - -
Safe 2 0 0 0 0 ++ 0
Ease of Storage 2 0 0 0 + 0 -
Comfort 3 0 + + 0 0 0
Functionality 3 0 0 +++ + ++ ++
Easy to Use 1 0 0 - - - -
+ 0 6 12 11 13 6
0 18 12 9 7 7 4
- 0 0 3 3 3 8
Net Score 0 6 9 8 10 -2

The datum chair has to be a 0 as it is our benchmark. The competitor's chair scored well, but this is what we would expect since it is Target's best selling chair. Modular features, folds into backpack and folds into walker all scored well. None of them scored substantially more or less to make us believe there is a significant difference. Given that these chairs scored close to the competitor's chair we believe they are good ideas. The interesting score is the folding school desk score, which is poor. This is not because it is a bad idea, the folding school desk scored badly because we are comparing it to a folding chair and not to a normal desk. The criteria we chose is for a folding chair so our folding desk scored bad. We still believe, based off our market research, that there is a need for this product. If we choose to continue with this idea we would go back and make Pugh chart comparing the folding desk to a normal desk.

Product Recommendation

After a team discussion and vote, we decided to pursue the folding backpack chair. We believe this solution solves a lot of the issues that we found while conducting our market research. It is highly portable (which was a large concern) and although comfort is not part of the main idea, we will work towards making our product comfortable. The dual functionality of the product is also an idea we came across during our market research and something that really enticed the group to pursuing the folding backpack chair. We also believe this design is the right complexity level for our purpose.

User Scenario

Sally is a frequent beach-goer and likes to take a multitude of things with her when she goes. Items she usually brings with her include her beach towel, a book and/or magazine she’s currently reading, a couple snacks, and her sunscreen, as well as a folding beach chair. Currently Sally stuffs her items in a beach bag, which she carries with her folding chair and other various things. This forces Sally to clumsily walk to the beach after she parks her car with no free hands. She always has a hard time making it to the beach while worrying about whether she will drop anything. She also has no free hands to perform any task that may arise. A backpack-folding chair will allow her to eliminate the need for a separate bag and folding chair while being very portable since she can carry everything on her back. This allows Sally to have her hands free to be able to perform certain tasks that were previously difficult to do such as lock her car, etc. This changes her beach going experience by making it a simpler and more enjoyable going to the beach.

Gantt Chart

Our Gantt chart shows our schedule for the remainder of the semester, based off of class deadlines and personal schedules. The chart shows duration and due date for the major tasks needed to complete our project. It also shows who we have decided to be leaders for each, but these leaders are likely to change as we continue our design process.


Full Survey

1. What is your age?

2. Gender

3. How many times a week do you use a folding chair?

4. Rate the importance of the following characteristics of a folding chair:

  • Color
  • Weight
  • Comfort
  • Safety
  • Ergonomics
  • Storage
  • Portability
  • General Aesthetics
  • Durability
  • Life Expectancy
  • Material
  • Eco-Friendly Design

5. In which of the following situations do you use a folding chair?

  • Weekly meetings
  • At your desk
  • Sporting events
  • Camping/hunting
  • Campus events
  • Other (please specify)

6. If you responded "sporting events" to the question above, please specify which events.

7. Do you care about being able to repair your own chair?

8. Describe your ideal folding chair.

9. What features have you never seen on a folding chair, but would like to see?

Brain Storming Techniques

We broke our brainstorming session into two parts. The first part took place in class. We used a simple round robin process where each member had a turn to say their idea, this got us our first 45 ideas. We then came up with ideas individually and did our competitor research. Our final ideas were brainstormed together during a group meeting. We discussed our individual ideas and competitor findings to come up with additional ideas. The other technique we used during this meeting was to think of specific people or events and come up with a folding chair that fits the needs of that event or person. Our full 100 idea list can be found below.

100 Top Ideas

  • Cup holders (not cloth)
  • Formations of folding chairs
  • Folding couch
  • Back and legs that slide
  • Folding bench
  • 3 step folding chair
  • Spikes into ground
  • Sleep number seat
  • Reclining folding chair
  • Foot rest
  • Modular features (clip on cup holder, reading light)
  • Backpack folding chair
  • Not sinking into ground
  • Hover chair
  • Umbrella type folding chair
  • Seat warmer
  • Extension cord attached
  • Unfolding at touch of button
  • All surfaces are memory foam
  • Magnetic folding chair
  • Flat (8 stack in 1 foot)
  • Folding into different shapes (square, cylinder)
  • Fit into a backpack
  • New way to store folding chairs
  • Storage unit that set sup rows and columns (self-controlled vacuum)
  • Folding chair for 2 people
  • Jet pack folding chair
  • Folding chair with swing up desk
  • Folding desk
  • Roof type attachment against glare/rain
  • Somewhere to attach an umbrella
  • Nice wooden folding chair
  • Pop up chair
  • Chair that can adjust to terrain
  • Easy to clean (camping)
  • Handle for carrying
  • Massaging chair
  • Drink chiller
  • Attachable bbq
  • Battery folding chair so you can change a computer/phone
  • Folding chain that connects to a keg
  • Folding chair with wheels
  • Folding desk chair
  • Kneeling folding chair
  • Boat folding chair - doubles as life vest
  • Head-rest
  • Storage space in the chair
  • Different posture folding chairs (leaning on)
  • White board surfaces on chair
  • Seat hung from springs for comfort / terrain
  • Telescoping legs for storage / adjustment
  • Velcro cushions
  • Place to hang purse
  • Mutual functionality (like tray tables on airplane seat backs)
  • Seat belts and handles (for the jews)
  • Insulin injector
  • Arm rest
  • Under seat compartment
  • Clam chair
  • Explicit book holder
  • Speakers
  • Gaming features - steering wheel or pedals
  • Self leveling (prevents rocking)
  • A set of chairs folds in different ways - the first ones fold to form a cart to stack the rest on
  • Talk to it
  • Laser levels for easy rows and aisles
  • Built in bottle opener
  • Built in corkscrew
  • Ice maker
  • Clamp for stadium bench seating
  • High friction (no sliding)
  • Drying functions
  • Snaps onto a tree
  • Liquid cushions
  • Color changing (mood)
  • Doesn’t fold
  • No back (but not a stool)
  • Accommodates weird sitting
  • La-z-boy style
  • Hand truck functionality
  • Fold out mirror
  • Acoustic amplifier built in
  • Folds into a game (cornhole)
  • Folds into a walker
  • Water purification functionality (in hollow tubes)
  • Hot plate?
  • Disposable folding chair
  • Built in flint / lighter
  • First aid / first responder functionality
  • Built into a golf bag
  • Folding toilet
  • Edible (if you are in a pinch)
  • Hydrogen fuel cell
  • Marshmallow stick holder
  • Lightening rod
  • Can tell if your shoes are untied
  • Foldable barber’s chair, holds barber tools
  • Built in light
  • Hand powered generator built in
  • Camera tripod (universal thread)


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