During this project it was my intention to create a bespoke interior product, as well as gaining a better understanding of contemporary Product Design practice. I also wanted further investigate the concepts of materiality, optical effects and user interaction. By building an in depth body of research and working within a collaborative team I was looking to better understand manufacturing processes, along with developing my own design methods. I initially began the course thinking my interests lay in lighting design; however I feel this project has helped me gain more scope within the field and realise how my skills can be more widely utilised.
I began my journey by researching a number of assigned design agendas. I explored designer’s approaches to ‘Global local’ design and designers who have opted to ‘Return to Tradition’. I was initially concerned my knowledge of contemporary product design was limited, but I felt these agendas helped me rapidly gain a better insight into the current market. I was particularly interested in practitioners who have chosen to use handcrafted and time-honoured techniques to create bespoke designs. I agree with the views of designer, Sebastian Cox (2014: Online) who stated “If we can develop a product that possesses subtle evidence of craft, then I believe it resonates with a customer’s primitive maker urges. As a result the customer will enjoy that thing all the more, and everyone has enjoyed keeping it out of landfill for longer.”
Figure 1 – Swill collection by Sebastian Cox and Lorna Singleton (2014)
His work exploits traditional swilling techniques. As technology moves incredibly fast in modern society it can be hard for designers to keep up. Rather than relying on cutting edge techniques, established processes and designs can be appropriated in a new way, in order to create timeless pieces which can’t be outdated with the progression of technology.
Visiting Dutch Design Week was an essential way for me to really understand the trends within product design, as well as discovering new manufacturing procedures available to me. One of my favourite pieces was Jetske Visser’s Hue Blinds. I found the idea of using reflective materials to construct blinds really fascinating. These plexiglass blinds have been produced to demonstrate the transient nature of light, they also distort views and manipulate how bright an environment is. Visser (2015: Online) describes this piece saying “Colour, radiance and diffraction of multiple layers become one entity. The semi-transparent layers divide spaces.” My fascination with this piece helped me to realise that my interests did not specifically lie in lighting design, but in the manipulation of light and optical effects.
Figure 2 – Jetske Visser’s Hue Blinds as seen at Dutch Design Week (2015)
Another collection I loved was Arnout Meijer’s collection of ‘Every’ lamps collection. Within the plastic shades, prisms refract light so their shapes appear differently as you move around them. This kind of product interaction allows the piece to remain fresh and interesting to the user as they interact with it.
Figure 3 – Arnout Meijer’s Every lamps collection (2015)
When developing my design agenda I decided I wanted to focus my research on transparency, shadows, illusions and reflections, as these incorporate my fascination with light while allowing for material exploration and user engagement. Kim Thome uses both optical illusions and reflections to ensure users interact with his pieces. Their appearance changes as you move around them, this creates constant intrigue giving the objects longevity. Thome (2013: Online) explains “The graphic aesthetic becomes something of a relational experience with the viewer.”
Figure 4 – Kim Thome’s Works of Reflection II (2015)
Following my design agenda I was paired with fellow student Houda Kaddouh to develop a collaborative body of work. We began by discussing our intentions and the areas of research piqued our interest. We considered our mutual and personal strengths, and together devised an objective to work towards. The areas we chose to focus on were materiality, light manipulation and interactivity. Our initial outset was to create a bespoke interior product, although we didn’t limit ourselves to a specific outcome. We wanted place an emphasis on originality and user interaction to create a relationship between the piece and its user. Science and nature were used as initial reference points, we found that the properties of water were extremely influential.
Our collaborative research inspired and informed the materials we chose to experiment with. Plastic and glass became the materials which would help us achieve our main objectives. After exploring physics and the properties of light, they would allow us to exploit reflection and refraction within our piece. My interests lay quite heavily in the mixing of coloured lights and chromatic shadows. I feel by casting interesting shadows within an environment, users will respond to it as they have the ability to influence their surroundings.
Figure 5- Diagram explaining Chromatic Shadows (2011)
Within the field of design I felt the work of Dennis Parren was of particular relevance. He explored LED lights in order to create the CMYK lamp. By projecting red, green and blue lights upward through a metal shade, he is able to cast chromatic shadows around a space. His aim is to show how light allows us to see colour. I love the way a small lamp can impact such a large surrounding area.
Figure 6 – Dennis Parren’s CMYK lamp (2012)
I visited a number of exhibitions which were featured in the Manchester Festival of Light to see the way in which artist have used light and technology to effect an environment or even evoke emotions. I was particularly interested in the kinetic light pieces of Paul Friedlander. A rotating rope of white light, controlled by a computer, speeds up and slows down. The speed and movement of the chomastrobic light causes the colours that make up light to separate and band.
Figure 7 – Light Wave Power KIC 8462852 by Paul Friedlander (2015)
I also love The Stories Under Our Feet by Elisa Artesero and the way in which shadows have been used to create words. Making shadows and negative space an important visual part of a piece is something I strive to achieve myself.
