The Picnic of the Future

The Picnic of the Future

his spring’s Design MMoCA showcase provoked local industrial designer Philip Stankard to think outside the box—the picnic box, that is. 

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s biannual event invites designers to select a piece from the museum’s permanent collection and use it as inspiration for their own work.

Stankard’s submission, coalesce // picnic system, an innovative picnic system, appeared in the 2012 Design MMoCA exhibit from April 26 through May 6.

Originally inspired by the al fresco dining at Concerts on the Square, the system is the mere size of a laptop. “The whole point is that it’d be super compact and integrative, the entire picnic system,” Stankard explains.

Furnished with two silicone seats, rubber band storage and metal trays large enough to hold a glass of wine and smaller eats, it is ideal for packed Wednesday evenings on the Capitol lawn.

“I wanted to design a tool that could be created in Madison, for Madison,” he says.

Designing the project was no walk in the picnic park. Preliminary plans endured seatbacks and Stankard even explored venues to expand the traditional picnic basket. “I didn’t want to fall into that trap of just literally making a box,” he says. “I wanted to go outside that and just make it a little bit different.”

The current design is merely conceptual, but Stankard is revising the design to self-manufacture it for consumers. The new design, made from soft goods, will entail fabric-based seat cushions and either a plastic or wood base. He anticipates the final product hitting shelves in local boutiques and small mom and pop shops by next spring or summer.

Future expansion could potentially include subsequent picnic systems and contemporary accessories, including wine glasses that spike directly into the ground.

While adapting his design for the commercial market, Stankard welcomes comments and suggestions from fellow designers and consumers. Learn more about Stankard and his work at

Photos courtesy of Philip Stankard.