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Innovative lighting designs in 2023 that made a statement through form and design
STIR recalls innovative lighting design from 2023 that combined form, functionality and uniqueness
Image: Courtesy of STIR

Innovative lighting designs in 2023 that made a statement through form and design

STIRred 2023: From floor lamps that mirror cute aliens to handcrafted table lamps, a look at lighting designs that combine functionality, uniqueness, and craftsmanship

by Ria Jha
Published on : Dec 19, 2023

In the vibrant tapestry of contemporary design, a select cadre of lighting design transcends mere functionality, emerging as bold and audacious declarations that resonate with creativity and inspiration. These glowing marvels are more than just functional artefacts; they are examples of artistic expression that combine form and function to create a design narrative. These works of art surpass the limitations of traditional lighting by skillfully fusing cutting-edge technology with expressive design, cutting the first turf to a realm where lighting design becomes an immersive and life-changing experience. In addition to illuminating spaces, this convergence of creativity and utility inspires intense curiosity and challenges us to reconsider how we relate to light itself. Lighting designers discover new facets of shape, texture, and interaction during this artistic journey, creating paths that defy expectations.

From whimsical anthropomorphic creations to ethereal landscapes encapsulated in quartz sand, STIR collects abstract lighting designs produced this year that made a bold statement through their form and design inspiration. Each of these lighting designs stands as a testament to the trailblazing visionaries who transform ordinary fixtures into extraordinary works of art.

1. Marcelo Suro grasps a playful route on lamp design with The Pink Robots Won

The ‘Pink Robots Won’ collectionImage: Courtesy of Marcelo Suro

‘The Pink Robots Won’ collection by Mexican designer Marcelo Suro gives character to an ordinary floor lamp. The ceramic lamps stand on three limbs with a singular illumination unit as the eye of the lamp if it were an animate object. Slip cast in low-temperature ceramic and glazed monochromatic tonalities subtly accentuate the three distinct components of this eclectic structure. Available in a mélange of soft pastel colours, a slight lean in the form arouses a sense of amusement – is it standing or about to fall?

“The Pink Robots Won attempts to convey a living personality or entity while at the same time performing and functioning as a floor lamp, which in some instances can be perceived as an inanimate and lifeless object,” explains Suro.

2. ‘I am not a robot’ by Jaro Kose embraces human creativity in an AI-dominated world

To challenge this widespread usage of Artificial Intelligence in the design world, product designer Jaro Kose intended to explore how the human touch can make each design process unique. Recycled PLA filament and heat together crafted the I am not a robot collection. Made up of sculptural objects, each piece in the collection has a distinct and individual structure. The qualities of artistry, playfulness, unpredictability, and inventiveness that cannot be produced by AI or manufactured by robots, are embodied in this process.

“The rise of AI-generated works has ignited discussions about the future of creativity and the role of humans in shaping design. The I'm not a robot project is exploring ways to highlight the unique qualities that humans bring to the design process,” shares Amsterdam -based Jaro Kose.

3. Johanne Birkeland’s lamps fuse traditional artistry and sustainability in pliable clay

Bridging the gap between art and the natural beauty that surrounds us, clay is an ideal medium that helps convey the intricate and harmonious designs found in the natural world. Norwegian ceramist and founder of Jossolini, Johanne Birkeland draws inspiration from these fluid characteristics of clay to handcraft her exquisite lamp collection. Her organic lighting design collection comprises table lamps that immediately exert influence with their distinguished presence while satiating the designer's aim for the series. Birkeland's lamp designs are motivated by the organic and vivacious nature of clay and prove how utilitarian goods and sculptural art can coexist together. Her dedication to the methodical and intentional production of her pieces is evident in both the craft's environmental consciousness and the artworks' unique and monumental presence.

“I try to bring something playful into functional objects. I consider the sculptural and functional aspects equally during the sculpting process. The decoration I think of as skin: that adds to animating the form and capturing its motion,” the sculptural artist shares.

4. Carmen D’Apollonio crafts anthropomorphic lamps imbued with familiar human postures

Swiss ceramicist Carmen D'Appollonio has created anthropomorphic sculptural clay lamps that, with their flowing textures, organic forms, and fluid lines, embody the human form. These lamps are thought-provoking pieces of art that effectively mimic human figures and actions, leaving viewers to wonder if they have any hidden stories. Each table lamp is given a lifelike appearance by its dynamic and organic form, which is often coupled to accentuate the intended message or emotion. These forms resemble miniature creatures or organisms. Each lamp D'Apollonio creates depicts realistic human actions and positions, such as crouching on the ground, precariously perching on a wooden shelf, a weary body sagging, or imposing a stance.

The lamps are also christened with whimsical names attesting to their forms—take for instance, I wish I was a little bit taller, You left without saying goodbye, and I'm Not a Shrimp. The product designs also reflect her creative philosophy, which she described as carefree, slightly whimsical and humorous, as well as unapologetic and experimental.

5. Rollo Studio ensnares ethereal desert landscapes within the 'Dune' lamp collection

Rollo Studio, a Rotterdam, Netherlands-based studio, is devoted to using nature as its source of inspiration while fusing it with contemporary equipment and digital production methods. The resultant, distinctive language seeks to engage in sustainability while reimagining lighting designs using state-of-the-art technology. The Dune collection is a captivating line of lighting objects that takes inspiration from naturally occurring desert landscapes to perfectly capture the beauty and adaptability of quartz sand. The ensemble constitutes three lamp designs titled Dome, Parchan, and Para. The line of sophisticated lighting fixtures includes lamps meticulously created using 3D printing technology with carefully chosen quartz sand. Outstanding detail and a surface finish evocative of the splendour of natural formations are the results of this method.

