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Philippe Starck’s new Kartell chair was designed with help from AI

See what happens when a computer and design legend collaborate

Chairs in multiple colors Photo: Kartell

Over the years, Philippe Starck has designed plenty of chairs. Most of them bear the imprint of the French designer’s style—slick, streamlined, a touch of irreverence. Louis Ghost Chair, anyone?

For this latest chair though, Starck has handed off creative control to a new collaborator: a computer algorithm. Starck worked with generative software from Autodesk to produce the A.I. Chair for Kartell.

Photo: Kartell

Like other designers who have begun to dabble in artificial intelligence, Starck used the software to create a distillation of his own style. He fed certain parameters—weight, shape, material, production process—into the computer program, and it would spit out what it thought Starck was looking for. In the video below, you can see the chair morph from rough and blocky to the refined shape it ultimately ended up with.

“In getting to know each other, Starck was teaching the system about design intent while the A.I. was trying to learn as much as possible, in order to be as helpful as possible,” says Mark Davis, a senior director of design futures at Autodesk. “As the relationship between the two matured, the system became a much stronger collaborative partner, and began to anticipate Starck’s preferences and the way he likes to work.”

In effect, working with a computer turned out to be a lot like working with another human, where collaboration is required back and forth to get to the final product. Unveiled at this month’s Milan Design Week (where we also saw this 3D-printed flatpack wonder), Starck’s A.I. Chair ended up with an elegant skeleton-like form that would be injection molded from colorful plastics.