Here’s an interview that I did with a young Swedish designer just after he won the first prize of an international lighting competition organized by the CLU Foundation. The interview originally appeared in Philips’ e-Luminous newsletter.
The CLU Foundation (Concept Lumière Urbaine) organizes an annual competition to encourage emerging designers to develop innovative lighting concepts for exterior public spaces. This year’s theme was Street Furniture Light and the First Prize winner is Lars Gäfvert, a young designer from Göteborg, Sweden.
Can you tell me more about your background?
I’m an industrial designer. In fact, I graduated in 2009 in something we call Industrial Design Engineering, which integrates a greater part of engineering than in what traditional designers do. I think it’s something that is becoming more and more prevalent as the industries require from designers they be able to communicate with engineers and make concepts and ideas that are easier to adapt to production.
What brought you into industrial design?
I think it’s the combination that interested me between an artistic, aesthetical side and a more technical part as well. This particular segment of industrial design would let me have both. And I find it very appealing, as a freelance consultant, to work with different things in every project. You get exposed to a lot of different technologies and different products, learning new things all the time.
How would you define your style, what differentiates you from others?
Well, I haven’t been doing this for long enough to be defined by any particular style. However, I think that when you are an industrial designer and need to work on a variety of projects, the most important skill to have is the ability to adapt your style to what the client wants. I believe it’s more important to link the result to the company’s existing products, or what the client wants to express in the project, rather than one’s own personal style.
What motivated you to enter the CLU Competition?
During my school years, I did work on a few client projects and the idea for this winning contribution to the CLU was actually something I came up with as a concept that was part of a school project, maybe four years ago. The goal was to enhance life in suburbs, to make them more interesting. We eventually ended up going another way, but I kept thinking it was an interesting idea and that I should do something with it. That’s why I picked it up for the CLU Competition.
What does your victory at the CLU Competition represent to you?
It’s always nice to win such a contest, as it is a confirmation that you’re doing something other people think is good work. And of course, it’s great to have some publicity, something more concrete to prove that you’re good, instead of just saying it.
In your project presentation, you wrote “As the late night wanderer sees the trail of another like himself, I hope that it will remind him that he is not alone.” What emotions do you expect people to feel when they walk across these pavements?
I think the most prevalent emotion or sensation in this type of unusual project is the slightly magical feel there is to it. I think it is very important as it brings people beyond the normal everyday life. But then, I also hope and think it conveys different feelings at different times. During peak hours, with lots of lights and people moving around, one would feel more part of the community and part of the city. While late at night, it might be more melancholic, more supernatural.
That new dimension you added to your lighting project – the time, the delay between people stepping on tiles and the tiles actually lighting up – how did you come up with that idea?
At some point, I thought that making the interaction instantaneous wouldn’t be interesting for very long. People would get used to it. Then I started considering a delay before having a response and I came up with the seven-day idea because the type of traffic depends on the time of day and the day of the week. I started to like the idea more and more since it brings a new type of interaction. While it would be unexpected at the beginning, it would become clear later on that it’s not people on the scene that are making the trails. When people see the tiles lighting up, they will start thinking and wondering. And they can either follow the path of other pedestrians, chasing up with the trails, or start making their own. Both choices would then be reflected a week later!
What do you think of urban lighting in the future?
Lighting is becoming so widespread with signs, lit windows, and fixtures all around in city centers. Perhaps this purely functional light will integrate some more features and more interesting aspects to it. There could be more interaction, light could convey information. It could become something more than just lighting.
Where do you see yourself professionally in ten years?
That’s a difficult question! I’m starting up with my own business as a freelance consultant. I’ll see how it goes and I hope to be successful. Right now, I’m more focused on down-to-earth objectives, like finding companies that will benefit from my ideas and establishing contact with returning clients.