Designing Lighting Engines
“Make objects that produce and modulate light. Each object is a one-off real thing, not a prototype of a yet to be produced market product. An important thing to keep in mind is that artificial lighting exists in two major states; ON and OFF. For example, your desk lamp is still there even when it is not being used to provide light.”
LED lightbulb, white stock paper (cardstock of different thickness, printer paper, paper towel, toilet paper, tissue paper, paper cups), glue/ tape, lamp socket
Exploring the Context
How the Place Should Feel
In this environment, one should feel relaxed. They’re simply trying to read peacefully and quietly before going to bed. The light should not be too shocking and bright that it ruins this tranquil mood, but still be adequate enough that they are able to read the words on the page. The light should illuminate only their surroundings and not the entirety of the room. They should be able to readily turn off the light, and gently go to sleep when they feel tired, with ease. The person should feel calm throughout the entirety of the experience.
- Type of Light:
Since the person is in bed and about to sleep, it is preferable that the light is dim enough that it isn't shocking and keeps them awake, but also adequate to see the pages of the book without extraneous effort. This could be achieved through a soft light. Being exposed to a dark light for a long period of time can cause dizziness and headache, especially when focusing on reading.
- Brightness of Light:
According to lampicker.com, “the ideal range [of brightness] is within 3–5 watts for LED bulbs.”
- Placement of Light
The lamp should be able to be placed somewhere that light is shined on your book but not directly onto your face. It should also be placed in a way that it does not necessarily illuminate your entire room but rather only the vicinity around you.
- Color of Light
Blue light is said to disturb your well-needed sleep, disturbing one’s circadian rhythm. Therefore, it is recommended to use a reading light without blue light or the minimal use of blue light. Amber reading lights are preferred since they have very little amounts of blue light within them.
- Distribution of Light
The light should be evenly projected onto the paper to prevent the creation of hotspots or glares on the paper that are distracting to the viewer as they try to read. This also creates stress for the reader. Softer light will be more evenly spread out on a page.
Real-Life Examples of reading lamps (top-rated)
- Has 3 levels of brightness ( Soft, Moderate and Bright light)
- Can also be used as a night light
- Has a 360 touch base
- Simple and elegant- Round cylindrical object
- Light has a soft gradient
- Compact and portable
- Three light modes (warm, white, mixed)
- Can be clipped to headboards, nightstands and books
- Has a flexible neck- could be angled as preferred
- The mechanism is probably unreasonable to create with paper stock
- Connects to the headboard — shines light directly onto book
- Pull the chain to turn off the light- don't have to get out of bed and no wire shows
- Only warm light option?
- Have to ensure it does not hit your head
Experimenting with White Paper Stock
Effects of layering and colors exuded by different paper stock
Bathroom Paper towels
Paper Towel Roll
Recap notes from class for reference:
I thought Thien’s board from class on Thursday was really good information for reference. While I created the same form with multiple layers in different materials, Thien explored vastly different forms with different materials. This is extremely useful to see how the light reflects in different forms, and how it appears — including how vivid the tint of color is — when it is viewed.
Creating sketch models (Sketching Ideas):
I’m finding this difficult because of all of the possibilities and opportunity for variety with our lamps.
Sketch Model 1:
First, I looked at countless examples on google and youtube of what people have done in the past to create paper lamp shades or lights to get some context. To start off with something more simple, I wanted to try a lamp made from folding paper in specific ways geometrically, with limited use of glue or tape. I used the legal paper because it was large and easy to work with for my first model — and most importantly I believe the purple color that is created with the light is beneficial for instilling a calm and peaceful tone that is fitting for someone intending to read in bed — hopefully not too overwhelming.
First, I folded 3 sheets of legal paper inch by inch (like a fan) and then folded each inch section upwards, creating a series of parallel diagonal lines across the paper, and repeating it from the other side, creating diamond-like shapes throughout the upper half of the paper. After watching a tutorial on how to fold generic paper lanterns, I learned how to fold the paper upwards in order to make it stand up.
After folding all of these sections upwards, and making 3 large sheets as so, I glued the pieces together with tape and curled the lamp upwards, sticking the lightbulb inside.
- I believe I made the bottom half too big because the form appears more perpendicular rather than conical shaped.