“As a designer, I have always been fascinated with naturally formed organic structures and have developed an aesthetic identity of similar character and taste. My aim has been to create structures that look as if they’ve almost grown straight out of the ground, resembling the wild and untamed character of organic matter,” says Rollo Bryant, founder of Rollo Studio.

6. Design by Joffey evokes extraordinary experiences through everyday object

Designer George Veerampully has developed a plethora of lamp designs combining functionality, aesthetics and adaptability in mind – Quirk, Engrid, Cartesia, and Nostalia serve various other purposes apart from just illumination, from multifunctional usage and organisation to nature-inspired yet practical. The use of colour is crucial for George since he applies it from a functional standpoint to make it easier to perceive and evaluate the form of an object. He believes primary colours work the best in this regard as every edge and profile stands out easily. Especially when most information today is consumed through a screen, goes a long way in conveying the idea and form of a design with less room for misinterpretation.

Being asked about how the products align with the studio’s philosophy of creating designs that exist at the crossroads of utility, art, and ingenuity George shared “It can never be so utilitarian that it fails to be evocative, but that should not come at the cost of function or the efficiency of actually making the product. My designs try to embody that very idea, of functional, adaptable objects that can still be a reflection of an individual's tastes and ideals.”

7. The ‘Ontologia’ lighting collection is a meditation on light, form, and philosophy

The Ontologia lighting collection by Prospect Refuge Studio in collaboration with Hennepin Made comprises blown-glass lamp designs that are meant to be twisted, turned, removed, and replaced, and even the arrangement of cords invites a sense of experimentation and customisation. The collection invites people to enter a creative space where they can customise their lighting experience to fit their personal preferences. The fixtures, which include floor and table lamps, started off as a single-celled structure and progressively changed to resemble clusters of fungi with their delicate textures and intricate patterns. Subsequently, the patterns develop into branching shapes that resemble thriving plants, signifying growth and vitality. The term ‘ontologia’, which refers to the study of existence, describes the collection.

8. Nortstudio’s latest lamp collection translates 2D graphic compositions to 3D steel objects

Fold collection by Antwerp-based Nortstudio is a series of lamp designs created by simply cutting and folding a thin metal sheet. Each lamp assembles two parts of distinct colours, allowing the light source to reflect different coloured light when placed in various positions. The interplay between graphic elements and colours creates leeway for fabricating different atmospheres with the same design.

“Inspiration can come from various sources. We consider ourselves sponges that absorb our surroundings. Geometric and simple forms, along with saturated and intense colours, are a constant in all of our designs,” says Jef De Brabander, co-founder of Nortstudio.

9. Diego Olivero’s Kaanch series transports traditional glass art to NYCxDesign 2023

New York and Guatemala-based Diego Olivero Studio conceived an unrivalled series in cahoots with the Indian artisans in Delhi —translating their craft into collectable design objects and lamps. Dubbed Kaanch, which translates to ‘glass’ in Hindi, the unique series features the collaborative creations of glass art by the studio and the artisans, created using Borosilicate glass. “My inspiration for the Kaanch collection draws from the vibrant colours of India, the surrounding environment's hues and scents, and the exquisite art of glasswork, which intertwine in the vessels,” says Diego Olivero, industrial designer and founder of his eponymous design studio. Through this collaboration, Olivero seeks to explore and push the limits of techniques and materials, which ultimately results in the creation of innovative and idiomatic objects.

10. ‘Pupa’ by Pearson Lloyd manifests sculptural play and commercial function in lighting

London -based design studio Pearson Lloyd has utilised the innovative methodology of combining science and technology for their lighting design collection called Pupa, which resides at the nexus of the natural world and modern technology. Pupa employs renewable material resources such as wood and twine, as well as production methods such as 3D knitting and additive manufacturing. By utilising natural, bio-based, and technological waste-capturing materials that can be recycled back into their respective cycles at the end of their useful lives, the lamp designs investigate and implement strategies of the circular economy. The fabric employed for Pupa was designed in collaboration with 3D knit specialists Camira Group. It is made of 100 percent post-consumer recycled polyester, including 75 percent marine plastics derived from SEAQUAL Yarn.

Commenting on the sculptural and functional characteristics of Pupa, the studio relays, “Rapid prototyping within our iterative design process allowed the studio to test and refine Pupa within a matter of weeks. The result is somewhere between sculptural play and commercial function. The dissonance between these mindsets resulted in a new expression for the studio.”

What’s NEXT?

The story of ingenuity and inventiveness endures as we go through these avant-garde lighting concepts, inspiring us to venture into undiscovered design evolution territory. From the whimsical lamp stories of Mexico to the harmonious clay forms of Norway and the dreamy landscapes recorded by the Netherlands -based studio, every piece is a tribute to the endless possibilities of innovation in the field. Lighting design appears to have no bounds as artistic expression and technological advancements continue to grow. We stand on the cusp of a time where they will not only adorn our spaces but will also transcend to become conduits of emotion, storytelling, and immersive experiences in the years to come, with each luminary creation embodying a unique synthesis of form, function, and artistic astuteness.

STIRred 2023 wraps up the year with compilations of the best in architecture, art, and design from STIR. Did your favourites make the list? Tell us in the comments!

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