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Dax Pettibone

The Chickadee Keyboard


The layout of the computer keyboard is directly related to that of the typewriter. While over 150 years have passed since the typewriter was invented the most common keyboard layout (QWERTY) has changed very little.

While the layout of the keyboard has changed very little, the use of the keyboard has changed dramatically.

Typewriter Uses

  • Typing

Keyboard Uses

  • Typing
  • Web Navigation
  • Gaming
  • Shopping
  • Application Shortcuts
  • Calculating
  • File Management
  • Media Playback
  • Computer Navigation
  • etc.


After giving several users a blank 100% keyboard layout and asking them to fill in as much as they can remember it became very apparent that certain parts of the keyboard are a common mystery to many.


There are several different keyboard layouts that currently exist. Some incorporate different layouts of the keys, some aim to reduce the size as much as possible and some are specifically custom build with a single user in mind.

My goal is to design a keyboard layout that is widely applicable to most computer users. It shouldn’t be hyper-focused on a specific user group, nor should it be so widely accepting that the result is just a classic 100% keyboard. It should be approachable and understood by you’re average, everyday computer using individual.


One of the great things about mechanical keyboards is that they can be customized. Users are able to custom pick which style and color of key caps they like, as well as what kinds of switches they like.

The key switch (examples pictured above) is what determines the feel and sound of your keyboard every time you click a key. There are literally hundreds of options to choose from and each person will have a different preference. While many people will be able to agree that QWERTY is their favorite keyboard layout, hardly anyone will agree on which switch is their favorite.


The row of function keys is either loved entirely or almost a complete mystery. Those who were around when the computer was first introduced into mainstream use will be much more familiar with the function row. Almost anyone else will wonder why these keys even exist.

While the function row hasn’t been removed entirely by most computer companies it is often supplemented with more useful shortcuts that are relevant to modern users. This is something I will certainly take into account when designing my keyboard.


There are currently 3,304 emojis that are in standard use. The use of emojis has forever changed the way that we communicate. The addition of an emoji modifier key to the keyboard is essential.

Users would be able to customize which keys can be used to type their favorite emojis.


On a standard keyboard it can sometimes be hard to remember which symbol is hidden behind the shift key and which one is just a single key press.

To solve this problem we can add a split space bar. Both bars act as a space bar when pressed but the colored one when held acts similar to a shift key so you can remember which symbols you need to use the modifier key to access. This means users will only need the shift key to capitalize letters.




Key Features

  • Maintain familiar QWERTY layout
  • Condensed layout as much as possible while maintaining functionality
  • Redesigned function row with modern shortcuts
  • Removal of unfamiliar navigation keys
  • Addition of Emoji modifier key
  • Split space bar for additional function layer
  • Rearranged symbol placement based on common symbol usage
  • Removal of duplicate row of numbers in favor of 10 key layout
  • Smaller right shift key to allow directional arrows to fit
  • Removal of right modifier keys

The 100% keyboard has 104 keys in total. The Chickadee keyboard has 80 keys and is 40% smaller while maintaining most of the same functionality.