- I think that hot gluing the tip in the future would also make it a little more sturdy.
- I was disappointed that the color still turned out slightly yellow; I believe it didn’t have enough layers to appear purple-tinted yet. However, I did like that the light was softer, and not as yellow as my experimenting.
- Generic design to explore — not specific to reading in bed.
- Difficult to carry a lightbulb upright because there is no base, and the paper is flimsy. Perhaps create a hanging mechanism instead so the cable works to my benefit, but then it would also hang over someone when they read — may be annoying.
- Positive attribute: Did not use too much tape/glue or paper. Good that it is only a few sheets of paper
Sketch Model 2
Contrasting the previous design, I wanted to try something a lot more complex and more geometric in nature — juxtaposing triangles and spherical shapes. I strived to explore how combining small objects and shapes can also form a cohesive structure in a more additive manner.
Drew the outline (net) for a small 2.5-inch triangular prism shape, and then traced that shape 18+ times (determined as enough to make a spherical shape as I put them together later). I then cut out these pieces and started to assemble each of the triangular pieces.
I then began to glue the triangular prism pieces together using the tabs on the bottom. They were glued together as a pentagon- 5 at a time, in order to have them tilt inwards, eventually creating a spherical shape.
I then kept adding and drawing/ cutting more of these triangular pieces as the form became more spherical. I enjoy how the light will transmit through the gaps between these pieces.
I kept adding more triangles (around 18 at this point) when I had a chance to finish the lamp off with a flatter hexagonal bottom. The middle image below demonstrates how the triangles are essentially like flaps before all the sides are glued together and fastened — much like a puzzle of some sort. I used stick glue to ensure it wasn’t too messy.
Finished lamp views without lightbulb:
- The shadow cast is very interesting. The light emits stronger from the little holes that were not perfectly sealed together (maybe use hot glue to fasten those centers to prevent bright spots of light)
- Curious what would happen if I cut holes into the triangles? The effect of cuts on light forms and shadows? What would happen if I added more layers?
- I enjoy how the triangle prisms fold outward — appreciate the geometry of it. I think I prefer more geometric, calculated forms than flowy — but is this suitable for my context?
- Interesting to see how a large figure can be created additively through smaller components.
- In hindsight, maybe this was a lot of unnecessary effort and time to make 20 different pieces…
- Lots of different pieces in contrast to the previous one — I wonder does this compromise the integrity?
- I enjoy how translucent the paper is — the paper is fairly thin so it makes the light look very — fresh. Perhaps this isn't the best for reading light though.
Sketch Model 3
Since my previous designs have been rigid and very geometric as well as closed off, I wanted to try something more flexible as well as with spaces in between to explore how light exits the form.
First, I cut out 3 squares of different sizes and then cut 6 of those squares each. I then cut into each square 1.25 inches (the width of my ruler) to be consistent since the measurement doesn't really matter. The largest square had sides of about 8 inches. These pieces were a lot more delicate than the ones I used for the previous design. After collecting all of my pieces…
I then began to fold over the edges of the largest squares and fastened the ends with tape. I manually double-sided the tape. They created this interesting warped infinity shaped twist. I put one piece of tape on the corner of the square and then put another piece on the reverse side of the opposite corner. I enjoy how the pointed edges of the twists contrast the smooth nature of the form.
I repeated the same action with the smaller squares, and then fastened the smaller twist inside the bigger one with tape. The outwards cone sections of both face the same direction.
Repeated the same step with the smaller whole square this time, I attached the twist into the other two. The forms it created sort of look like bread. I was very curious to see how the light would appear and reflect as it passed through the holes in the twists of the figure. If I was to do this with thicker paper like cardstock, I would definitely need something stronger to fasten the edges of the paper together- maybe hot glue rather than tape.
I then double-sided/reversed masking tape and stuck it in between all 6 of the loops, pressed them against each other, and created a cylindrical shape of the lampshade.