Figure 8 – The Stories Under Our Feet by Elisa Artesero (2015)
I was also inspired by the work of Liz West who uses colour as her primary influence. I visited her installation ‘Through No.3’. This is a six-metre long triangular steel structure with colourful, transparent vinyl panels. As you walk through this rainbow saturated construction you are able to literally visualise the world around you in a new light. “… West aims to provoke a heightened sensory awareness in the viewer through her works. She is interested in exploring how sensory phenomena can invoke psychological and physical responses that tap into our own deeply entrenched relationships to colour.” (West, 2015: Online) Although I don’t generally use colour within my work, this was something I was keen to explore. While natural materials were used in our final outcome, we introduced colour by experimenting with light. I hope this will enable users to alter the aesthetic of their surroundings, in a similar way to West’s work.
Figure 14 – Liz West, Through No 3 (2015)
Our material exploration began with illusion plastics, acrylics and glass. We also came to the conclusion we’d like to develop a lighting piece as it lent itself best to our material research. When layered and combined with movement illusion plastic had a fascinating effect. Although we liked the water and pixel like patterns it created, we found it was difficult to utilise as without pressure the illusion wasn’t visible. We were also limited as to how it could be formed as heat would diminish the prisms and the illusive qualities it possessed. In same way, hammered glass created aquatic like patterns when combined with light, however when heated or formed these properties would be lost. We were also unable to use mirrored glass as when heated the chemicals used would turn yellow and lose their properties. Mirrored acrylics could be used instead, but when heated the shiny surface adopted more of a matt quality. We also discovered fused glass could have a similar effect to hammered glass, whilst allowing us to control the shapes and patterns. Once we understood the limits and qualities of materials we began to make some initial sketches.
Primarily we liked the idea of using blown glass domes which would sit on top of one another, however it is very difficult to achieve exact measurements required to fit into a base. After discussing the ideas of curved lamp shades, suspended pendant pieces or flat glass sheets we felt a slumped dish shape created using fused glass would produce the most effective lamp shade and incorporate the effects we were striving for. After a number of experiments I performed with coloured lights, clear glass was selected as the combination of coloured lights and patterned glass was too busy.
Figure 9 – My initial sketches of our final design (2015)
Figure 10 – Glass slumping test piece with red, green and blue light (2015)
At this time I also began to explore mood lighting to see the ways in which our piece could be used to create a serene atmosphere. Recent studies have shown water can have a positive impact metal health and mood. “We’ve looked at the effect of [aquarium] exhibits on heart rate, blood pressure and mood. Early results are quite encouraging. We even found that people responded well just watching the water without any fish.” (Cracknell, 2013: Online)
Figure 11 – The Minano was an instillation created by Torafu Architects for TOTO (2011)
The Minano was an instillation created by Torafu Architects for design company TOTO and encapsulates their concept of “cherishing water”. Although this space has no water, there is a very definite sense of its existence. Reflections create shimmering, water like visuals and demonstrates the serenity of water’s behaviour as well as its constantly changing beauty. I felt this was something we should aim to achieve within our piece with the water like qualities of fused glass. By creating a light which is also a mood light it presents another attribute to the product. One area I would have liked to further explore in this piece was movement. If the shade could turn or move the piece would constantly change and evolve. This would also have more of an aquatic quality as water continually moves.
For our final design we decided upon a wooden base, which would be CNC routed to create a hollow bowl where the electrical components can be hidden. A thin base sits inside to hold the bulb sockets in place. Above this a piece of mirrored acrylic will sit in line with the top of the LED bulbs. Red, green and blue light will be used to cast chromatic shadows over the surroundings. In addition the remote control bulbs can be changed to white or coloured light as the user desires to create various atmospheres in their room. The fused glass shade will sit over the top. The varying thicknesses of glass should also help to create water like shadows as the light is refracted through it. A series of steps inside the base with provide a platform for each layer to sit on
Figure 12 – CGI animation of the final mood lamp by Houda (2016)
Figure 13 – An exploded view of the final mood lamp base by Houda (2015)
I feel overall the design of this piece was successful as it incorporated all of our initial objectives. We managed to explore a number of materials and utilise them in the way which is best suited for them. We also manipulated light using chromatic shadows which, along with the changeable LEDs, create an interactive piece which will capture the user’s interest. Although some areas of our design are not yet refined I feel they have the potential to be developed. I felt the production of the base could have been improved. We were unable to have the base routed from a solid piece of wood as the drill bed wasn’t deep enough. Instead our prototype was created using thin layers of MDF which were glued together to create a solid piece. However, this could potentially have be moulded in one piece if using a different material such as concrete. We could have also used laminate tubing to create a solid base. Glass was a fairly new material to me and I feel the production of the dome could be more sophisticated if I had more time to explore its potential. I also discovered through experimentation the material can be fairly temperamental and could easily break if not fused at a high enough temperature or for a long enough time. As working with glass is a time consuming process we were limited with the amount of experiments we could perform. Sandblasting or iridescent finishes could have been used to modify the finished surface.
