Joerg Student: The key inspiration for the type of work I do is actually talking to people and finding out what people do, what people need, what people think. I do a lot of new product design. I’m also doing innovation consulting. I develop my products from the inside out. Form follows function, which usually leads to a modern, clean and timeless design.
The creative process depends on the particular product I am working on. I have an idea or several ideas, and then I sketch, but then I quickly move to prototyping. It helps me evaluate an idea, look at proportions and ergonomics and mechanisms, and then I go back and sketch more and build CAD models, and then go back and prototype things again because that’s something that triggers new ideas. It’s a very iterative process. I spend a lot of time in the shop just building things.
I moved to product design from an engineering background and so whatever I design, I want to see it work. I like working with constraints. I see myself as a problem solver.
I co-founded Luximo in early 2008 with Frank Shum, an excellent optical and mechanical engineer. Our goal was to design beautiful lights that are also extremely functional and very efficient and environmentally friendly. Our first design, an LED task lamp, won a Lighting for Tomorrow award last year. I think it speaks to what we want to achieve. Everything on the lamp has a purpose. And you don’t really see that it has this purpose. The beauty of the lamp is its function. The ribbed lamp head is the key design element; it makes it look interesting, but it’s also very functional because it helps cool the LEDs. We’re currently working on a product family, the next generation.
The challenge of LED is that you suddenly have to be much more considerate of the process. With traditional light bulbs, you would just design an object — very straightforward. With LEDs, it’s a lot more complicated. The biggest challenge is the thermal management. Every other light radiates the heat out. If they get too hot, they become inefficient, lose brightness and fail sooner. The challenge is: How do you get rid of the heat that you are generating? At the same time, I see a huge opportunity. You can do designs that you weren’t able to do before. With LEDs, you have to rethink what a light has to look like and what a light can do.
Not everyone knows how to design with LEDs. At the moment, I see two [paths] in LED design: I see many LED lights that are relatively efficient, but also not very compelling because they are designed by engineers or people who emphasize efficiency only. I also see a lot of really beautiful LED lights, but they are not efficient at all. I think eventually it will come together — like with my lamp.
As designers, we have to think always of the whole process of sustainability. We have to think about how the product is used. Often times, people see it as a contradiction. We see it as an opportunity.