Lighting designer William Brand makes a case for leading with emotion in a digital age
The designer and his atelier culture-driven brand are known to dovetail nature and technology in a characterful manner
Exalting an atelier culture in the world of luxury lighting, Dutch studio Brand van Egmond is coveted by Hollywood celebrities, leading architects, interior designers and design collectors for its handcrafted, characterful creations, which bring together nature and technology to create one-of-a-kind lighting statements. In this free-wheeling conversation with Pratyush Sarup, head of Programming at Downtown Design Dubai, award-winning lighting designer William Brand throws light on his inspirations and his concerns.
What or who inspired you to pursue a professional career in design?
I had a wonderful childhood in Boskoop, a town in the province of South Holland. But being the only child till I was nine years old, meant I had to find other ways of entertainment and play rather than in the company of a sibling. My father traded in specialist porcelain. As a result, I was surrounded by unique tools and materials from very early on.
What started with me doing something to avoid getting bored, became an addiction. My need to create grew over the years, and that led to all sorts of objects. Soon, I was representing my school in creative competitions and exhibitions. I feel I am still that little boy playing, experimenting and creating.
With so many avenues to choose from, why did you decide to go into lighting design?
I was fascinated by electricity from very early on in life. As a child, I was already making little objects with bicycle lamps and batteries. I was also very curious about light, and its ability to instantly transform the mood of my parent’s house. I guess, in a way, I have carried forth my childhood fascination into my work as a designer.
What are you inspired by now?
Currently, I am absolutely fascinated with the molecules and galaxies. I am exploring the patterns of movement between energy particles through lines, volume and movement. It is a bit more abstract than what everyone expects from me, but I am enjoying moving beyond the physical aspects of nature and exploring it at the molecular level.
You are known for bespoke lighting design. Please tell us a bit about your creative process.
I studied architecture at the School of Arts in Utrecht, Netherlands. For me, the act of design is to seek balance between the elements you play with. I love the process of relating objects to space and context – in my case, the built environment. Energy plays a huge role in my creative universe because I want my work to establish a certain emotion.
I consider myself more of an alchemist trying to go towards uncharted territories in order to create something which is more than just a combination of matching colours and materials. Thus, being able to connect with the site is very important to me. I like to spend as much time as possible at the site, to absorb it and to be inspired by it and its surroundings. Then, it becomes a very joyous process of creative iteration and a means to translate the emotions I felt at the site on to paper, and ultimately in the actual product.
Nature has long been your inspiration. Why does nature fascinate you so much?
There is purity and diversity in nature. Chaos and order are beautifully balanced. Even with a sense of community, nature celebrates individuality. I like to bring these aspects of nature into what I do. I want my designs to be playful and not artificial. They should be spontaneous, emotional and well-composed rather than reasoned and clearly-positioned.
According to you, what are the big industry trends in lighting for 2019 and beyond?
As lighting becomes increasingly intuitive and playful, a shift from space illumination to mood creation will guide both scientists and designers. We have barely scratched the surface of what is achievable with LED and OLED technologies. Already there is a huge focus on automation, which supports another critical issue that lighting designers must consider – sustainability. On the other hand, I am more drawn towards the glow of a candle or a fireplace. As lighting technology advances, I feel there will be a growing inclination to seek humanity and warmth in what we create — we are, after all, humans and not aliens from outer space.