How many spools of cord on the wall?

A repair team needed access to 25 colours in 3 different sizes.  This lead to having 75 spools of cord on a grid wall.  If these were just left for the team to choose from the jumbled mess that would have ensued is cringeworthy for even the mildest of OCD.  With the cord wall in plain view of visitors and executive staff I thought it best to keep the area clean and organized.

I devised a simple little organizer frame that mounted to the grid wall to organize the cord by size and colour.  There was space left on the organizer for the team to identify as required for re-ordering. I also included a reference guide for cutting lengths for the common uses and sizes required.  

The grid turned out to be a perfect use of space for the cord and I was able to utilize each corner as a fulcrum to pull the cord off the spools.  I had the parts laser-cut for size accuracy and the shop used left-over material from other projects as this was to be a on-off and not require a full raw material order for bulk production.  

The final goal was to have a cutting station set-up where users could grab the size and colour of cord required, use a metal hook as a fulcrum to pull out and measure against a measuring tape on the bottom board and then use a hot-knife to cut and seal the end of the cord – making the entire process take less than 5 seconds.  However, the project was scrapped after version 2 as it was not viewed as a priority.  

Product Knowledge

I researched the most common items requiring replacement cord and developed a reference chart based on cord size, length and cord end.  If there was not a cord end and the cord was just in a knot then the length would need to accommodate the extra length required for the knot.  The measuring tape and reference guide were integral to the successful use of the cord cutting station.

Comfort Level

The common practice previous to this was to cut the cord with scissors, melt the end using a lighter and pinch it closed in order to seal the end so it wouldn’t fray.  The tended to leave melted nylon on the finger tips – which not all users were fond of.  The Hot Knife method would eliminate the need for burnt fingers and a need for multiple lighters (and open flame) around the department.


To design for public spaces the goal is to include from the 5th to the 95th percentile so  the placement of the workstation was to be roughly at a standing workstation height while allowing for the adjustability of the grid wall to raise/lower as required.

Version 1

I grouped the sizes into the 25 colours required by the Operations team and spread those out across the limitations of the grid wall pattern.  But, then I found mounting the three separate organizers would be time consuming and cumbersome to “reload”.  I moved on to Version 2 eventually accepting that Version 1 would not work with the final Workstation goal.  

Version 2

Using the Workstation as a guide I spread out the required holes across the grid wall horizontally.  The user could then select the desired cord and use the Reference Guide and Hot Knife to cut to length.  The organizer would be mounted to the grid using shock cord and spring-loaded cord adjusters – 4 along the top, 4 along the bottom and 1 at either end to prevent ‘flapping’.  After getting this prototype made up and installed there were some usability issues when it came to reloading the organizer from the back. The limited space between the grid wall and the actual wall meant that reloading was very difficult and time consuming.  Almost all of the connectors would need to be undone to gain access and then re-attached afterwards leaving the user with a sense of tediousness and frustration.

Version (3) + 4

After making slight adjustments to Version 2 and getting another one made I skipped straight to Version 4.  This Version 4 incorporated slots for the vertical supports and limiting the number of upper mounting points to 2 instead of 4.  These features allowed for easier access when reloading as there were only two cord adjusters to un-clip and the entire face plate could rotate downward.  Each new cord being loaded in could be easily inserted from the back side and then the faceplate repositioned for use.  

It also included some more obvious identification of size groupings visible from a distance.  

*Due to the nature of the business and extenuating security issues I am not able to display the reference guide.*

There will always be room for improvement

Although the project is done there is still so much that could be done to improve department usability, functionality and general sense of pride in the work.  This was a small project in the grand scheme of things but I think it showed the level of user engagement I look at when designing a functional item that fits within the liminal space that is the hand-off of tasks between departments.