Lighting Engines

  • Light having an on and off state forces us to consider design for different states of one product.
  • Consider diffusion. It is like a foggy day — what do the shadows look like on a sunny vs. a foggy day? What does everything light touches look on those days?
  • Glare has a bad connotation. Even in other languages, it has a meaning similar to “distraction.” We should be aware of this: the lighting engine isn’t evaluated purely based on form. Should people be able to see the lightbulb?
  • Experiment with different adhesives.
  • This lighting engine should mean something — should be something you want to keep. It shouldn’t be approached in a “mass-production” kind of way.
  • Other materials are allowed but the focus is on paper. It should look like a paper light.

I: Exploration + Research

These are all round lighting structures, yet their external elements differ. On the left, the light is lowered from the wall’s true height. In the middle, the light is very contained within the glass that diffuses it. On the right, the element of diffusion isn’t as restrictive. In the middle and right lights, the proximity of the light to the ceiling allows a halo of light to from around it on the ceiling.
These lighting structures project light on another surface. On the left, the light is not immediately apparent from far away, because its purpose is to illuminate the mural. This specific purpose is facilitated by the angle the light is set at. On the right, the lighting structure also projects light onto a surface. The projected light is continuous to the lighting structure, and allows the projected light’s reflection to illuminate the rest of the space.
These are all lightbulbs suspended by a pole. They all have a vaguely conical shape, but they give off very different feelings and aesthetics. On the left, the elegant curvature of the light makes sense in a cafe setting. In the middle, the simple structure that doesn’t attract attention functions well for a gym setting. On the right, the heavy duty metal encasings contrast against the glass lighting structures. However, they coexist in the “mismatched” convenience store environment.
These cylindrical lighting structures all function very differently. The one on the left projects from the ground, but the actual light comes from a middle segment. It projects a wide halo on the ground that helps navigation at night. The middle lights all rely on direct projection to the art store. The cylindrical lighting on the right projects light solely from one end. The other light attached to the wall projects light on walls that vary in angles, creating an interesting light beam.
Considering the on and off stages. One thing I neglected at this stage was how different papers respond to the same adhesives.
very thin, medium-fine texture when light illuminates it, true white color, medium-high diffusion
thin-medium thickness, rough texture when lit, neutral-pink color, medium diffusion
thin-medium thickness, medium-fine texture when lit, warm white color, medium diffusion
thick/stiff thickness, rough texture when lit, purple tone, medium-low diffusion
  • Notice consensus of descriptive words: high/low, dim/bright, for multiple people/1 person
  • Take pictures of lights in the off state. How prominent does it look?
  • Consider how something can be pleasing even when it’s not used. (i.e. chair: sit and not sit state)
  • Explore Turrel’s work

II: Sketch Models

Although I kept in mind the observations I made about adhesives and paper, I approached these sketch models with more of an open mind and intent to explore. Most of these are made with printer paper and tape to fulfill this goal.

  • Height of light matters. Orientation in general — hanging, standing (to what level), on side?
  • Consider whether lighting engine sparks associations that are nouns or adjectives.
  • Consider which direction the lighting engine is pointing at (“directing”).
  • For 2 or 8 friends? What situation are you imagining and how will you support it?
  • Consider repetition, pattern, and rhythm.
  • Consider effects of gravity, and how it acts differently depending on the paper.
  • Build lighting engine to scale, because paper acts differently at different scales.
  • Buy more types of adhesive
  • Buy paper that promotes structure, like foamcore
  • Choose 1–2 sketch models and further develop in context of prompt
  • Consider discussion considerations + prompt

III: “Alternative” Models

After creating the sketch models, I had a better idea of what does, but more importantly, does not support “hanging out with friends in a living room.” With this knowledge, I started to intentionally create forms that pertain to my prompt.

I decided to join the folds on the top to create a more tapered form.
I then experimented with ways to accessorize and cover up the lightbulb on top.
Pushing the stacking method → overlapping pieces. This creates a distinct hierarchy and separation in regards to how much light passes through depending on the number of layers of paper.
  • He enjoys the versatility of the overlapping elements, he says this can be translated into a customizable light concept (shifting pieces up and down, side to side to allow more/less light to show)
  • He agreed with me that the decision to translate the desk light into a ceiling light fits better with my prompt
I realized that the matboard was accommodating to the scoring technique I adopted from the cardboard carriers project. The picture on the right shows how I used construction paper to create the dynamic rings to diffuse the light.
  • The rings give off a playful vibe, which also was my intention in adhering to the prompt
  • The rings diffuse the harsh light from the lightbulb
  • The light looks interesting in both the on/off states
  • The rings feel unresolved and not planned enough as it goes towards the center
  • The angles of the curves are not “idealized” enough — they aren’t curved at the same angles
  • In general, people had a strong negative reaction to the light. It made them feel uncomfortable.
  • Strong association with octopus, squid, tentacle
Compared form of the light to tentacles of a humboldt squid. Should idealize curves so that they resemble branches of a blue spruce.
Pediments in Greek Architecture. This is meant to inspire different forms of the chandelier’s structure.
Labor-intensive way to make curved paper: laminated wood method like in Eame’s chair. These structurally perfect curves are also present in the curved beams in Japanese architecture.
  • Do more research about chandelier forms
  • Explore bounce light ideas
  • Revisit some initial lighting explorations and see if they have potential to build off on

