When David Wahl, designer at IKEA, worked with the award-winning IKEA PS pendant lamp he was inspired by science fiction and mechanical planetary shapes. He continued sketching new ideas of pendant lamps with mechanical dimming and spent many hours together with the development supplier trying to turn the ideas into functional lamps – but in the end, they all were too complicated and too engineered.
“I had an idea for a lamp that twisted when you pulled the strings. It looked good open and closed, but it in between it had an almost sinister appearance. It was a really nerdy project, but in the end, I had to give it up. We realized that we had to make a new start and define what we really wanted to create. I suppose you learn from your mistakes as well,” says David.
David and the rest of the team still knew what they wanted — a successor to IKEA PS 2014 that was even better. Together they started working on a more versatile lamp, both regarding design, materials and the light output.
“We wanted a more universal style but also better illumination. IKEA PS 2014 provides nice mood lighting, but when suspended above a table there isn’t a lot of light that reaches the table because the mechanism is in the way,” says David.
David spent a weekend at home in Shanghai where he lived at the time sketching non-stop. On Monday, he had a whole bunch of 3D models experimenting with different geometric shapes to create the perfect sphere.
“I started to build a sphere with tetrahedrons, the simplest polyhedron which has four triangular sides. I also tried the octahedron with eight faces. Then as I began to experiment with motion I decided to continue with a dodecahedron instead,” says David.
If you have ever played tabletop roleplaying games, you would probably recognize a dodecahedron – the twelve-sided dice. This is also the shape David believed would give the best options. Once he had this shape at the core, he continued with the themes that finally led to two different lamps, one like a magical flower and the other geometric and angular.
He wanted to stick to the idea that the shape and intensity of light could be changed by pulling the strings. For IKEA PS 2014 David used a scissor mechanism, but this time he settled on a mechanism based on wires that slide along curved channels, sort of like the way a bicycle cable works. In an effort to improve on IKEA PS 2014, he made sure the mechanism didn’t block the downward light and placed all of the mechanisms above the lightbulb.
With a clear idea of the design and mechanism, and with a bunch of 3D models David entered the phase he describes as “when the fun work begins” — the development work together with the supplier engineers.
David and the engineers sent the designs back and forth, and after every supplier test, David adjusted and simplified. One detail they spent a lot of time-solving was finding the right balance to avoid friction when opening and closing the lamp.
“It is one thing when one flower moves, but imagine 12 flowers and over 60 leaves moving at the same time. There is a reason why the leaves on the magical flower version look like they do — they cannot touch one another or the framework when you pull the strings.”
Why did you decide to use felt and laminated fabric?
“We wanted to create two lamps with very different looks but with a homey feel. We also needed a material that could bend the way we wanted. The reason why we finally chose felt and laminated fabric was also to keep the costs down. We have more ideas with different designs and material. It is planned to be a design platform, so let’s see what the future holds!” says David.
RAMSELE lamps are made with sheets of laminated fabric and felt.
IKEA Today’s Instagram followers had a number of questions for David. Here are more of them:
How has the IKEA design language for lighting changed since IKEA PS 2014?
”The IKEA overall design language has not changed much since the IKEA PS 2014. We still work according to the five dimensions of Democratic Design: form, function, quality, sustainability and cost. We are always trying to find new and inspiring ways to create beautiful pieces that our customers like and want to keep for a long time.”
Do you plan to play with more geometrics in a table or floor lamp version?
“I haven’t considered it yet, but who knows! We tried to make a floor version of the IKEA PS 2014 pendant lamp, but it ended up looking more like a golf ball!”
When you designed RAMSELE, what kind of space did you want to create?
“I wanted the lampshade to be able to transform so that it can fit different rooms and moods. Depending on the room size, the shadows will also be different depending on how much you close the shade.”
How long did it take to bring this lamp to life from your initial drawings?
“Approximately two and a half years!”
Do you use paper models, 3D, or sketch?
“I use hand sketching in combination with computer 3D modelling. Then of course we build prototypes to test out as well. This lamp required a lot of detailed 3D drawings being sent back and forth between me and supplier engineers.”
What is it like designing for a company that reaches so many people?
”It is really fun when many people like something that you spent a long time creating, especially if they want to place something in the centre of their home, like a lamp.”
Did you know the PS 2014 lamp would become an instant IKEA icon, or were you surprised?
“The design was considered a bit too bold. The sales forecast was set quite low from the beginning. I was of course happily surprised when we saw that the customers seemed to like it!”
Inspired by science fiction movies, IKEA PS 2014 pendant lamp is a winner of the international design competition Red Dot Award.
After science fiction, what film category do you think makes the best design inspiration?
“Sometimes if you watch a really good film that stays with you for a while, it can be inspiring no matter what type of film it is. It can make you see things in new perspectives which is really useful when working with product design.”
Do you have a design that you “regret” or dislike today?
“Yes, there are some that I don’t like at all. Hopefully, I have learned from my mistakes have served some kind of purpose at least.”
Finally, what advice do you have for the customers buying RAMSELE?
“Don’t throw away the manual!”
RAMSELE will be in stores October 2019.