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The Goodlights

Spring 2023

Design Studio II - First Year Partner Project

Shared rooms, conflicting sleep schedules, limited free-time, and niche reading positions all contribute to an environment hostile to reading in the evenings. The Goodlights are a series of three reading lights that strive to ease these issues through effective, but aesthetically pleasing fixtures.

Brief and Research

Provided with the simple prompt prompt "It is difficult for me to read at night", my partner and I began mind-mapping more specific causes that could result in this issue. We imposed an additional restriction on this project, limiting ourselves to exclusively use recycled materials, or materials we already owned.

After identifying a few overarching causes, we settled on a physical catalyst—poor visibility due to diminished light. We then narrowed this down further as a constraint caused by a shared living space. Although we initially thought this could mean both roommates or a significant other sharing the same bed, we soon realized that—although seemingly minor—there was a distinction in situations that would affect our design. We settled on the latter and finally articulated our problem statement:

How can we design three different iterations of a light that allows for nighttime reading in a dark, shared room?

 Having established functional needs, we began considering our aesthetic goals. Our brief required that we emulate the style of Alain Monnens, a Belgian industrial designer who works primarily with lighting and furniture.

 

We identified a number of key stylistic and functional choices that persisted through the work featured in his portfolio:

  • Geometric visuals

  • Neutral colors

  • Smooth Textures

  • Simple and Functional

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Fig 1. A photo of our research and problem definition stage, using a mind map to specify our problem space.

To understand what our target users would look for in a reading light, we conducted in-person and online research, surveying college-aged students (unsurprisingly easy, given our own statuses as college students) what features they liked or disliked. We looked into what reading or desk lights already existed, noting key features that were reviewed positively and what visual patterns aligned with Monnens' style.

Ideation and Concepting

Now armed with an understanding of what our target users desired, but the current market failed to fulfill, we strived to integrate our aesthetic components into our series of thumbnail sketches, as well as balance out our list of functional priorities. We began brainstorming ideas for a product that:

  • Allows for reading at night with sufficient illumination

  • Unobtrusive to others in the room

  • Accommodates various reading positions

  • Considers varying reading condition preferences

  • Can be easily turned off and on without noise or significant movement

Rough Prototypes

When beginning the first iteration of rough prototyping, we first and foremost prioritized depth of function. Many of our research questions revolved around the maneuverability of the lights, as we considered it one of the most crucial features of the Goodlights. Therefore, we wanted to show the full range of movements the ideal form of the lights would have to understand what we’d need to improve upon early on, striving for medium to high fidelity for that metric with this iteration of prototypes. The supplies we used to create the stems and movable parts of the lights were very similar to those we would use in the final forms, albeit with diminished visual fidelity (which was not a priority at the time). 

We conducted a few sessions of user testing with these prototypes, including a series of brief internal sessions with 4-5 users and a long-term take-home test, in which our user periodically sent us reflections of their experience with our lights.

Final Prototypes and Renderings

The detailed prototype iterations sought to address user feedback and improve the design aspects we chose to deprioritize in the rough prototyping stage.

  1. Stability: Users had complained that--especially with the stand light (#) the lights felt shaky and off-balance, discouraging them from manipulating position of the lights to their full capabilities. We addressed this by making the pedestal heavier, balancing out the heft of the light head, and improving the product's overall stability.

  2. Resistance: In all three prototypes, some users mentioned that the joint or pipe resistance was slightly too strong and somewhat dissuaded them from moving certain parts, especially with the the Triangular light (#3). Afraid of breaking the light and uncertain of which parts they were allowed to move, this also stopped users from using the lights' full range of motion. We addressed this critique by using plastic washers around each joint to let them move more easily, and far more smoothly.

  3. Signifiers: Combining with the issue of resistance, in the Triangular Light (#3), all of the straight segments looked basically the same, barring length. This led users to be unsure of which they could manipulate, and in what direction, thus requiring them to use a lot of trial and error to configure the light how they wanted. Although our material limitations prevented us from providing the full extent of visual signifier improvements we would've liked, we attempted to alleviate these concerns by simply making every joint moveable. Although our first iteration had kept the first two joints closest to the mount static, we chose to make this manipulable to allow users to shift any joint they needed without worrying as to whether they were choosing one that wasn't supposed to move.

  4. Aesthetics: A component we had chosen to deprioritize in our first iteration, we now began focusing on our prototypes' visual fidelity. Initially looking quite industrial and mechanical, our next iteration of prototypes were built with higher fidelity materials, resembling their ideal final product visual profile far more. Monnens uses matte black powder coated metal frequently in his designs, something we attempted to simulate with our final prototypes. We also covered or made mechanical parts more subtle, aiming to encourage a more minimalist appearance.

Finally, I modeled the three lights in Rhino 3D. These models best resemble what our ideal final products would look like, featuring corrugated piping to signify maneuverability, fully covered joints, and smooth covers to lend to a smooth and simple aesthetic. Our 3D modeled lights also specify inconspicuous plug locations, a feature we did not have as much agency over in our prototypes. The plugs would be out of the way and not interfere whatsoever with moving the lights in their desired position, but have enough reach to not be restricted by outlet locations. Another mechanical specification we would like to clarify in our final concepts are the light switch positions. Suggested internal feedback recommended touch activated lights, and we believe these would be an excellent choice, as making sure the user doesn’t need to reach around in the dark to switch on a light is an aspect we’re seeking to ensure.

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