Synecdoche Design Studio

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Female owned

Ann Arbor | Detroit, MI


Synecdoche Design Introduces WORKWALL a Partition with Long-term Design Intent

By Lisa Sauve
May 17, '20 3:31 PM EST

Synecdoche Design Studio, a design/make architecture practice with a portfolio of tech offices, small businesses, and restaurants - as well as the fabrication of bespoke objects - has designed a partition that responds to the current need for protection barriers while incorporating design details that ensure long term use.

Amidst an overwhelming selection of plastic partitions that divide and protect, without doing much else, the Workwall sets itself apart. The design improves the personal workspace by helping to protect employees and guests from the current pandemic’s airborne particles. It establishes a sense of place with character, enables brainstorming with a writable surface, and users can organize Kanban sticky-notes on a vertical area. At only 4 inches wide, the design takes up minimal space on the desk surface and in exchange increases the usable area to the vertical plane.

At the beginning of the pandemic Synecdoche, along with other architecture studios, began 3D printing PPE face shields for medical facilities and first responders. The studio has rapid prototyping tools such as 3D printers and a CNC machine for model making and custom fabrication, but saw their use for the more pressing equipment and quickly shifted gears. While successfully helping supply health care workers with face shields, the team added to the efforts by developing a product that responds to previous and current clients in the small business community working to figure out how to adapt their spaces. The designer mindset of problem solving, rapid iterations, and the fabrication shop led to the first prototype in early May.

With an immediate need for new protection practices and  products, the design considers the long-term impact of materials and use beyond the current pandemic response to the workplace. Small businesses are strained and need equipment that enables them to get back to work safely and affordably. The flexible and adaptive design prioritizes long term use application and stylish details.


36" wide Workwall with frosted panel and double blue handle.

The variety of furniture applications requiring partitions limits the ability of a single clamp mechanism to fit all types. The table top design can span between two level surfaces, avoiding table legs, sit-stand controls, file cabinets, or other accessories that may obstruct the ability to attach. Industry professionals are currently recommending disabling sit-stand controls on desks to keep all desks at the same height limiting variants that may cause spread.

Workwall - cut sheet

The 3 main components are made out of sheet stock with efficient layout to reduce material waste.

The flat pack ready to assemble components reduces packaging waste for shipping and easy storage. Likewise, manufacturing strategies allow efficient nesting of materials to reduce waste from sheet stock production. Threaded screw posts allow for tool free assembly, disassembly, and reassembly. Individual components are easy to customize between frosted and clear panels, width of partition, and color of handle to match the interiors of the use and style preferences.


  • Flat stock design of nested profiles creates an efficiency of material use and low cost manufacturing tactics. 

  • Partnering with local manufacturers in the Detroit area enables quick access to parts and supports local craftsmen. 

  • A slight lift from the table top allows for cable management to easily route underneath to access table top power or grommets. 

  • The predrilled components allow for simple assembly. Easy to align the panels by setting them in the notch of the wood legs, a set of screw posts can be hand tightened with no tools. 

  • Threaded screw posts enable the product to be assembled and disassembled multiple times without wear.

  • The A-frame structure let's Workwall straddle the gap between table tops for a shared partition with individual work surface areas.

  • The trapezoid geometry allows perpendicular panels to align seamlessly.

  • Powder-coated handles give character and customization for large orders to match company branding.

  • The design uses the same legs for all sizes, and uses the same handle for 2 sizes. An efficiency to minimize variable components between product sizes.

  • Cork pads on the base give extra grip and slip resistance while protecting the table surface.


  • Personal partitions between open office desks with whiteboard/sticky note surface.

  • Huddle white boarding sessions in open meeting areas and lounges. Fits on a coffee table!

  • Handle makes for easy grab-and-go for workshops, meetings, and pop-up signage.

  • Separate guests in restaurant dining rooms with cleanable surface (and write daily specials).

  • Panels at point of sale counters to pass payment and papers through the bottom slot.

  • Reception desks with clear panels to greet guests and write notes such as “back in 5”.

  • Classroom partitions that can double as privacy partitions during testing. A modern take on the folder fort.

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