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Case Studies

An Evolutionary Design

Designer Stefan Sagmeister pushes the boundaries of design with the Darwin Chair



The Client Graphic artist Stefan Sagmeister/Sagmeister Inc.

The Players Splash San Francisco

Tools & Supplies HP Designjet L65500 printer, HP DuPont Tyvek banner

The Job While on sabbatical in Bali, renowned graphic artist Stefan Sagmeister—who has done work for everyone from the Rolling Stones to Adobe and even won a Grammy in 2005 for the Talking Heads’ Once in a Lifetime box set packaging—developed the idea of a stainless-steel chair that could use hundreds of prints as a cushion, each one made to be torn off whenever he wanted to change the image.

Unsure of the next steps in making a chair that evolved (hence the eventual Darwin Chair name), Sagmeister, a member of HP’s Experts and Mentors network, contacted the program’s manager, who offered to research suitable printers and substrates and even sent media samples to Bali. Eventually, the search for the right print provider led to Splash in San Francisco.

Production Splash paired its HP Designjet L65500, chosen for its minimal environmental impact, with HP DuPont Tyvek banner for extra-durable prints. Splash tested various media, but Sagmeister loved the organic look of the Tyvek from the start, says Splash’s Kris Knight.


The “cushion,” so to speak, was to comprise 235, 23 x 65-inch prints, meaning a lot of proofing. Joe Shouldice, Sagmeister’s main assistant in NYC—who organized the transfer of the all the files to Splash—also had the authority to sign off on the final proofs. Instead of proofing every single print, Splash sent Shouldice 12 full-size proofs. Once he was confident they were moving in the right direction—including the need to run a few new profiles for color correction—printing commenced. “It took four days to print all of them,” Knight says. “[The printer] ran overnight. It really allowed us to see the spectrum of everything it can print.”

After printing came the tricky part: perforating Tyvek banner, a material manufactured specifically to be nearly indestructible. Splash handed that task to New York City-based ABC Diecutters, sending the prints across the country in heavy shipments. Sagmeister worked with the company to create a formula for the right ratio of cut-to-uncut material along the perforation (the key is to create slits longer than the uncut material). Once that was complete, the sheets were set in heavy-duty binding at the head of the chair and the project was complete.

There’s talk of creating others for the high-end furniture market, but, for now, the Darwin Chair is in a genus all its own.

Splash San Francisco



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