We Need more Contexte

A person setting down a stack of papers and table on a small piece of plywood.

Jose Cabrita is a French industrial designer who believes research, observation, and intuition are important elements to reach people with designs that provide simple, refined solutions. Those skills are on display with his recent design work for Contexte Design, a French furniture and accessories brand.

I took notice of their product named ‘Pupitre’, French for ‘reading desk’.  Pupitre was conceived to support both older analog and modern digital ways of reading through an elegant, functional, and simple solution.  To achieve this Jose settled on plywood as the material to achieve the required result.

Top view of a plywood organizer with a slot cut at the top edge to hold a tablet

Jose Cabrita X Contexte Design

Contexte Design stated that, “with the evolution of technology and the advent of devices such as smartphones, e-readers and tablets, reading habits have changed.  Moving on from paper to on-screen reading, users are processing information in ever faster and more interactive ways. Nevertheless, paper has not lost its place in the home. The tangible quality and effortless readability of the printed word will not go out of fashion any time soon.”

They’re definitely not wrong about this.  Just looking around my lounge I see two tablet computers, a stack of magazines, and a paperback book. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to this product, because I need it. They’re making me aware of the mess my desk and coffee table are with my stuff strewn about.

The Design

I want to get into the design of ‘Pupitre’ because that is what I find special about it. The very simple selection of details create significant functional improvements.  The most noticeable detail is the slight curve of the design. This to me is where plywood becomes the obvious choice. Due to the product’s size and shape, if it were made from solid timber it would be highly susceptible to cracking, but plywood and its cross-laminated layers mean this isn’t a concern. 

Plywood board used as stand for magazine and tablet. In a scene on a table with a cup of coffee and a person writing on a notepad.

The simple curving shape creates three distinct benefits. The most obvious is the cradle shape which holds all of your magazines, paper backs, and even the tablet, when not in use. The second and my favorite surprise of the design is how the curve makes it so easy to use.  Lifting the edges away from the table creates a natural place to grab so that it can easily be moved. And the last but not so obvious detail, when using the slot to hold the tablet it makes it easier to adjust the angle of the tablet, to deal with screen glare.

close up view of curved plywood board showcasing a slot that is used to hold a tablet
Side view of plywood board holding a table display

Contexte is all about making honest, simple and useful objects, and all of their products are manufactured in France by small factories with highly skilled craftsmen.  When asking them about what goes into making ‘Pupitre’, they talked about how the plywood veneers are glued and pressed to create the curvature, and that a 4 axis CNC router is used to cut the slot and final shape.  This seems like a pretty tidy process for a very refined design.

To see more of their work visit their website Contexte-Design or check out their Instagram at @Contexte_Design