Finished Lamp without lightbulb:
Lamp with lightbulb:
From the center overlap, a purple-gray color is able to come across, and the light exits from the gaps in between. From the top views, the design is very cylindrical — almost appears like a flower — very relaxing. I would have to find a way to make the base more stable so that it would fasten to the lightbulb. I think this design would be more suitable for a hanging lamp. This could potentially be the route I take since from my research, a lamp hanging above one’s headrest is a good way to read at night. However, then the wire would be going upwards and the person would have to get out of bed to turn the lamp off, which is definitely not ideal. I think the gaps in this design may create strong unintentional light on the book.
Similar to some of the other sketches I drew, next I will study how cutouts affect the light being transmitted through the lamp. I also need to explore how to best connect the lamps to the bulb in a sturdy yet understandable way, deciding if I want to pursue a hanging design with a wire or a standing lamp on a desk/nightstand.
Notes from Class: Things to consider and explore —
- how to bend light, how light reflects off surfaces
- rounded edges- lend more to relaxation?
- what does the simplicity of form say about the story
- avoid bright areas with a lot of contrast- hurts your eyes
- see how it affects an arrangement of stuff, how the lamp casts shadows on different objects
- experiment with the lamp in the actual place of use
My questions to study for next class:
- Unlike my previous heavily geometric, rigid sketch models, are forms with rounded and flowy edges more suitable for the context of relaxing through reading in bed?
- How do cuts (not completely enclosed light) in the paper affect how light is transmitted through it and reflects outwards?
- How does light bounce off surfaces it is attached to or sitting beside, and how does that affect the shadows it creates?
- How can I use layering techniques to make the light dimmer, more suitable for reading in bed leisurely?
- What is the effect of additive figures?
- Dim, more ambient light, not bright yellow — avoid appearing stressful after long periods of time reading
- Smooth continuous figure (curved edges rather than geometric) — appear more relaxing
- Sturdy — able to support the weight of the bulb either upright or hanging
- Simplistic — does not require numerous pieces to be assembled, minimal use of tape and glue
Creating new sketch models following these criteria:
Sketch Model 5
This sketch model is intended to explore how cuts affect the way light is transmitted through the figure, and how layering changes the color and reflection of light. It also explores how a lot can be done with only 1 sheet of cardstock with pieces removed and the fluidity of the softer edges. It consists of 1 sheet of curved cardstock with polygons cut out of the edge, and I photographed it taped over versus unraveling.
Edge taped over
An additional sheet of cardstock
How light bounces off the wall
The light that bounces off the wall is very strong and circular — much too strong for reading. I do appreciate the color that is created with the darker red tones- the amber color appears suitable for reading. I’m interested in the way the pattern is seen when the light is turned on but not off.
Sketch Model 6
My next experiment consisted of strips of legal paper attached to a donut-shaped cardstock base holding the lightbulb. I was striving to explore additive forms and the natural curvy/ flowy nature of paper. Also, I intend to examine the layering of the translucent legal paper and the attachment to a base to keep the lightbulb upright.
Starting with 4 thicker strips of legal paper, I built up this simple spherical form by adding more and more sheets that overlapped in the center.
4 strips (1 inch, legal paper)
8 strips (.5 inch, legal paper)
The purple color in the center exhibits a sense of relaxation I would want the whole figure to have. However, the light that is seen from the cracks of the strips is very bright since the lightbulb is exposed — definitely too bright for reading casually in bed. I enjoy how the form is smooth- exudes an element of relaxation. The consistent pattern is also not startling and rather dependable.
More views of this sketch model
Hanging instead of standing
I was considering a hanging design since then the light would be able to shine directly onto one’s book, ensuring that they can read the text extremely clearly. However, I would then have to consider how the object would hang, and where the ideal placement would be. It would have to be hung in a way so the wire is not visible or hit the person when they’re in bed, but also be easily accessible so they are able to turn off the lamp when they’re done reading. In the end, I believe it would be more convenient for someone to be able to turn off a lamp sitting on their nightstand after they’re done reading versus having to get out of bed which would ruin the mood.
Light bouncing off the wall
Unlike the previous model, the light seems to striate and split into 2 as it hits the wall, which logically follows the light emitting from between the strips. This could be distracting for someone that requires stable light to be able to read their book easily.
Sketch Model 6
With this model, I intend to explore the addition of figures such as cylinders of different heights and widths. I cut a slit into the sides of where cylinders hit others, to allow the light to pass through the numerous components. More components can be added. This model attempts to have a sense of structure but also fluidity with the objects.
