Beyond aesthetics: Practical insights from a lighting product designer

Categories: 2020, Team

By: Kemps

The design of lighting products goes way beyond aesthetics

This might seem counter-intuitive considering lighting is all about seeing. But, for manufacturers of architectural lighting and lighting product designers, aesthetics is one small part of the equation. There’s the life cycle of the product to consider, including its operation and longevity.

To explain what goes into the manufacture of commercial lighting products, we sat down with Matthew Dovener, a Product Designer at Kemps Architectural Lighting, to ask him some questions.

Q. What are the main things to think about when designing a product?

A. It’s crucial to keep in mind the different users and stakeholders who will interact with the product throughout its lifecycle. Sometimes it’s tempting to focus on aesthetics in lighting. Although this is very important, there’s a process around lighting that shouldn’t be ignored.

This process starts with the manufacturing of the products and includes fitting, transportation, installation, maintenance, and disposal. Considering all these eventualities at the design stage improves products, making them more efficient and extending the lifespan.

Q. What makes the ideal finished product?

A. The ideal product is one which meets the brief and satisfies the customers’ requirements. In our industry, this means flexibility. Lighting designers and specifiers know exactly what they need for their designs and it’s our job to realise their vision precisely.

The ability to change optics and light sources, and offer a range of finishes and sizes, means products can be specified on more projects and within a range of settings. A product designed with adaptability in mind is a product well made, destined to stand the test of time.

Q. What kinds of briefs are the most complicated?

A. Retro-fit briefs can sometimes present unique challenges. These require a creative solution, working within the confines of the pre-determined installation area. The most effective way to approach this type of brief usually involves adapting an existing product. Sometimes these solutions then become a standard option for the range.

Q. Can you briefly describe the process you go through when designing a new product?

A. When I receive a design brief, the first stage is planning. This includes market research and identifying the users and their needs. This is followed by concept development where different designs are proposed. Early drawings and basic prototypes will be produced at this stage.

Following the evaluation of these initial iterations, one concept (or elements of multiple concepts) are selected for further development.

The product architecture and assembly scheme are decided, along with components, materials and manufacturing methods. From this, we produce detailed prototypes and product renders for testing and evaluation. This stage is repeated to refine the final product before moving into manufacture.

It’s this rigorous and multi-staged design process that sets specialist manufactured lighting products apart from mass produced fixtures. Products which have been tested, prototyped and refined will perform at their optimum, for the longest time.

Q. Is there a type of fixture you enjoy designing the most? And why?

Many of the lighting products we produce are designed to be subtle or hidden as part of indirect lighting schemes. It’s engaging working on these fixtures, but I enjoy designing more decorative and unique fittings. It’s nice working on something more abstract which challenges me to be creative.

Q. What’s your favourite thing about being involved in product design?

A. Watching the project take shape before your eyes is really rewarding. I get to see my ideas, which started as rough sketches, being assembled and switched on for the first time in our factory. Then when we see the finished products installed on a project, the whole thing comes together.

Do you have a unique lighting challenge you need a product designer’s advice for? Get in touch with our lighting experts.

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