Phillips Collection's Mandy Shanahan on Lighting Design
May 19, 2014 - 1:59pm
ARTS 2014 Designer of the Year Mandy Shanahan gets her enthusiasm from being a student of the world.

Shanahan: I’m a visual person. A design is usually triggered by something I see. I’ll visualize an object, or an experience, as a product detail — and then start sketching it. Sketching helps me to capture an idea quickly. But the best way to share the idea is to render it in 3-D. The computer helps me flesh out the details.

When I begin a design project, I focus on who I’m designing for. I need to make sure my designs work well with the Phillips Collection line aesthetically, but also be right for the customer. With this in mind, I always start with an organic contemporary theme. I often blend organic forms with contemporary materials, such as stainless steel, normally used in designs with clean, straight lines. I like to juxtapose materials — cool industrial metals with warm textured wood — and incorporate the natural element into a streamlined design. This contradiction in material and form brings drama, excitement and the unexpected.

One of my favorite designs is Frizzante. The inspiration brings me back to my semester abroad, when I realized I wanted to become a product designer. I was studying architecture in Italy, and when I asked for a bottle of water I was given a bottle of carbonated water called “frizzante.” The sparkling water became popular with us American students, and I still find myself drinking it from time to time. While brainstorming ideas for lamps, I found myself staring at bubbles rising up inside my water bottle. I could see the pattern as a great lamp base and, after a few sketches, started rendering Frizzante on the computer.

Whether it’s bubbles in my water bottle or a great dress in a fashion magazine, my brain starts turning. My number one inspiration is nature; I look for organic forms that I can simplify into a modern design. But I’m also drawn to pattern and color, so I look to forms and fashion trends that I can incorporate into my lighting designs.

  • Made of stainless steel and wood veneer, Mandy Shanahan’s clever Bite lamp for Phillips Collection plays with form and texture.
  • The Frizzante lamp — one of Shanahan's favorites — was inspired by the bubbles in sparkling water. www.

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