Lighting Engine

Supports Working on a Project at a Desk

Research Reference: How Light Works (Because I Have No Clue!)


From the introduction of this project, I realized that I am actually so uneducated on how basic lighting works. Even with just how light reflects off of objects, I have no idea how does what it does and why. So the following chunk of my Medium post is just for me to get a better understanding of light in order to better inform the way light diffuses.

It’s easiest to imagine light as a ray + separate it into reflection, refraction, and scattering.

  • Reflection: In theory, a reflected ray comes off of the material surface at an angle equal to the angle at which the incoming ray hits. When the surface is rough, light scatters in waves in multiple directions (i.e. that's why you can read words on printed page despite the angle.
  • Refraction: When a ray of light passes from a transparent medium into a second transparent medium, changing light speed and bending light ray toward or away from the normal line. A normal line is an imaginary line that runs perpendicular to the surface of the object. Amount of bending is dependent on how much the material slows down the light. Diamonds wouldn’t be so glittery if they didn’t slow down incoming light more than water.

Light as waves come in many frequencies, measured in Hertz. The frequency of visible light is referred to as color, ranging from 430 trillion hertz (red) to 750 trillion hertz (violet).

Photon Generation
During the decline from high to normal energy, the electron emits a photon with specific characteristics. Photon has a color that matches the distance that the electron falls. Fluorescent lamps, neon signs, and sodium-vapor lamps pass an electric current through a gas to make gas emit light.

Sodium-vapor lights are often found in highways + parking lots; you can tell because the light is extremely yellow. It energizes sodium atoms (11 electrons) to generate photons (~590nm that correlates to yellow light).

Experimentation with Paper & Spinning Wheel

Main Focal Points

  • Effect of wheel movement on paper
  • Effective layering
  • Loose, floating pieces
  • Light diffusion 
    - if lowlights need to be turned on when there’s fog, is there a similar effect in this instance?
For the version above, I wanted to test paper movement on the wheel
In terms of movement, the version above was meant to test how parts intended to move would float based on weight
a) printer paper b) paper towel c) paper towel crumpled
Variation of cuts and the way light shines through
How does light diffuse through plastic
A combination of holes and layering
Steam and the haziness of light makes the surroundings fuzzed out and blurry

Project Debrief

Avoiding/Embracing/Trying out the “Desk Lamp” Concept(?)

When I received my prompt, I had mixed feelings at first because it felt as though there wasn’t much room for anything besides a “desk lamp.”

After doing some research on task lighting and the office environment, I started to recognize a current hole/problem with the current system: the trendiness of “ergonomics” in our desk supplies. Despite our chairs, keyboards, and mice curving to the natural form on our bodies, what about the lighting at a desk? There’s no room for adjustment for people of varying ages; for instance, those who are 20 years old have eyesight that’s 8x better than those in their 60s. Ideally, light would be adjustable by the user in terms of brightness and bulb color. I also did some research on task lighting and what boosts productivity because you wouldn’t want a light that makes you sleepy.

Usually, the warmer the light is, the more it’s associated with comfort and sleepiness (~2,700K). A colder light (~5000K) will shine a blue/white tone that helps one stay awake. The lightbulb they gave us was 2700K and illuminates light at 5 watts; I decided to take a trip to IKEA and buy a bulb that was 5000K and 7 watts.

Idea #1: Honing in on the Fidget/Concentration Industry

Spoiler: way too niche and distracting from the task at hand

Just from personal experience, I often hit creative blocks when I work on projects and I would either just stare into space or play with something with my hands to think things through. Honing in on that concept, my first idea incorporates the clown bop bag where no matter how hard one punches it, it never quite falls over.

With a light thats tippable but won’t fall over, it’s something small that gives people who are in that state of creative block something to play with, functioning similarly to a fidget spinner or fidget cube.

