July 10, 2015
The design industry is full of talented individuals, and one we’re very familiar with is Brendan Ravenhill. We crossed paths at a recent show and began to discuss some of his processes and recent explorations. Brendan’s studio focuses on furniture, lighting, and object design. We’ve been fans of his grain spun lighting series for a while now, and how that series came about fell right in line with our #designingforthesenses topic.
If you’re not familar with the grain spun series, we’ll quickly break it down for you. Wood molds are used on various pendants & lamps, creating a wood grain impression on the aluminum. This process adds an additional texture to the fixture and a subtle effect on the light that it casts. We visited his LA studio to see what else he’s been up to and to get his thoughts on lighting in regards to the senses.
What are your individual experiences and perspective on the senses?
For me focusing on one sense seems to come at the expense of the others. Perhaps this is not a direct correlation for everybody, but I have found that when I’m really listening to a piece of music, or staring at painting everything else just fades away.
We’re big fans of your work at Rapt, tell us a little about how you got into lighting?
I didn’t start off by trying to open a lighting studio by any means, but found it to be a deep area to geek out on. I graduated as an Industrial Design major and my first big project when I moved to LA was a restaurant. I designed everything from the furniture to the layout to the lighting to the menus. I had an amazing client that just gave me free range. Anything I wanted to take on as a challenge, he was backing me. I did other restaurants after that, and I would always try to do a new light fixture since the restaurants were funding the product development. The fixtures became the one thing people wanted for their own projects. It grew from there. I couldn’t make just one, so we would make a hundred, then had to figure out how to sell the rest.
How did that go?
As people discovered one light, they would ask for another. The thing that kept us super intrigued was the ability to be super focused. It allowed us to get deep and figure out how lights affect us differently. Certain things like flicker rates are these physical manifestations that you don’t perceive, but we all know how florescent lights make you feel after a while. And you can’t say, “oh it’s the green tint”, we have this very emotional reaction to it. You know when you’re in a room with bad fluorescents. Visually, even though you’re not seeing that the light is turning on & off at 60hz, it is. Your receptors are still sensing it. That’s the facinating thing.
What’s the first thing you notice about lighting and the feeling you get when you walk into a space?
We’ve all experienced that feeling of being comfortable or uncomfortable when you walk into a space. Lighting plays a huge roll in that.
What would you say happens when the senses are up for interpretation?
Senses are inherently subjective and our interpretation of these sensations is a large part of what defines us. I believe one of the great pleasures in life comes from having your mind change 180 degrees from your original perception. I used to hate brussel sprouts and jazz, but now I can’t get enough.
Have you ever designed for the emotion you’d like the light to convey as opposed to the object?
I’ve tried to design in reverse, but it’s so detailed that you need to take a bigger step back before you go in again. You’re almost challenging the whole convention of what the light is doing. The actual quality of the light is so different in the way that it is generated, you really have to keep in mind what the light naturally wants to do.
What would you say has been the biggest miss in recent lighting technology?
I had incandescents in my house for a while because I hated CFLs (compact fluorescents). I just couldn’t live with them. The five seconds it would take to warm up, after you turned on the light switch, changed the entire experience of walking in a room. Now, thankfully, LEDs have taken over. You’re able to get this on demand light, which is kinda funny to think about. CFLs introduced a different experience from the standard incandescent lights we were used to, now we’re moving on.
Is this why you started to work on your own LED lights?
It’s one of the reasons. Technology moves extremely fast. Twenty percent of the worlds energy is used towards lighting. If you take that twenty percent and think about all of the inefficencies, we can cut that number by tenfold. The move from incandescents (to CFLs) to LEDs has brought about a huge change in the worlds power consumtion. For us as designers, it’s super exciting to be a part of that conversation and movement.
Is that what excites you about being a designer?
Yes! When we bring new objects into the world, we feel a responsibility to have those objects be part of a bigger conversation. We should either be pushing the material, pushing the process, or trying to do something new. That’s what excites us!
We promise, this is the last question… Where do you go to find inspiration for your senses?
I try to spend most of my weekends in nature. I find great inspiration and grounding being physically active outdoors. There’s a meditative quality to measured breathing, and I have some of my best ideas when taking long walks or bike rides in solitude.
We want to thank Brendan for his hospitality and for taking the time to talk with us. We’re excited for what’s to come from his studio. In the meantime, check out his site for additional information.
Connect with us on Twitter and Instagram to join in the ongoing #designingforthesenses conversation.