IV: Refined Model

Out of the two alternative models, I decided to build upon MODEL 2 because I felt like the chandelier idea had more potential:

  • I associated the chandelier form with a setting that is wider and accommodating to more people
  • I thought I could continue to explore the way structure is created by a thicker paper like matboard
Lights prioritizing the use of bounce light → simple chandelier forms → combining bounce light and chandelier form
L: Sketch for this model. I did not end up making the inner two strips because I couldn’t find a way to execute it given the odd number of “blades”. R: Sketch of a very angular chandelier. Made the “rings” more systematic by separating them and folding at right angles. I didn’t end up executing this idea because I preferred more curved forms.
L: I realized later that light can only pass through a small triangle at the bottom of the lighting engine. R: Using tracing paper to cover up the lightbulb.
  • the conservation board is a good temperature and supports the desired form of the chandelier, but it allows no light to pass through. this communicates the lighting engine as more of a sculptural object rather than something that facilitates the distribution of light
  • the lightbulb is not addressed enough. In efforts to make people not see the actual lightbulb, I hastily wrapped some tracing paper around it.
A peer flipped over the light to create this alternative form. I think it garnered more positive reactions because the lighting engine doesn’t obscure a lot of the light. This gave me the idea to potentially make the structure on top wider so the papers that hang from it are less likely to obscure the light.
Some of the solutions that I came up with to maintain the general form of the chandelier but also allow more light to pass through.

V: Refined Model

In response to the overwhelming associations with “ceiling fan” with my previous iteration, I decided to go back to the more curvilinear shapes of the chandelier. I also wanted to experiment with ways to cover up the lightbulb more effectively and intentionally.

I intended to use the slot in the matboard to lift the “blades” more so more light can get through, but my scoring technique got in the way and made the “blades” bend more (and still sag down) instead of lifting.
L: Covering the lightbulb by layering vellum. R: Using hot glue as a “quick fix” for the (still) uneven petals.
  • The way I covered the lightbulb is also cool visually and is somewhat cohesive with the curves of the petals
  • The way I covered the base of the lightbulb is good in theory
  • Layered vellum isn’t enough to fully cover and diffuse the light
  • Petals still cover the lightbulb in some way
L: Artichoke light: uses curved paper-like material to spread light outwards. The way the pieces are angled creates a nice light gradient. R: Fresnel Lighthouse light: this demonstrates the concept of magnifying a small source of light.
  • using Yupo paper in different ways to diffuse the lightbulb (different folds/cut-outs)
  • not relying on the slit mechanism to hold up the chandelier

VI: Prep for Final Model

Over the weekend, I intended to make a lot of the models I sketched out in order to fulfill the criteria I determined after creating my last model. I only ended up creating one model because I was pretty satisfied with the form and spent a good amount of time exploring nuanced options for that particular form.

Sketching out ways to incorporate the slit mechanism, chandelier-inspired form, and radial symmetry into a lighting engine that sufficiently diffuses the lightbulb’s light.
Using the petals to support/act for structure rather than from.
Using six types of paper to see how light passes through it.
  • Railroad Paper: thick, texture is distracting
  • Canson Mi-Tientes: nice warm tone, may obscure light too much?
  • Clearprint Vellum: nice texture, but way too thin (lets too much light through)
  • Translucent Yupo (Vellum): nice diffusion/texture, may be too thin when applied to all 8 blades
  • White Yupo (Vellum): nice texture, may obscure too much light
Solution to covering up the lightbulb.
  • Determine exactly what paper to use
  • Craft: cutting strips and “blades” cleanly
  • Consistency in loops and measurements b/w folds + slits
  • Using a stronger adhesive: the strips kept falling down from this model
  • Develop way to make strips “wrapping” around lightbulb look more intentional
  • Consider using 1 or 2 pieces to create “blades” rather than 8.
  • Covering up the upper portion/base of the lightbulb

VII: Final Model

Going into creating the final model, I intended to make something very similar to my second to last model in terms of general form and distribution of light. I had a pretty straightforward checklist of the things I need to change/figure out in this iteration, and I accomplished all of them in this model.

Construction paper stencil → 2 “+” sign” blades → align so that they are evenly spaced → glue together
  • Translucent Yupo: might allow too much light through
  • White Yupo: might allow too little light through
  • Alternating Translucent + White Yupo: may look weird/stripey/distracting
I first used masking tape to secure the strips as I was testing if the Translucent Yupo would look good when applied to all eight blades instead of just one.
Folding the end of the strip at an angle + using a construction paper template to make sure all the strips are the same.
  • I glued each of the strips so that they aligned perfectly with the one before it. This made it so that there were no gaps between the strips and none of the lightbulb would show.
  • I made sure to glue the strips equidistant to the lightbulb so the overall form wouldn’t look distorted at certain angles.
Some rough printer paper prototypes of ways to cover the top of the lightbulb. I made a few sketches to visualize them in context of the entire lighting engine.



Carnegie Mellon Design + HCI ‘23

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