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Year in Review: Top 5 Products for Education Spaces in 2023

December 14, 2023
  • K-12 Education
  • Higher Education

Discover our top education furniture solutions from 2023 based on how K-12 schools, colleges, and universities are transforming their learning spaces.


 

In the dynamic landscape of education, the evolution of learning spaces is integral to facilitating effective teaching and learning experiences. As K-12 schools and higher education institutions continually seek to optimize these environments, the significance of adaptable, student-centric products became increasingly apparent throughout 2023. 

Now more than ever, schools are prioritizing comfort, flexibility, and student choice. This underscores a departure from traditional rigid classroom structures toward a more holistic approach that prioritizes teacher and student well-being and engagement. 

Our most popular design solutions from this past year are directly aligned with these themes. From supporting modern pedagogical ideologies to personalized and inclusive learning experiences, the top products specified by our education clients serve students and educators with modern, human-centered learning spaces.

In our 2023 year-in-review for K-12 and higher education, we share these top 5 products and spaces. 

 

Top 5 Products for K-12 Education

In K-12 school spaces, we observed leading product trends in learning spaces and classrooms, libraries, cafeterias, lobbies and lounges, and makerspaces. Top products in these spaces support the needs of each environment. 

1. Learning Spaces: Ruckus Collection 

The classroom is where the magic happens! At KI, we know that a well-designed learning space caters to the diverse needs of students and educators. By leveraging universal design in physical spaces, educators can create active, inclusive spaces for all.

The Ruckus collection supports teachers in prioritizing flexibility, flow, functionality, and comfort, all of which are essential to student learning. Teachers and students benefit from designated storage for their belongings, documents, and technology. Mobile teacher lecterns offer a space-saving alternative to traditional desks. Ruckus chairs easily adapt to allow students to choose how they sit and learn. As our most comprehensive education furniture collection (which is expanding even more in 2024!), the Ruckus line can be adapted to suit the ever-changing needs of students and teachers on the go.

(L) Upper Merion Area High School learning space with Ruckus chairs and activity tables; (R) Southwest High School learning space with Ruckus storage, desks, and chairs. 

 

2. Libraries: Intellect Wave Collection

Over the past decade, libraries have evolved into the heart of schools. What was once a quiet place for borrowing books is now a bustling hub where students and teachers collaborate, work, and figuratively and literally recharge, as personal devices have evolved into integral tools for learning and sharing. Administrators utilize the library for after-school staff meetings, while community members may use it for meetings, training sessions, and even voting.

When designing school libraries, considerations are similar to the classroom with functionality, flow, and comfort, all of which can be well-facilitated by our Intellect Wave Collection. Chairs and desks come in ergonomic forms to support student comfort, which can improve attentiveness. For students who work best when moving or fidgeting, the Intellect Wave rocker allows students to gently and safely rock back and forth, providing movement that can enhance focus and alertness. This simple rocker attachment can be added to any new or existing Intellect Wave cantilever chair.

(L) KI showroom space with Intellect Wave chair with rocker; (R) Brigadier General Anna Mae Hays Elementary School library featuring Intellect Wave chairs and Pillar tables.

 

3. Cafeterias: Uniframe Tables

School cafeterias are essential areas where students and staff go to enjoy meals and socialize. They also double as versatile spaces for school and community gatherings. Such central commons in K-12 buildings should balance functionality and cleanability, adapting their design based on the age and grade levels of the individuals using the space.

Easy to rearrange, our Uniframe tables allow schools to accommodate multipurpose functions, from all-school assemblies to lunch meetings for a single department. With six dynamic shapes including round, square, and hexagon, Uniframe tables are also easy to clean, move, and store, giving schools the option to quickly clear the cafeteria space for a school dance or physical education class.

(L) Marinette High School cafeteria with Uniframe tables; (R) Franklin Christian Academy cafeteria with Uniframe tables.

 

4. Lobbies & Lounges: MyPlace Lounge Furniture

The lobby is often the first impression of a school, responsible for setting the tone of a welcoming atmosphere for students as well as parents and community members. This space demands safety, comfort, and aesthetic appeal, making it a perfect place for MyPlace lounge furniture. We often see schools mix-and-match contrasting fabric options and customizing with school colors and logos.

In lounges, we also see a focus on supporting well-being and offering staff a respite from daily stressors. MyPlace modular seating and occasional tables turn lounges into restorative places where teachers can socialize or regroup before the next class. Power integration makes it easy for teachers to do some lesson planning or grading in a quiet space, while our newer high-back models provide added privacy.

(L) Greenwich Academy lobby with MyPlace lounge furniture; (R) Westfield High School lobby with MyPlace lounge furniture. 

 

5. Makerspaces & Innovation Centers: Stout Tables 

School systems vary in how they use the term “makerspace,” but the common objective of these spaces is to encourage creativity, hands-on learning, and collaboration. They’re typically situated within a designated lab area in K-12 settings, but smaller schools may start by integrating a makerspace into a library or media center.