Through this project I have gained a much better insight into product design, I also found by working with another person you can utilise their knowledge and explore new materials and processes. I have never had experience using glass which I have found to be a beautiful and versatile material. I also have limited experience using digital methods to shape materials such as plastic as wood. I would have opted to use traditional or hand crafted methods as I considered using handcrafted techniques an important way to give a piece a unique or bespoke quality. However, I now see how digital programmes can assist in the design process and their many capabilities in facilitating mass production and accuracy of manufacture. Although I enjoyed working with another student I did find it had some challenges. Firstly the logistics of scheduling sufficient time to develop the project could be difficult when trying to take into account another person’s schedule. This was particularly difficult when working with a time demanding material such as glass. I have come to realise the importance of communication and time management to ensure everything was completed within a deadline.
Overall I am pleased with the final prototype and its concept, although I would have preferred the base to be cut in wood rather than MDF. In-depth research into product design has taught me a lot about a variety of processes available to me along with an understanding of the current marketplace. It has also provided me with a number of further research points I hope to investigate in the future. This module has confirmed my passion for using light, but also helped me to realise my interest lies in the light manipulation. I feel it has allowed me to develop my personal design style as well as developing skills for working within a collaborative team. Our final piece stayed true to our initial objectives and I feel it successfully incorporates the materials used while still having the potential for further development.
Cracknell, D. (2013) What impact do seas, lakes and rivers have on people’s health? The Guardian [Online] [Accessed on 29th December 2015] http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/impact-sea-lakes-rivers-peoples-health
Riberti, G. 2013. Color Inspiration: Works on Reflection II by Kim Thome. WGSN Insider. [Online]. July 18th [Accessed 5th November 2015]. Available from: http://www.wgsn.com/blogs/color-inspiration-works-on-reflection-ii-by-kim-thome/
Visser, J. 2015. Hue Blinds. [Online]. [Accessed 2nd November 2015]. Available from: http://jetskevisser.nl/hue-blinds/
West, L. 2015. Artist Statement. [Online]. [Accessed on 30th November 2015]. Available from: http://www.liz-west.com/about/
Winston, A. 2014. Using traditional crafts in design is not “sentimental” says Sebastian Cox. Dezeen [Online]. 30 October. [Accessed 7th October 2015] Available from http://www.dezeen.com/2014/10/30/sebastian-cox-interview-british-craft-industry-coppicing-wood/
Figure 1. Cox, S (2014) Swill collection by Sebastian Cox and Lorna Singleton. At: http://www.dezeen.com/2014/10/30/sebastian-cox-interview-british-craft-industry-coppicing-wood/ (Accessed on 7th October 2015)
Figure 2. Visser, J (2015) Jetske Visser’s Hue Blinds as seen at Dutch Design Week 2015. [Photograph]
Figure 3. Meijer, A (2015) Every lamps collection by Arnout Meijer. At: http://www.dutchinvertualscollected.nl/product/every-cone-every-torus-and-every-cylinder-light/#.Vpv2WyqLTIW (Accessed on 5th November 2015)
Figure 4. Thome, K (2015) Works in Reflection II by Kim Thome. At: http://kimthome.com/index.php?/albums/14/ (Accessed on 7th October 2015)
Figure 5. Descottes, H & Ramos, C (2011) Diagram explaining Chromatic Shadows. In: Architectural Lighting: Designing with Light and Space
Figure 6. Parren, D (2015) CMYK lamp by Dennis Parren. At: http://www.dezeen.com/2012/11/05/cmyk-lamp-by-dennis-parren/ (Accessed on 1st November 2015)
Figure 7. Friedlander,P (2015) Light Wave Power KIC 8462852 by Paul Friedlander, taken at Enlighten.
Figure 8. Artesero, E (2015) The Stories Under Our Feet by Elisa Artesero, taken at Enlighten.
Figure 9. Initial sketch of our final design.[Drawing]
Figure 10. Chromatic shadow experiment with fused glass sample. [Photograph]
Figure 11. Torafu Architects (2011) The Minano was an instillation created by Torafu Architects for TOTO. At: http://highlike.org/text/torafu-architects-3/ (Accessed on 10th December 2015)
Figure 12. Kaddouha, H (2016) CGI animaion of the final mood lamp by Houda. [Video]
Figure 13. Kaddouha, H (2015) An exploded view of the final mood lamp base by Houda. [Drawing]
Figure 14. West, L (2015) Through No3 by Liz West taken in Spinningfields Manchester.[Photograph]