Outlet Hub: Good Design

FullSizeRenderHave you ever gone to the library to power through your homework, noticed that your laptop was dying, and then tried to plug it in to charge it, only to find that there’s no convenient place to do so? Often the closest outlet is already occupied, inconveniently placed in relation to the furniture, or most commonly, several feet further away than your charging cable is going to allow. Over the last several years, the Wallace Library at RIT has made efforts to combat this issue, though not many of the solutions they have provided have been totally effective.

One solution that has been introduced is the outlet hub. This is a circle of four outlets which sit in the center of a high table. While this design certainly aids in reducing the strain on the existing outlets in the library, it is not a design without flaws.

When walking into the library this table is the one of the largest and among the most visually striking in the room, immediately drawing your eyes to the coveted outlets in the center. This table, and the outlets that it provides, align with the characteristics of Eudemonia. This is because it provides a sense of fulfillment to the users who know they will always be within reach of a power supply when it is necessary. It also helps us meet a condition for human flourishing; in this case, education. Without it we would likely struggle to complete our work in the library. One may also be able to argue that it provides some of the characteristics of Enargeia. This is because of how the object is fairly unique, at least within the library. This may evoke a sense of wonder.

As I said, the design has its flaws as well. With the outlet hub being so visible, any cords being run to it are going to be in the way of the people working at the table. It also allows some cords to run to the floor and then along the floor to the wall, which may be problematic. This could be solved by putting the outlets underneath the table, but then you are sacrificing the visibility of the device, and therefore much of its functionality as well.

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2 thoughts on “Outlet Hub: Good Design

  1. I am actually in the library right now as I am reading all the blog posts. I agree that this is a good design in the idea stage. To provide more readily available outlets in the library, so the students can stay and charge up their devices as they continue to work on projects and homework. However even before this particular design was implemented the library had outlets (more like power strips) at almost every table along the parameter of the floors. Each Desk/table has it’s own extra lighting and power outlets (usually underneath the desk). Because of this fact the only tables that were missing out on the outlets were the larger group project tables.

    So again, I agree that these were a good addition, however I must disagree with you about the characteristics of Eudemonia and the characteristics of Enargeia. I disagree with Eudemonia because the library already had tons of available outlets, and the users just need to sit down at the correct tables. Therefore I would not agree that this gives them a sense of fulfillment, possibly a ease of mind knowing that they don’t have to make a conscious choice about where to sit but rather can just expect to always be close to an outlet. As for the Enargeia, I can not see how adding 4 outlets to a large table brings a sense of wonder, again referencing back to all the other tables and desks within the library that have had outlets for a long long time.

    Overall I appreciate you bringing an example of a “good design” to the classes attention, and fully agree that this invention/design “helps us meet a condition for human flourishing; in this case, education”.

  2. While I do agree that this has many good design features going for it such as being easily visible, and being simple to use I do feel that some of the characteristics of it’s design are flawed. Just this past week I sat at a table in a lap that had one of these outlets on it, but the table was on the smaller side. What I found with it’s design that bothered me was that having it come off the top of the table hurt the usable surface space. If I wanted to set up a screen or laptop for multiple people to view I’d have to go around it or over it instead of just being able to push it, and by it being dead center it was convenient for a plug but inconvenient for using the table for other things than electronics.

    I think that the design of this would be better if the outlets were flat on the table or even on the sides of the table to keep the usable space free of blocks. I think this approach still gives the easily visible and accessible qualities while adding to the usability of the table.

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