Everyone loves a look behind the proverbial curtain when it comes to how a designer’s mind works so we thought we’d introduce a new series that we’ll bring to the Currey & Company blog readers from time to time called Designer Roundtable, this post devoted to the lighting designer.
Lighting Designer Roundtable
For today’s Lighting Designer Roundtable, the question we posed to our lighting design team is how they know a design is finished. We prompted them to illustrate their point of view by choosing one of their products. The answers are as unique as each designer.
Ian Thornton’s answer to the question is an artful one: “Designing lighting is like painting with watercolors, as an artist has to have restraint. An artist cannot just paint the entire white paper with colors, she has to let the white paper show through the painting to create highlights. The most interesting watercolor paintings have the least amount of paint used to convey the message of the painting. I approach designing lighting in much the same way. A designer has to strip away as much ancillary material as possible so that the essence of the design is the only thing left. I strive to convey the message of the design by using as few elements as possible. In this way, the message we convey through the eye of the customer is interpreted cleanly and concisely. Even if the design has a lot of appointments and flair, it should be used only to convey the message of the design. I know a design is done when I can’t take any more away without degrading the aesthetic or the message.”
An example he shared is the Sillage Chandelier. “With this chandelier, I began with a sketch I did on my cell phone. I wanted to create a chandelier with a body made of graduated metal spinnings. Through many iterations of sketches I played around with the size and composition of the center body. I streamlined this until I created the desired silhouette. In this design, the viewer’s gaze should be drawn to a wide view of the center of the fixture including the arms. The lines of this design should then draw the eye up to the top of the fixture following the silhouette of the metal spinning. I included lights in the center body to illuminate the metal spinnings to enhance the movement of the eye from the center body to the top of the fixture. The design of the fixture was finished when this eye movement was instinctive by all viewers.”
Tom Caldwell says of his process, “I have no formal design education or training so my process on developing product involves borrowing from history and seeing a lot of ‘stuff’ over a long period of time. I think that this history of mine has helped with my sense of ‘knowing when something is right.’ It has given me memories of things I’ve seen, worked on, or been impressed with, which I can refer to when working on a new project piece. Scale and finish are the two most important parts of my design work. I use the Jeff Foxworthy approach to these elements: ‘Tennis shoes or huntin’ boots’ is his take on picking out properly styled footwear. For me it’s the same method for designing products. I try different sizes of material and scale of the piece, look at it back and forth, and then look at it with different finishes and details to determine which is better.”
He adds, “A prime example of this technique of mine is the Bastian series of fixtures. I looked at all of these pieces with raw materials in a variety of scales, also with different lighting configurations, as well as finishes, before deciding on which version was the ‘right way’ to produce it.”
“The true designer will never tell you it is finished,” says Clarence Mallari; “there is always a notion of spatial changes when it comes to different aspects like finish, scale, material styling, and a million other criteria that make it a product. It is challenging and yet rewarding; it is like having a child once he gets through life—you may say you are finished with him, but the legacy will continue. So I would say a product can only be deemed finished when your inner thoughts and feelings are satisfied. Because the process involves a number of considerations and processes, the time and effort it may take to get you to what you really desire can prolong the agony, especially if there are stumbling blocks. Once these obstacles are overcome is the moment when you can say it is finished.”
He illustrates his point with the Menorca Chandelier. “It took me several sketches to realize this shape: I tried round, oval, square, and other geometries. But what really strikes me is when I began considering the measurements of the piece, I started asking these questions: What are my intentions? Will it be modern, rustic, or mid-century? Will I be using natural material, and, if so what kind? Will it be brass plated? What type of bulb will it hold? These are critical moments of thinking that make the process time-consuming, but once I started to put everything in perspective, the rest was easy.”
In the end, Clarence decided to use a football shape. He says of this move: “Watching football is always exciting, and I decided I wanted to create a chandelier in the shape of the ball. This makes the rope chandelier special because, just as you have to be a trained professional to throw the ball right, you have to be an artisan to wrap the abaca rope around the metal laser-cut frame in this odd open shape so that it’s seamless.”
Lighting Designer Savvy
We hope you enjoyed this exploration of the creative process through the eyes of each of our lighting design team. Soon, we’ll take a look at how our furniture offerings have been revamped over the past several years to bring our products such high quality “behind the scenes”—inside doors and drawers and every aspect of the interiors of our casegoods, and beneath the cushions of our upholstery.