As industrial designers we're meant to look at things critically, and to consider the full breadth of the user experience. So take a look at this and tell me what you think:
At first I thought, that's a great idea. You've got nice, frosty beers right at hand. Picnic tables aren't difficult to build, as furniture goes, and the handy among you could bang one of these out using dimensional lumber and a single saw. The trough wouldn't be terribly difficult to add, or retrofit to an existing table; all you'd need are some rain gutters and caps. Should this be one of the summer furniture DIY projects Joel was talking about?
Then I started thinking about how you'd actually use this. When a layperson sees one of these photos, they're only going to picture one moment of its usage: The moment a person is sitting at the table and reaches over to grab a bottle.
As designers, however, we should be thinking about all of the moments before and after, and considering how the user experience of this design stacks up, overall, against the alternative.
At every backyard picnic or barbecue I've been to, the cooler is filled with ice from the freezer's icemaker in the kitchen. Or if the cooler is large, occasionally with a purchased bag of ice. And you always put the beers in first, or at least I do, because then the ice fills up the negative space far easier than if you did it the other way 'round. The cooler is then lugged over to the outdoor dining area.
I like when the bottles are completely submersed in ice. If you avoid overloading it and you keep the lid shut, the beers stay frosty for a good while. If you overload it and keep the lid off, the sun melts the ice in no time and the beers don't stay as cold. In my book, people who leave the lid off are worse than people who leave the door open with the air conditioner on.
At the end of the day you dump it out on the grass or over a drain, then put the thing away. There is no maintenance.
Obviously you're not lugging the thing over to the freezer, so you're bringing the ice to it. If you're using the freezer's icemaker, you need some sort of container to carry the ice. Or you use the big store-bought bags of ice.
With a design like this, inserting the bottles first, then the ice, will be a lot more difficult than just dumping ice into a bottle-filled cooler. Alternatively you could add the ice first, then burrow each bottle down, but I think both are time-consuming.
We're not wine snobs here, so we're going to blow right past the fact that they're drinking Gallo in the photo above. Instead we'll mention two other things I've decided I don't like about this design, which are 1) the limited contact area of the ice, and 2) the exposure to the sun. I like my beers cold.
Then there's the maintenance afterwards. You'll need some sort of drain hole and plug, ideally with the bottom of the trough tilted towards it. Once it's drained, and anytime after it rains, you'll have to ensure there's no standing water. Because if there is, at least in New York City in the summertime, you'll create a breeding ground for the most annoying picnic guests of all: Mosquitos.
Lastly, the beer trough takes up what is arguably one of the more important pieces of real estate on a picnic table, the center. That's typically where the napkins, condiments, bowls of chips and platters of communal food and sides are placed.
Thus, the beer trough picnic table is a no-go for me. What say you?
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I think I can agree with all your "nay" points yet argue that this project is long on the novelty and presentation factor - for instance, maybe for a casual beach side restaurant where table service clears the empty plates, conserving table space, and where you don't want to have people bringing their own coolers. If you really want, you can cover the hole with a long board. Or alternately have square buckets that fit for your chips and dips and there you go there. Hey, put plants like basil in the middle, and make it really "farm to table."
I agree. My wife and I don't drink and so the design is somewhat lost on us, but I think the space would be better utilized to hold condiment bottles, finger foods, etc. And having a removable board as cover makes a lot of sense.
Can you imagine the water dripping on the table and on the food? When you pull a bottle out the cooler it allows for the ice-water to drip off the bottle befor you get to the table, i suppose you could add two rubber skirts on the sides, both for insulation and to act as a sort of squeegy when you pull the bottle up, but it would be ugly.
It's great to read all of these comments! Articulate, critical-without-being-dickish, practical thinking FTW.
I think it is a good example of selling an experience rather than a product - its selling the experience of sitting in the sunshine drinking cold beers with your buddies - which is great.
Whilst most will already have all the individual components to drink cold beers in the sun, this is offering a full all in one package - the end goal. Once users are sold on the experience the nuances of the practicalities of the product often go out the window.
I think it has more utility for wine (see photo with dark stained table) where you may want the bottle to stay upright, you may want to view the selection, and you may be doing more sampling. A situation where the wine is the centre of things and the food is quite secondary.
The center of the table while conveniently located is a pain base on all the points in the post. Now, whenever I have been out to gatherings using picnic tables I have found that the end of the table seems to be the dead area. A much more worthy spot for adding a deeper and wider storage spot for the brews with a drain plug and extra ice capacity. Yet still within arms reach of the person at the end who can pass the cold ones along.
You could easily slant the trough more so on the outmost edge, add a drain plug for easy draining.