Whether you’re aiming to design a classroom for an art class, woodshop, or robotics class, Stout tables can help create a highly functional makerspace with a large, industrial-grade surface for creative materials. These sturdy rectangular tables are specifically designed to withstand high-impact, hands-on activity and can be outfitted with storage accessories and outlets for charging laptops, batteries, or other electronics so that learning won’t be interrupted.

(L) Sumner High School makerspace with Stout tables; (R) Canyon Ridge Middle School makerspace with Stout tables.

 

Top 5 Products for Higher Education

Interior design within higher education showed leading trends among gathering spaces, learning spaces or classrooms, lecture halls, conference rooms, and cafés and residence halls. Our top products offer specific solutions for the needs of those spaces. 

1. Gathering Spaces: Pirouette Tables 

Pirouette tables serve as a versatile option in large gathering halls. Nine unique shapes allow for dynamic configurations, adapting to various event layouts and functional requirements. Their unique nesting capabilities make them easy to stow away and optimize space when they’re not in use. Height adjustability accommodates diverse users and activities in support of inclusivity.

Incredibly versatile, Pirouette—our number one best-selling table line—offers high value to adaptable and inviting gathering spaces, enhancing the functionality and aesthetics of larger venues. 

(L) Canadian College gathering space with Pirouette tables and Katera stack chairs; (R) Montana State University with Pirouette tables and Strive stack chairs.

 

2. Learning Spaces: Learn2 Seating 

Creating effective learning spaces for higher education requires careful planning to ensure spaces are conducive to diverse teaching methodologies. For colleges and universities, adaptability in learning spaces is essential for fostering a range of thought-provoking Socratic discussions to hands-on learning and practical applications.

Learn2 seating can accommodate the requirements of any learning approach with its dual-handed worksurface that swivels 154 degrees, easily accommodating individual work or dynamic configurations for partner or group work. A seat that swivels left and right eases egress and ensures inclusivity for all students.

(L) Fairleigh Dickinson University learning space with Learn2 seating; (R) Collin College learning space with Learn2 seating and Backbone tables. 

 

3. Lecture Halls: Fixed Seating

Our fixed seating solutions are ideal for delivering comfort and functionality in college lecture halls and auditoriums. Various seat and base styles are specifically designed to enhance the learning and engagement experience in larger academic settings.

Ergonomic designs ensure support for extended periods of sitting, while fixed configurations make for efficient space utilization. With a wide range of options for superior form and function, our fixed seating solutions create an atmosphere of focused learning, making them a fitting choice for lecture halls of any size and scale.

(L) University of Tulsa lecture hall with Single Pedestal fixed seating; (L) University of Kansas lecture hall with Sequence fixed seating. 

 

4. Conference Rooms: Doni Guest Seating

Doni guest chairs provide a welcoming and comfortable seating solution for conference rooms on college campuses. With 17 degrees of hip articulation and body-conforming curves, Doni helps students and faculty stay engaged and productive during extended meetings or presentations.

In addition to unique two-tone color options, Doni offers a contemporary style that complements modern conference room aesthetics and creates an inviting atmosphere. Specifiers can choose among a comprehensive range of other Doni chair styles, including stack and task seating, to ensure a consistent design language across various areas throughout a collegiate setting.

(L) St. Francis College conference room with Doni guest chairs; (R) Collin College conference room with Doni guest chairs. 

 

5. Cafés & Residence Halls: Strive Chairs 

High-traffic areas such as college cafés and residence halls demand a comfortable, mobile, and easy-to-clean seating solution.

Strive seating offers an excellent choice with an ergonomic, flex-back design that encourages movement for enhanced circulation, while its lightweight structure and durable construction make it a lasting, practical, and high-value choice for busy areas on campus.

University of Texas Permian Basin café space featuring Strive café stools and stack chairs and Portico tables. 

 

Lasting Choices for Learning Spaces

As 2023 comes to a close, we find inspiration in all the innovative ways our customers have used our products throughout the year to create inviting and inclusive learning environments.

These top education products, widely valued for their comfort, flexibility, and alignment with student choice, have played a pivotal role in shaping education spaces across K-12 and higher education institutions. As foundational furniture solutions, these top picks have proven value in encouraging autonomy in learning and fostering a sense of belonging.

Next, we look forward to sharing our 2024 outlook for education design trends and practical insights for the new year. Be sure to subscribe to both market and product insights to be the first notified of updates from KI. 

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Also, be sure to contact your dedicated KI representative to discuss these top products and spaces in greater detail. 

BONUS CONTENT

Download the takeaways for our Top 5 Products in K-12 and Higher Ed.

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by Bryan Ballegeer  Education Market VP

As KI's VP of Education, Bryan provides KI with research and insight into education. Bryan previously served as the Director of Operations for Success Academy Charter Schools. He has direct experience with collaborative, problem-solving education models along with a passion for service. He holds a Chairman position with Stem For Dance, a non-profit that provides young women of color exposure to STEM-based fields of study. Bryan holds a Master’s in Supply Chain Management from Rutgers University having received his undergraduate degree from Indiana University.

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