I appreciate how every cylinder turned out to be a different shade of grey- appears like a relaxing waterfall of some sort — does not deter from a peaceful sleeping mood. I must find another way to fasten the tops of the cylinders to their bodies to ensure the tape does not show from the outside. I used legal paper for this model, I wonder what would happen with thicker paper?
The consistent pattern from the outside is captivating — no one knows the different shades of gray that will appear once they turn on the light — an element of mystery.
Sketch Model 7
I was merely curious and wanted to witness how the light would act with more of the lightbulb exposed — however, as expected it was much too strong for my context and was blinding. This design would also be hanging if displayed.
Quick Sketch Model 8
I’ve seen a lot of these over the internet and was simply curious to see how this common design would look. However, I really liked how the thin slits and slips of paper flow and bend easily in numerous directions. If controlled properly, they could be adjusted in a way to control the amount of light that passes through. I think the idea of the flexibility of paper is an interesting attribute to further scrutinize.
Creating the first prototype
This prototype draws particularly from lessons learned from sketch models 4 and 6. I intended to create a consistent pattern that wasn’t stressful for someone as they lay in bed reading. Something that was based on the natural curves of paper, but not too abstract and unreliable — hence the repetitive use of cylinders. Something that shows movement — with the tower of circular figures. From sketch model 4, I tried to incorporate an element of surprise, where the form looks simple on the outside, but once it is turned on, a different pattern/ idea approaches. From sketch model 6, I appreciated the consistency of the cylinders. However, I tried to experiment with what would happen if I made them out of cardstock instead of legal paper, and the effect that would have on layering.
I tried a different method for attaching the tops of cylinders this time to avoid having the tabs and tape being seen when the light passed through the lamp. I simply extended the base of the cylinder and cut little strips from it to bend over. Once the cylinder was rolled up, the little strips provided a base to attach the top cylinder to with glue. Pressing it down, the cylinder was flush with the sides of the base and no tabs would be evident from the outside.
1st Cylinder Creation
2nd and 4th Cylinder Creation
3rd Cylinder Creation
All the cylinders unassembled
I created cylinders of varying radii and heights to create a pattern of consistency but still movement. I also cut into only 3 of the cylinders so that the patterns didn’t appear too dizzying and overwhelming for the people who are reading.
Cylinders stacked (no light)
I stacked the cylinders in a waterfall-like movement. (This is before I covered them with paper so the pattern isn't evident from the outside)
Paper covering bottom two cylinders with light
Instead of cardstock this time, I wrapped a sheet of legal paper around the cylindrical forms so that the pattern was only visible when the light was turned on. In hindsight — maybe I should have stopped here??
Paper covering bottom cylinders
In these models, I left the top cylinder uncovered (without paper on the outside) so you are able to actually see into the cylindrical form. I think this was a bit inconsistent with the rest of the figures, and also created a deep orange light that was somewhat startling and unsettling.
I ran into a big issue as I realized the cardstock was MUCH thicker than the previous legal paper I used in sketch model 6. This meant the light did not pass through as well to the top cylinders. To resolve this problem for cylinder 4, I cut a hole in the bottom of it so the light would pass through easier.
Finalized exterior views of the lamp with the lightbulb inside but not turned on. I really enjoy how this form looks simplistic and is mysterious.
4 cylinders with light
After I covered the top cylinder with paper, the exterior was more consistent, however, the light was stifled. The cardstock was still a bit too thick for the light to pass through well since I covered both the top and the bottom of the cylinders with a layer. The top of the cylinder is hardly even lit up — only a tiny slightly orange circle is visible.
5 cylinders w light
Experimenting with a 5th smaller cylinder — this problem is VERY evident now. I should have used a thinner paper or not have covered both the top and the bottom of the cylinders with the cardstock. I could also go back in and cut holes in them to allow the light to pass better. The addition of this 5th cylinder is inevitably useless as the light won't even pass through.
With book for context
The lamp very well illuminated the entirety of the book. I expected the light to be somewhat fractured with the pattern, but it was entirely consistent and stable. However, I do believe the light is not as targeted as it could be for the context. Unfortunately, I don’t have a nightstand or a table beside my dorm room bed, but as soon as I’m home next week, I will be able to experiment with the specific angle for the light to adequately light up my book.
