Senior Scott McDonald examined the elements of furniture and the origins of aesthetics in a spring 2011 special wood science class in which he performed two major tasks: he developed a survey of aesthetics and created an original piece of furniture. The end product — an elliptical coffee table dubbed “Magnus” — can be rotated to form a rosette shape using magnets embedded under the table’s laminate surface.

“Aesthetics is a difficult quality to describe,” McDonald said. “Amid the differences in furniture style and design choices, I wanted to look at what people think are good aesthetics and apply it to my own designs.”

Over 200 people responded to an online survey McDonald developed, which included questions about aesthetic qualities of wood materials, pricing, and design elements such as height, shape, and style. McDonald presented his survey as a poster at the Forest Product Society’s International Convention in June. He also entered “Magnus” into the Association of Woodworking and Furniture Suppliers’ 2011 Fresh Wood Competition.

“Scott was able to show creativity and experienced the design process,” said Associate Professor Dan Hindman, who guided McDonald’s special study. “He was able to take his concept to completion and produce a finished product. I hope this class can serve as a model for encouraging future students to participate in design.”