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Think Davis

Each year, the Sculptural Objects and Functional Art (SOFA) Chicago exhibition has a competition called CONNECT. Six schools have to make an installation that incorporates seating, lighting, and objects. I joined a team of 6 to represent UC Davis and we created THINK DAVIS.


We wanted our installation to communicate the multidisciplinary nature of our school, as this is one of the elements of UC Davis that design majors take pride in. A teammate and I took a Davis campus map and blocked out various broad areas of study, such as engineering and social sciences. After a few iterations, we decided we wanted our chairs to be be based off the form of a lightbulb to represent the knowledge of each of these disciplines. This lightbulb concept led to the name THINK DAVIS.


Each chair is placed on a spot of the abstracted map of UC Davis representing the knowledge that each discipline holds. But no area of study is stuck in a bubble. At Davis, everyone—no matter what they are studying—brings their knowledge to other studies. For example, I can take what I learn in psychology and apply it to design, and vice versa. I’ve worked with engineers, fine arts majors, medical students, etc. And especially as design majors, everything we gain outside design helps us with our design work. We represented this with vinyl concentric circles on the floor that ripple to other circles, crossing over and connecting, as each discipline does.



After discussing and prototyping different materials to make our chair, we decided purely using cardboard would also be important to represent Davis, which strives to be as sustainable as possible. This was a challenge. How could we make something support weight, be tall, and be beautiful with just cardboard? I learned the power of understanding the material you work with. After many hours of prototyping amongst the never-ending smell of laser cut cardboard we finally got a functional chair that was also pleasing. People were amazed that enough vertical pieces of cardboard could support someone’s weight.



We posted photos to Instagram to document our process, which meant that at the exhibition we were able to present this process to everyone. I loved showing people the photo of the four suitcases that held our entire installation. SOFA Chicago posted a photo of each school’s installation on Instagram and THINK DAVIS had the most amount of likes, winning us “Fan Favorite.” It was incredibly rewarding spending so much time on a project, fearing we might not finish in time, and then seeing it all together in Chicago where we could share our hard work with others.

Early Concept
Playing with Materials
ThinkDavis Instagram
ThinkDavis Map
setting up the installation
Final Installation
SOFA Chicago Homepage

Lessons Learned

1. Know your material. Understanding cardboard properties allowed us to make both a beautiful and functional chair.

2. Time constraints are the worst but they always have been and always will be, so get over it and keep working.

3. Have faith in your team. Time constraints (#2) exist, but good things come out of a good team.

4. Design things that surprise people. “I can really sit on that?!"

5. Don’t let tipsy people holding wine near cardboard chairs.

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