Peer Review Feedback:
I completely agree with the feedback and definitely plan on using thinner paper or cutting a hole on the lids of the cylinders to allow the light to pass through all of the form at once. As I created this model with cardstock versus legal paper like my previous ones, this is what I immediately noticed as well. As my group mentioned, I am considering getting rid of the design cutouts all together because it may seem unnecessary for my task at hand. Maybe I will make the design simpler and more angled downwards, so the light shines exactly on the book. The light should be more targeted.
Aspects to change for the next prototype:
- Targeted light (towards the book in bed) to better address my context of reading in bed
- Minimize the number of abstract cutouts to make sure it is not too distracting to a user
- Minimize the amount of necessarily added pieces to the form (and ensure the light passes through all of them)
- Provide a stable and consistent light so the entirety of the book is illuminated (But the whole room is not).
- Ensure the layering of the paper makes the light dimmer so that it is more relaxing and not stressful in bed
- Try to achieve an amber tone that is suitable for peaceful rest
- Find a more effective way to keep the lightbulb steady upright within the lamp
- Keep a simple, consistent pattern
Experimenting with different angles of lightbulbs to see what is best for reading.
I noticed my bed is much higher than the nightstand, so the light would have to be angled upwards so that a reader on their bed is able to see the text on the page adequately.
Need to improve the connection between the top and the body of the cylinder. Perhaps make the tabs go inwards instead. Also the light currently emits from every direction, but I believe it only really needs to exit upwards in the direction of the book.
Keeping those aspects in consideration, I planned to allow more light to transmit through only the top half of the design. I created long vertical columns to embody the qualities of a typical book. The curve was very difficult to sort out to be a flat face.
Folded upwards w another paper on the outside
With top done- Finished exterior without lamp
Stand to ensure the lightbulb stands upright
I created a stand to make sure the lightbulbs stands upright. However, my stand is a little lopsided at the moment. In the next prototype, I need to be more precise with my craft and maybe create it out of a stronger material.
Lamp without lightbulb
I enjoy how simplistic this form is. Yet it is hopefully effective since the light is targeted upwards.
Without stand with lightbulb (Holding form upright)
Stand with lightbulb (from the sides)
Stand with lightbulb (from above)
I am not a fan of the lines unintentionally created on the top of the lamp by the little excess strips from the body folded over. I’m unsure how to eliminate these and still fasten the top piece onto the body.
Elements that are favorable and unfavorable
- Attaching the ellipse to the base (the little slits take away from the smooth simple design) — distracting and confusing.
- Light is yellow rather than purple and amber — used the wrong cardstock
- I really like how simple the form is from the outside especially with the light off
- light the long vertical slits a lot more than the abstract somewhat confusing patterns
- Make a little larger in size (perhaps taller but that’s because my bed has two mattresses)
- Long slits on the body appear like the vertical long pages of a book spine
- Bottom part of the lamp is covered more thoroughly/ more cardstock to prevent light from exciting in from the bottom- targetted all of the light upwards to illuminate just the book
- The lamp could be slightly larger, it is currently the size of the book
- Not many different pieces to be attached, unlike the previous models
Critiques and Insights from Stacie, Steve, Nick & Alice
- Fix the attachment between the socket and bulb and the form of the lamp — it's currently tilted because of the thickness of the cord, even though I made a stand for the lightbulb — make stand more sturdy out of cardboard/foam core, maybe cut a slit into the side of the lamp so the cable can exit without causing it to tilt — I’m worried if the material will be able to withstand that
- Want the lamp to be flush with the table or raised a little higher due to the stand the lightbulb is on? If it is above the table, consider the light that will exit from the bottom — make sure it is even and consistent
- Consider gaps in the design where light is unintentionally flowing out of the form, especially near edges/attachments of paper. Two options: First is to have the fraying edges of the body be longer and meet in the center so another additive piece for the top of the lamp cover is not necessary anymore, would need to make the strips thicker. The second option is to have the top serve as a lid that tucks into the rest of the form going all the way down in the form of the vertical columns that extend down the body of the lamp.
