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Anatomy of a Lectern


The first entry in our multi-part “Anatomy of” series, the lectern is ubiquitous to a slew of different applications. From teachers and keynote speakers to conference meetings and medical presentations, lecterns spearhead a majority of informative discussions.

Although the specifications are unique for each project, there are a few key elements all users should consider prior to design and procurement.

Elbow Room

Through it seems rather obvious, it's important to keep the furniture design at the forefront of every project, especially when planning a new or remodeled space. Space can very quickly become an issue. If the specifics of the lectern build are not ironed out early on, you may be left with very little space and limited design options when all is said and done. This is especially true if you find there's a multitude of required technology that needs to be integrated.

What's important to consider right off the bat is what's going in the piece and then work outward.  If you've got a stockpile of equipment that needs to be housed (monitors, touch panels, racked amplifiers and switchers, microphones, cable boxes, retractors, etc.), discuss with the specified furniture manufacturer how much space would be needed to allow proper fit and function of all aspects. Consider any moving parts – will the surface pull out, is there a keyboard shelf, does the unit have height adjust, are there any side shelves or document camera drawers? If you've got parts that will increase the depth, height or width of a piece at some point during use, ensure that the space surrounding the overall unit is usable and can accommodate such options. This consideration also applies to anyone that may be seated at the unit. Space needs to be set aside for chairs, wheelchairs or stools.

Color Theory

Just like choosing the appropriate garb for an event, it's important that a lectern, especially one that is the focal point of a room, make the right impression. The material or finish can transform a lectern from traditional to modern. Matching it to colors, woods and accents in the room ties the entire atmosphere together. Topping off an excellent design with the right finish is crucial – the lectern may be functional, the space may be sufficient and the style may be spot out but if it sticks out like a sore thumb, the success of its design falters.

It's important to consider what aesthetic elements you would like integrated into the lectern. If there is a particular veneer already being used in the millwork of a room, it's important to determine early on if using it on the lectern will incur an up charge from the furniture manufacturer. Some woods may be exotic or are not a company's standard choice and will need to be ordered for the project.

If a space has elements of modern style (metal accents, bright colors, glass overlays, etc.), it follows that any new piece of furniture should embody these aspects as well. Speak with your furniture supplier before hand to ensure they have the means necessary to implement the materials or design features you'd like to see.

My Name Is

Although it's sometimes an afterthought, deciding whether to include signage on a lectern is a crucial early step to explore when designing your next custom piece. Logos can take weeks or months to design, review, approve and manufacture, especially if you're looking for a metal or multi-piece ensemble. To both speed up the process and ensure you are getting exactly what you want, it's important to first consult with any in-house designers, webmasters or graphic artists about whether they have a style guide that outlines rules for using the official logo. This information will help the vendor determine logo type, complexity, time line and attachment options relatively quickly so they can compile an overall cost.

If no guideline exists, several questions must be answered step-by-step. To begin, assess whether the logo will be fixed. If it will not be removed anytime soon, it can be adhered via stud mounts or tape. For multiple speakers or different conference buildings  where a logo may need to be removed or swapped for a different one, you will need to discuss removable methods with a designer. Second, determine size and style. More than likely, the available space on the lectern front will determine the logo size. However, when it comes to style, figure out what works best (and is in your budget) material-wise. Is there a lot of lettering or block-shaped pieces that make up the artwork? Consider individually-cut pieces of metal or an etching done right on the face of the piece. Are there multiple colors? It's probably best to do a wood logo as it can pass through the laser more times than a metal piece. Third, make accommodations for complexity. A vector image that contains a jumble of lines or detail will take more time to etch and paint. Intricate details in artwork will typically result in more labor costs and lead time. Also, depending on logo size, some artwork may even need to be simplified to produce a clearer image.

In All Fairness

For many years, there has been a massive overhaul to make all spaces as ADA compliant as possible. When it comes to lecterns, there are easy to integrate ADA options available that allow for a more universally friendly experience. You may need to make accommodations to your budget to do so but specifying ADA options into your piece will benefit you in the long run. For one, it shows colleagues, instructors, students and keynote speakers your awareness of individuals with disabilities and your dedication to providing those individuals with a functional and comfortable user experience. Secondly, by taking the time to discuss ADA customization from the start, you can prevent the lectern from looking as though accommodations were added-on as an afterthought.

ADA furniture must adhere to three basic principles: proper wheelchair height, available knee space and equal access to any controls or technology. There are several ways that a design can satisfy all three but the majority of the time, utilizing the following options allows seamless integration of the necessary guidelines. To accommodate all speakers, whether seated or standing, including a lift is key. At its completely lowered position, the lectern would be at the maximum seated ADA work surface height and raise to a standing height comfortable for most speakers. As a way to create knee space where there isn't any, the work surface can act as a large pullout. This would allow users to reach all integrated components without knocking their knees on door handles or locks.  Of course, creating an ADA height work surface can be done multiple ways . For example, the surface can open to the side or a drop leaf shelf can be added if no fixed components exist on the surface that require universal use. If users are only using a monitor or laptop on the surface, an articulating arm can also be specified as a way to adjust equipment for comfortable use by each specific instructor.

Wheels in Motion

Perhaps the most overlooked but essential component to consider in your lectern build is mobility. As a rule of thumb, it's best to utilize locking casters unless you know the piece will not be moved whatsoever. The locking caster mechanism typically consists of a level that is pressed to stall caster movement. Although adjustable glides do provide more assurance that the lectern will not accidentally roll away, it makes moving the lectern into a room more difficult. Leveling casters bridge the gap between both options offering a mobile solution that can be swapped for a fixed foot once in place. However, engaging the levelers is a cumbersome task that many would prefer not to perform every time they want to move the unit. Whatever choice you make keep several things in mind. Will the lectern ever be moved once in place? Is there a suitably-sized dolly available to bring the unit to the room if it is on leveling feet? What accommodations does your staff prefer to access any locking mechanisms?

These questions are important to discuss before or during design as swapping out feet later on can pose issues. Installation of an alternative will likely require the piece be tipped over, which is a situation ripe with damage potential. Also, space beneath the cabinet (if feet are typically hidden) can cause issues. Casters usually require more clearance than leveling feet. Utilizing one for the other after the fact can mean that larger blockers may be needed or casters may stick out more than normal.

It's true that there are many different aspects at the core of each custom lectern and personalizing a piece often takes time to execute. Customer needs change from project to project and there are various concerns that must be addressed for each one. However, taking the time to consider and implement the above mentioned components for each potential lectern is fundamental to a successful design.

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