Studio Design I Project IV


In introducing this project, we discussed the different types of lights, why we have lights, and how we use lights. This led to a basic understanding of the roles that light can play and how we can use these to our advantage. We then went over the exact parameters of the project, and what our task is going to be. For this final project, we will have to design a “Lighting Engine” that is made from some type of paper that is constructed around a lightbulb. The lightbulb we are using is the IKEA E26/27 screw socket/power cord assembly.

Types of light:

  • Ambient
  • Navigation
  • Task
  • Decorative
  • Accent

Finally, we picked a “situation” out of a hat, and this would be the context in which we design our light. Mine was “Design a lighting engine that supports hanging out with friends in a living room”. Our first assignment was to explore what lights exist both on the Carnegie Mellon Campus, and out in the world. In addition to this, we had to begin gathering and experimenting with different types of paper


Exploration of Existing Lighting Engines (CMU Campus):

Most of the lights around campus were navigational lights and they are in this category because of their purpose, and the direction the light goes. Some of these have light emitting in all directions, whereas others use their casing to block light from going in specific directions. This brought up some thoughts about how I should try to design my light. Regardless of form I believe that how much light my lamp emits, and the direction in which the light is emitted will be crucial.

Exploration of Existing Lighting Engines (Online):

Most of the lights that are in living rooms present light in two different ways. One method is using a large central light that hangs in the middle of the room, and the other uses a tall and skinny lamp that sits in a corner of the room. I would imagine that the first method would be better for spreading the light throughout more of the room, providing much more light. The second method can work well enough to provide enough light for navigation, but it will emit light in a specific area of the room. Both could work for my situation of hanging out with friends, but they would provide different moods.

Exploration of Paper:

Exploration 1:

The material I used for this is a tabloid-size (11x17") sheet of printer paper. My main goal for this exploration was to understand how the light would emit both through the printer paper and out of the conical shape.

Exploration 2:

I changed both the material and the shape of my light cover for this exploration. I chose to try a 8.5x11" sheet of cardstock, and a cylindrical form.

Exploration 3:

This exploration used an 8.5x11" sheet of cardstock around the outside, and various sized pieces of printer paper on the inside. The main goal of this was to test out a different type and color of white paper and to see the effects of layering paper on the inside. This cardstock was much thicker than the printer paper, which made it much sturdier, but also harder to shape into a cylinder. The other difference was the color, as this was a much warmer and yellower white, and this created a warmer light with the lightbulb.

Final Thoughts:

After looking at many types of existing lights (both on the CMU campus and online), I figured out what general path I should take with this project. I would like to continue working with a thicker piece of paper, such as cardstock or bristol paper. However, I am unsure of how I would like to present my light, and I want to explore different ways of having it hand and sit flat on the floor.


Creating Sketch Models:

Model 1:

I began this model by looking at what types of living room lighting already exist and what I have seen both in my home and on the CMU campus. I also only used printer paper because of the ease of construction and I wanted to be able to make many models quickly. I enjoyed the overall look of this model but wanted it to be a bit more irregular to fit with my situation of hanging out with friends in a living room.

Adjectives Associated with Light:

  • Modern
  • Small
  • Square
  • Robust
  • Repetitive
  • Tough

Model 2:

I stuck with my pattern of repetitive shapes, however, I chose to try cylinders as opposed to cubes because I wanted the light to feel less “tough” as said by one of my peers. This model fits somewhat well into my situation, however, it was not built to scale and is still too “quiet” to reflect hanging out with friends in a living room.

Adjectives Associated with Light:

  • Smooth
  • Modern
  • Simple
  • Relaxing

Model 3:

I went a completely different route with this model to explore a different style of light covers. To create this I used a single sheet of tabloid printer paper and folded it sp that all corners met in one place.

Adjectives Associated with Light:

  • Aerodynamic
  • Chiseled
  • Marshmallowy

Model 4:

I wanted to explore a different type of living room light and chose to emulate the tall lights that sit in corners of rooms. My reasoning behind the gradient was primarily to explore how light passed through multiple layers of paper. Aesthetically this model was nice to look at because of the curves, and diffusion of the light, but it seems as though it will not be able to spread enough light to a group of people. This model is also not built to scale.

Adjectives Associated with Light:

  • Soft

Model 5:

I returned back to the hanging lights for this model as I felt that the sitting lights would not spread light efficiently. I decided to “go a step further” with this light and cut into the paper, adding more to the form than just the shape. However, this addition causes the light to be too directional and would force the light to be in a specific location. This would not be ideal for lighting a living room.

Adjectives Associated with Light:

  • Sharp

Refined Model:

I was the most drawn to my stacked, offset circles, and this model was the most successful, so I decided to further develop this idea. I began by making a model that was at full scale so I could see how gravity would affect larger circles, and how a bigger model would respond to the same amount of light.

In the end, I was not happy with this new iteration. My craft was not where I would like it to be at this point, and this is specifically where and how I am connecting the various pieces of my light. When joining the separate strips so that I can form circles, I would use super glue, and this is a strong adhesive, however, when light shines in this area, it shines more where there is glue. Another issue I had was with connecting the two circles. The same problem with the glue arose here as you could very clearly see where I had applied glue. The two circles were also too far apart, and not much paper was holding each of them together. Gravity took advantage of this, and due to my lack of structural support, caused the whole light to tilt.

Refined Model — Part 2:

When moving from my previous iteration to this, I wanted to make it less standard and add more structure to the form. I was able to accomplish these goals to an extent but still failed in making it to the level I wanted. I failed with craft in this iteration and found that this style of light was not going to be entirely feasible with using paper as the primary material. Due to this, I started to rethink my design while making sure to keep the same theme.


In-Class Group Review:

After this group review where we identified positives and negatives with each other's lights, I chose to rethink my lighting engine. The group that reviewed my light said that my light was “a relatively common design”, and that the craft was distracting from the form. The craft issue was primarily due to what I was trying to achieve with my light, and in the end, it was not feasible with using paper.

Refined Model — Part 3:

I stuck with the repetition of circular pieces but decided to change the overall form of my light. My decision to create a hemisphere was due to the sharing of light that comes with a living room. If multiple people are in a room, the light cannot be too directional, so the 360 degrees of light that are emitted fit the context of hanging out with friends. With this model, every individual strip is the same length, and this causes issues if they are overlapping. In addition to this, when the strips are aligned so that they are not overlapping, you can see light in the gaps. The general idea was successfully modeled but the execution was a bit poor. In the next iteration, I plan on making the strips smaller as they move towards the top of the hemisphere.

Refined Model — Part 4:

I accomplished what I wanted to change from the last model in this iteration. However, this model was too small (I knew this would be too small going into it. I just wanted to see how the varying sizes would work and I knew that scaling the model up would not create any more issues). I found this to be fairly successful and proved that making the strips gradually shorter created a cleaner half-sphere. In my next and final iteration, I want to make the light to scale and use a thicker paper such as Bristol. In addition to this, I want to create smaller gaps between the strips and I will do this by making the strips half an inch shorter each time it gets smaller instead of an inch shorter.

Final Light Engine:

This final model ended up being almost exactly what I wanted it to be. The size was what I had envisioned and creating the smaller gaps in between strips helped add closure to the form. The light quality was also a nice balance of warm and cool light, and it was not too harsh or too dim.


This project had its ups and downs but I enjoyed having to work around obstacles that appeared close to the end of the project. Initially, I stuck with an idea that had no promise and faced the eventual end of its development. Due to this, I had to change my overall design but had to stay within the same theme as my failed light. I ended up making a lighting engine that I was happy with and enjoyed the challenge that came with it.