An award-winning laptop that boasts a unique mix of materials, wood in the palmrest, to offer natural, warm, and premium user experience


2 Designers (Marcus Townsend, Greg Chen), Mechanical, Human Factors, Tooling, System Manager, Product Planning, Cost Management


1 Year, 2019

My role

Project Management, Form Creating, CAD, Detail Refinement, Human Factors, Manufacturing


Creo, Keyshot, Illustrator, Photoshop


In the laptop industry, we refresh design on a yearly basis and look for year-over-year refinements. The form usually will not adopt dramatic change unless special needs. For this refreshment, we focus on addressing retailers' needs. The feedback from them for the last generation is that full metal chassis is nothing new and creates distance from users. We explore the use of unconventional material to warm the tech device and land in natural wood veneer. However, we are not sure how durable the wood would be, and how much impact the new design would create on the navigation experience. Therefore, the challenge for the project is:

How might we provide a warm user experience with wooden palmrest while ensuring durability and navigation are up to par?

my contribution

As an end-to-end Industrial Designer, I am responsible for form establishment and CAD building all the way to manufacturing. In the Envy project, my biggest contribution is to make wood in the palmrest productionable by collaborating with Engineers, Human Factors, System Managers, Tooling, Cost Manager, and Product Planning.

WOOD PANEL ASSEMBLIES FOR PALM REST AND TRACKPAD patent is filed on 2019 and published in 2022.




Classic Envy

In the laptop industry, design is refreshed on a yearly basis, building on top of the previous generation. We map out what Envy was, including forms, materials, finishes, and classic color palette

material Ideation

Our goal of the year is to be more expressive in materials and warm the cold feeling metal creates. We put materials we’ve studied before in the matrix to explore the options

We like the idea of using wood, which is at the opposite quadrant to metal and glass, to neutralize the cold

design process

Wood Grain Exploration

We start exploring different kinds of wood grains on the palmrest, including Walnut, Cherry, Teak, and Oak (Top left to bottom right). We like Walnut better than others as its grain is the most organic, random, and natural

wooden palmrest reliability

To ensure the best user experience, the wood piece has to withstand several tests, such as Solvent Resistance, Stain Resistance, Surface Hardness, UV Resistance, Environment Test, etc. With refinements in the wood lamination process, we eventually achieve the goal. This is something the whole team has no experience with. We go through many rounds of trials and errors and vendor consults, below is our finalized process

The top layer is dehydrated natural wood veneer, which can be bleached and dyed per request. The second layer is a fabric to hold wood together. The third layer is a TPU film. The bottom layer is another layer of fabric to increase the bonding strength with surface

Two aluminum foils wrap the veneer. It then gets heated in a vacuum furnace. The TPU film is melted and soaked into the veneer. It fills up the pores of wood, enhancing the toughness.  The foils would be removed after cooling down

The veneer is nano-coated. It helps the veneer to be stain resistant, solvent resistant, and water-proof

The layered veneer is bonded to a palm rest with a thermal adhesive film. The temperature is crucial. It needs to be able to activate the adhesive without hurting the anodized surface. The accurate parameter control is the key to passing Environment Test


We discuss the limitation of the dyeing process and define the range of acceptable color and gloss levels in the production

We also set a limitation for wood grains to ensure the grains are not interrupted abruptly by cutter machines and wood knots. Sub-branding by laser etching is also a challenge. We try a couple of different frequencies, speed, and power until it’s right

Smoothness and wood texture

As wood is a natural material, the roughness on each piece of veneer varies, even on one piece, the roughness is different. To keep the consistency, we apply two solutions: one is to add a sanding process on veneers; the other is to adjust the nano-coating thickness.  

After the solutions, wood falls into the range users accept (see research below), but the gloss level goes up due to the fine-sanding. We then adjust the coating to matte the surface. Below is the spec that users find both aesthetically pleasing and functionally workable.  

Ra = 2.2~2.5+/-0.5um
Gloss Level = 3.5+/-1gu

human Factors of wood clickpad

Human Factors team and I conduct a survey to understand users’ reactions to the wooden touchpad. The test includes surface feel, click force, cursor movement, and drag-and-drop, and the benchmark for the study is glass clickpad

hF survey result

For surface feel, wood is rated slightly too rough, and was associated with slightly jerky cursor movements. For performance, drag and drop performance was very poor. Overall reactions to the feel of the wood clickpad were positive, but the performance was lacking.
The recommendation is to make the wood a little smoother to reduce jerkiness and to improve the surface feel. Also, continue to improve the software aspect of the clickpad for dragging performance and dead zones.

form design

Envy clamshell ID Language

ENVY clamshell is inspired by origami. From the side profile, it looks like delicate origami art but made in sheet metal. The manufacturing process is stamping, which forms the shape by folding, punching, and pulling. Origami and stamping are very similar in the way shapes are formed. However, at the time we kicked off the program, the stamping technique was not advanced enough to from the muti-angle. We continuously work with stamping houses and finally make it work

In the first baby tool (top left), the corner is distorted, double lines are obvious. We continue to finalize the process until the final build, which is finally even in radius, clear in feature line, and clean on the edges

Envy convertible ID Language

ENVY convertible is inspired by craftsmanship. The rear side is precisely chiseled and distinctively crafted. From the manufacturing point of view, it is a challenge since it involves an undercut

Design Details

ENVY convertible is inspired by craftsmanship. The rear side is precisely chiseled and distinctively crafted. From the manufacturing point of view, it is a challenge since it involves an undercut

Speaker Pattern

Hourglass Lip

Hourglass shape allows users to open the laptop effortlessly and creates a distinctive feature

Wedge Sideband

A wedge sideband has been a signature gesture of HP laptops. It creates a thinner look from the side and the front as if a computer floating in the air

Product launch


User Voices for the new design

When we first talk about the concept of a wooden palmrest, almost everyone has a doubt if real wood texture can provide the same level of navigation experience with the glass touchpad. For that, we go through many rounds of user testings and improve based on user inputs. One year after the product launch, we seldom receive user complaints, proving how successful the design is, and how important user testing is for a new design.

Interdisciplinary teamwork for problem solving

Wood veneer on a palmrest is new to the industry and has no standard steps of the process to follow through. We reach out to experts of different areas, including adhesive, interior, furniture, bonding, stamping, wood importers. etc, to bridge knowledge among different fields. For example, the adhesive that withstands environmental tests is commonly used in the interior but not in the consumer electronics industry. We take it in and customize it into the thickness that meets our needs.