What Went Well
This was one of those outside-of-the-box ideas I wanted to get out of the way otherwise I would be itching to make something like this throughout the whole process. In terms of what worked well, I think what’s difficult about this project is the fact that there are what seem like millions of things to consider, so this allowed me to concentrate on focusing on just a few things at a time (even if it didn’t exactly fit the scope of this project lol).

What Wasn’t Working
My head just wasn’t in the right place. I feel like I’m going to struggle the most with creating simple things done well because I’ll feel like I’m copying. It’s easy for me to say that the differences are in the details, but it’s going to personally take a lot for me to execute that well. This idea distracts from the main goal of lighting a desk project. This idea is also extremely extra (but was fun to make so I have no regrets).

Considerations for Upcoming Models
I have one more idea that’s on the crazier side that I would like to get out of my system, but I think I would like it have a more practical usage. I’m really into this concept of a multifunctional lamp, but there’s a fine line between multifunctional and gimmicky. Also, because this lamp doesn’t light the whole desk, I think it would be awesome to find a way to diffuse the light from one bulb all the way across the table in order to actually make the workspace brighter.

Idea #2 (Pt. One): The Crazy, Springy One

A durian lampshade made for my own sake.

I thought of this idea when I was playing with the 16-bolt cylindrical lock that Mark + Matt had given us when we started drawing cylinders. The sides have four tiny spring-like mechanisms that bounce back when you press them in. Without even realizing I was playing with the four “buttons,” I eventually noticed that I was rather concentrated on the light engine brainstorming aspect, ironically enough, also a project I’m working on at a desk.

I wanted to replicate that spring-like bounce as well as mindless playing in a multitasking manner, hitting on this idea of ergonomics from my first concept. I found a tutorial online on how to make springs out of paper and the gif below shows how well they bounce. At first, I wanted to line the inside of the cup with the spring and have buttons that are almost like ones on a trumpet in terms of bouncing back. However, the paper spring didn’t provide enough force for the “button” to bounce back. At some point, I got two springs stuck together when some of the folds overlapped with one another; I realized that they molded together pretty strongly and bounced well against the pressure of the hand.

The spring, in action!
The beginning build of a structure with paper springs.

Form + Function
The thing about the paper spring is that the higher it gets build, the more it’ll topple. This helped my case because the spring melded into the form of the lightbulb and also emphasized an ergonomic shape where it looks like a hand holding up three fingers.

It’s intended to latch where the three “fingers” connect in order to conform to the shape of the bulb and open up still encasing the bulb. In terms of usage, the user will ideally match the shape of the hand and push down on the springs, creating a trampoline-like feeling.

What Went Well
I definitely think I was able to flesh out my goals and execute them well for this version. I liked the concept a lot and I think it fit what I wanted in terms of ergonomics and a different perspective on the desk light prompt. It was satisfying to see this version out because this was definitely one of the more cleanly crafted things I’ve made in terms of paper cutting + folding.

What Wasn’t Working
Staying on the objective was something I completely missed with this version. It’s one of those novelty items that seem to be for a rather niche market of young kids. Also, the lightbulb itself was only covered by printer paper and because the bulb is 7 watts, it really burned your eyes to stare into the light despite the person’s hand covering most of it when in use.

Considerations for Upcoming Models
I think something that was rather enjoyable from the model was that it served the intended purpose well. Now, I just have to fit that concept to the actual given task. I want to take away from this version the cleanliness and function into my upcoming models. I also realized that the light on the desk limits a lot of the light diffusion itself. In the upcoming models, I want to work on a light that isn’t necessarily a desk lamp. Oftentimes, people immediately jump to this notion that all desks need a lamp to work on projects, but I think a light shining from above would be rather effective; this is also based on my experience with the hemming project where the light shone from above. It will be interesting to see how I’ll combat the harsh shadows that come from lighting that comes from the top.

Durian spring lamp in its final form

Idea #2 (Pt. Two): A Hanging Light + Tackling Light Diffusion