Making a stand for the lightbulb
I decided to make the stand this time out of foam core so it was a lot more sturdy. I also hot glued the pieces together so the bulb would stay perfectly upright.
I cut a little slit into the bottom of the body to see if the form would still stay upright with the lightbulb within it. I also switched to using legal paper so it the lamp would be larger — more suitable when compared to the size of the book.
The paper stands perfectly upright and is flush with the table w the cut on the side — not tilted anymore with the bulb inside. I also enjoy the softer tone of the light on the legal paper versus the cardstock — purple tones versus yellow.
I then experiment with the layering of the legal paper — creating calm and peaceful tones of purple. I also tried to cut slits on the top of the curve and foot the slits over. I made the slits thicker than I did on the previous model but they need up being too thick and not long enough — there is a hole in the top of the lamp. In my next prototype, I will make the slits slightly smaller, and do the cuts on the side of the lamp.
Final Prototype Process
Making the Base and the top (attached)
In order to prevent creating a gap between the top lid and the body, I folded the small excess strips of the body over and glued them together to create the top.
Interior detail piece
Combining the two layers
Moving the layers upwards — making the lamp larger
Interaction — the layers can be rotated
Can easily twist the outer layer changing the lined column design in the middle.
Final Prototype Images
Gifs explaining context and function
Characteristics of this design:
- Simplicity: Only one object/form, not too many additive shapes that are distracting, cannot tell there is any pattern when the light is turned off, consistent pattern
- Fluent Form: Curved cylinder shape to promote relaxation- not create stress- as someone is in bed trying to sleep
- Targeted light: light shines from only the top area and it is tilted upwards so that it shines more directly in the direction of the book when someone is in bed
- Intensity of light: at least 2 layers of cardstock all the way around- light is not too bright- dimmed- is not shocking- doesn’t wake you up from sleep — warm colors aid in sleeping (achieve an amber\purple color)
- Representative of context: simple design, the long vertical columns serve to symbolize the repetitive pages of a book
- I think this project was the most difficult out of the ones we have done so far simply because of all the freedom we were given to do as we choose. Unlike the past projects, there were no restrictions on media except for the white color and could use tape/glue. I felt a bit overwhelmed with so many opportunities to make diverse lamps and so many ideas I wanted to explore— an abundance of options that were actually distracting.
- I definitely enjoyed making forms out of commonly used media that I’ve never explored in this manner. At first, I was very very surprised that the same lightbulb led to different colors depending on the paper — the fact that some forms appeared to be bright red, purple, yellow, or white was shocking.
- I appreciate how different everyone's lamps ended up — exuding a lot of creativity and variety — some are origami-like, some geometric, some rigid, some flowy, some emitting more light than others — I would like to take home numerous of these to put in my own room.
- I enjoy that although the lamps are made from paper, layering makes them seem sturdy and some even appear to be made of wood. The effective use of paper is not as flimsy as I originally presumed it would be.
- I believe it was interesting to have to research more for this project into the needs of our specific contexts. Reflecting on our potential audience was the main component- realistic to design in the future.
- The project definitely allowed me to improve my craft skills with paper stock, which is probably a common and easily accessible media I would be using in the future.
- Making different physical lamps was very satisfying — watching an idea come to life in a way that is more representative than how it could have portrayed through sketches. Seeing it in 3d allowed me to see flaws in the design I had not anticipated at first.
I think this project was the most difficult we have done so far partly because of all the freedom we were given. Unlike the past projects, there were no restrictions on the medium except for the white color, and we could use tape/glue. I felt a bit overwhelmed with so many opportunities to make diverse lamps and so many ideas I wanted to explore. I ended up making numerous very differing sketch models but struggled to just choose one. I definitely enjoyed making forms out of commonly used media that I’ve never explored in this manner before. At first, I was very surprised that the same lightbulb led to starkly different colors from red to yellow depending on the paper. I appreciate how different everyone’s lamps ended up — demonstrating their perspective and creativity; I realized that the form of the lamp — whether more origami-like, geometric, or flowy — should depend on context and how you wish to make your user feel. I also learned about how not only can layering make the light dimmer, but also make the lamp extremely sturdy. In the beginning, I did not believe a paper lamp made of legal paper would stand upright with the integrity it now has.