Astek Helps Students Create Mesmerizing Wallpapers

The Astek x ArtCenter booth at ICFF. Photos courtesy of Astek


June 20, 2023

Astek, a leading interior design, wall covering, and digital printing company, collaborated with students at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California to bring mesmerizing wallpapers to the International Contemporary Furniture Fair + WantedDesign Manhattan 2023. Their booth at ICFF featured interlocking, overlapping maze-inspired patterns that fused physical and digital surface design methods.

An ArtCenter student presents her work for critique.

Astek’s Creative Director Sarah LaVoie and Brand Strategist Sean Zingelewicz, both former alumni of ArtCenter, returned to their alma mater to run a special studio with professor Jeannie Winston, who heads the surface design track in the Illustration department. Knowing that many students do not get to interact with professional vendors before they graduate, Astek wanted to fill the gap in their educational experience. The course taught students how to design a print from conception to final wall designs.

Before getting too deep into the creative process, Astek brought students into their Los Angeles facilities to learn how wall coverings were made. They got close-up views of surface design software, saw large-format printers in action, and got to feel numerous types of wallpaper substrates. They learned how playing with scale could make a print more dynamic, and how one design could appear in multiple colorways to bring many different moods into an environment.

A site visit to Astek in Los Angeles.

Newly inspired, four students designed their patterns from scratch, starting with mood boards and color palettes. They were drawn to complex motifs from op-art, like the infinite möbius strip, which helped them think of ways a pattern could hide its repetitive qualities. Those classic, psychedelic shapes pair with contemporary color schemes that gravitate towards periwinkles, purples and pastels, which keeps the tone dreamy.

Next, students flexed their studio backgrounds to add physical textures to their digital prints. They experimented with methods like painting, stamping, paper burning, and surface rubbings, which became the inner fill for abstract, organic forms. The shapes came alive with smoky gradients, ink-blotted eyes, and furrowed blocks.

Once the designs were complete, Sarah, Sean, and Jeannie critiqued the student work, helping them finesse their patterns before printing. They assisted with turning their pattern blocks into half-drop patterns, which moves the artwork diagonally, a complex method that hides where a design begins and ends. They also helped the students pick their substrates so that their designs would pop. A rectangular silver and pink design got a metallic backing so that the print would shine, whereas an earth-toned, bean-shaped print with bark-like texture was placed on a matte vinyl so that its subtle details wouldn’t get lost in bright, fluorescent lighting.

The ICFF booth showed the four designs overlapping against cut-out walls, the busy prints complementing each other instead of clashing. They displayed their analog artworks, which were adapted into the designs, on a shelf so that people could get a better look at the process. Students also screen printed tote bags, which featured elements from their prints in simplified, solid colors, which showed how versatile the designs could be.

The student work looked professional and ready to hit the market. With manufacturing experience under their belt and guidance from Astek, the students will be ready to dominate the real world of surface design once they graduate from the classroom.

Students took elements from their wall designs and screen printed them on tote bags.

Close up of the Astek x ArtCenter booth at ICFF.

A magazine cover