Designer Toan Nguyen Shines a Light on Process and Innovation
With a new customizable lighting system for Vibia, the industrial designer finds poetry in mathematics.
According to designer Toan Nguyen, what is increasingly disappearing from large scale lighting projects is the physical product. “Architectural lighting has become highly technical, the main concern is how to program the light,” Nguyen says. So, when Nguyen was tasked by Vibia to define the physical form of a flexible lighting system the manufacturer had envisioned, he jumped at the opportunity.
“The first question is always—why do we need a new lamp,” Nguyen says. “Here it was quite easy to find a reason—there are very few products which combine the artistry of architectural lighting with the rigor of an industrial product.” The result of the collaboration between the Parisian-born industrial designer and the flagship contemporary design brand, the modular lighting collection Algorithm, allowed Nguyen and Vibia to do both—meticulously engineer every detail of the lamp, including LED efficiency and diffuser intensity, while making the project as flexible as a customizable solution.
But while Algorithm can take on many forms, the spare elemental design ensures that the system is recognizable in any configuration, letting designers mix and match arrangements. “The identity is in the lighting pixel, which is the lamp,” Nguyen says. The visual and tactile qualities of the individual hand-blown glass globes, which hang suspended from a floating tubular steel support frame, are commanding enough to compel designers to choose one of the designs right out of the catalog.
Algorithm can also been seen as a design actuary, analyzing each spatial equation and offering solutions, through what Nguyen calls a “poetic tool”—offering opportunities for architects to flex their own creative muscles as they adapt to the needs of individual projects. Guiding this process is an intuitive virtual modeling application which offers support to architects, allowing them to simulate a range of compositions and customize the design to suit any space.
“For us, innovation is not only about the product, it’s also about creating the experience,” Vibia CEO Pere Llonch says. “The customer can start with something that is pre-configured or create an entirely new design—that freedom is a hugely important aspect.” Once the architects decide on a graphic pattern, the interface offers them different options of how to repeat the cluster to create a logical composition, taking them step by step to the definition of the third dimension. “Algorithm allows consumers to develop sophisticated designs that would have been extremely difficult without the software. At the same time, the end product doesn’t make you think—this was generated by a computer,” Llonch comments.
Because of this, Algorithm’s story of collaboration doesn’t end with Nguyen and Vibia, but continues with users who insert their own creativity into the product. For instance, a video arcade in Seville, Spain, forms an overheard constellation of luminaries.
“Recently someone told me that me that when a shape is closed, it is dead. When the line is open, the shape is alive,” Nguyen concludes. “I like the idea of Algorithm as this open project, its design is never finished, it lives its second life in other people’s arrangements.”