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Creating the Pocket Office: A Conversation with Designer Reed Finlay

Andrew Littlefield
Ori Pocket Office designer Reed Finlay

"What you don't get from videos or animations is the magic of what it feels like to hit the button and watch it go."

When the pandemic first hit and millions of office workers found themselves working from home, Reed Finlay—VP Design at Ori—saw the opportunity for a smart space solution. As the new remote workforce created improvised desks out of ironing boards and folding tables, Finlay set out to create an on-demand office that was there when you needed it, but gone when you didn't.

The end results was the Ori Pocket Office—a home office that turns an entertainment center into a spacious office with the touch of a button.

Finlay shares insights into the creation of the Pocket Office and how it evolved from an idea to reality.

How did you first become connected to Ori?

I’ve known of Ori for quite some time. About four years ago, I went to a trade show, came across Ori and was fascinated. I still have photos and videos from my visit of seeing Ori for the first time. And I've been a fan ever since. Fast forward to the spring of 2020 and I accepted a role as VP Design.

What challenges were you looking to solve when you came to Ori?

I come from an architecture background and what I was excited to help us evolve from just product design to space design—how can we transform spaces, and not just create products.

How does that align with your personal design philosophy?

A through-line in my career has been an interest in sustainability. At Ori, we’re working on how you can do more with less space, which directly impacts sustainable growth.

What kind of challenges do people who live in cities face that you hope to solve for?

For most people, city living is just a game of square footage. The larger a space is, the more expensive it is and the more functionality it has, and most people get priced out at a certain size.

What we really do is try to unlock the potential of a smaller space so that people that maybe can't afford a large one bedroom or two bedroom could afford something because we're fitting more functionality into a smaller square footage.

Looking specifically at the Pocket Office, how did you start that design process?

We started working on the Pocket Office on day one. The team had already been thinking about it, but the challenge was “What does the Ori version of a home office look like?”

We started putting pencil to paper right away. The goal was similar to our other products, in that we wanted to create a space that is a full, functional room that you can use when you want it, but you can compact it down to the smallest package possible when you don't.

So for example a closet, you maybe only use ten minutes a day. There's no reason to have static space for that all day long. The same is true with your home office. You use it for 6-8 hours a day, but the rest of the time it sits idle.

How do you make the Pocket Office a true office and not just a desk?

A guiding principle at Ori is creating spaces—we don’t want our products to just be a big moving object, but they should make the space feel like a new room with every transformation.

When the product is open, it needs to feel like a significant, functional room. When it’s closed, it needs to serve another function for the room it’s in. We did a bunch of research and decided that the products makes the most sense in a living room and that the other side of the product could serve as an entertainment center.

What does it feel like to watch this project come together and be installed in apartments across the country?

It's amazing to see this thing actually come to life. What you don't get from videos or animations is the magic of what it feels like to actually hit the button and watch it go. It's a totally different experience in person.

What are your sources of inspiration?

One of the inspirations has always been animation. Pixar, in particular, inspires me through the way they give objects life and character. That very first Pixar film, with the lamp, shows how a product, once you give it motion, actually takes on a persona.

And so with the design of all Ori products, once you bring that movement in, it's a whole new ball game in terms of the character that it expresses. How it moves, what shape it has, what it looks like when it's open, what it looks like when it closes.

With the Pocket Office in particular, it feels sort of like a cocoon when it's closed. The shell is mostly white—it sort of fades away into the background a bit. You almost don't notice it except for the carving out of the front. When it opens, it cracks open like a shell and the interior is a totally different quality. It's warmer, it has more texture, and it's something you want to get into and inhabit.