You never realize how hard it is to hang something until you actually have to do it. Getting your photo/art/mirror/whatever straight is tough enough, but finding a hanging system that doesn't take away from what you're trying to display is often a challenge in itself. Enter Dartstrip, a new product that epitomizes how the best design should be invisible.
And like most unseen designs, the system is deceptively simple: Dartstrip is nothing more than an eight-foot strip of steel with a restickable adhesive backing. The product is laser-scored with snap points at one-inch increments for easy customization depending on how large or wide your display space is. The strips are a clean white and can be painted over to match walls and other surfaces; magnetic 'pins' hold posters or photos in place. Check out the video below to see what Dartstrip is all about before we go into the details with co-founder Kermit Westergaard:
But the major innovation of Dartstrip comes in the form of none other than the packaging.
After patenting the product with photographer/novelist Anna Winger, Westergaard, an architectural and industrial designer, created a clever twist-controlled mechanism that when spun one way releases the strip, and when twisted the other direction opens the magnet storage. It's about the size of a large can of tuna or catfood, but the two-tiered cylindrical design should preclude any pantry mix-ups. The inner capsule holds the 16 rare-earth magnets that come with the strips; the overall effect is something like a squashed can of rubber cement (you're on your own if you confuse the shape that badly).
Azadeh Houshyar Westergaard, a multidisciplinary designer and Westergaard's wife, is responsible for the compact packaging design—and the spark that set Dartstrip into motion. Without letting the other designers know, she sent off the project idea to a few media sources and the idea took off.
The next bout of good luck came at a wedding. "My wife and I attended a wedding in India, an epic week long event in which the whole wedding party traveled by boat, train and plane to three regions of the country," says Westergaard. "During these travels, we met and befriended Anthony Coleman, another guest who was also from New York City. Anthony stumbled upon the Dartstrip post on Swissmiss. He wrote us and asked if he could come see the product." Almost immediately, Coleman offered to work with the team and put up the project's initial funding for manufacturing.
That, apparently, was the easy part. The team soon realized that there wasn't one magic machine that could turn their idea into an actual project on a mass produced scale. "The problem was that nobody could make Dartstrip. As simple as it seems, the product requires multiple processes that just aren't available under one roof—and the processes have to happen at the same time, as the foam-adhesive liner will buckle if recoiled on the steel before being scored."
After hitting a few dead ends with potential manufacturers, they found the perfect match in a small laser shop in the Northeast. "The shop was reminiscent of a visit to your local auto mechanic," says Westergaard. "There was nothing in the shop that was even remotely as sophisticated as what they would need to build." But the shop owner was certain he could build their dream machine for the right price. And that he did. In the shop owner's own words, two years later the team has "figured out the known unknowns, and we've figured out the unknown unknowns, and we're just about ready to roll!"
We had a chance to play around with the strips in the office and the verdict is in: Not only are the squares oddly satisfying to break off, the hanging strength is also spot-on—even on curved surfaces. The bi-directional twisting function will catch you off guard at first but comes easily once you get the hang of it.
While the product is specifically designed for hanging photos or other two-dimensional artwork, Westergaard notes that he expects to see users find creative ways to use it for other purposes. "Ideally, it would be something that you just like to have around."
Check out and contribute to Dartstrip's campaign here.