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Triggering interaction, curiosity and surprise– Designer Onno Adriaanse moulds light and materials in unique ways

Triggering interaction, curiosity and surprise– Designer Onno Adriaanse moulds light and materials in unique ways

As children, we watched precious curios being tucked away into cabinets and under glass domes, far from our reach.
 As adults, we have found convenient wood and metal shelves to store and display our odds and ends. All of these 'shells' have one thing in common–they rarely offer us more than the accommodation of our belongings.
Some questions come to mind–Can the display of our things enhance the experience of them? Can the function of safekeeping go hand-in-hand with a more interactive experience?

A firm yes to these questions comes in the form of the Spectrum cabinets, created by Dutch designer Onno Adriaanse. The cabinets achieve this by invoking a sense of curiosity in a viewer and by triggering discussion around themselves as well as the objects they showcase.

There is nothing that the reflective, sleek and curved forms of the Spectrum cabinets have in common with the traditional imagery of a 'cabinet', other than the primary intent to serve as a display. As a viewer, you feel compelled to walk around them, peer at them from above and below, and observe the changing, iridescent colors on their surfaces, as they respond to light and are glimpsed from different angles.

 Spectrum Cabinets by Onno Adriaanse.

Spectrum Cabinets by Onno Adriaanse.

The unique visual qualities of the Spectrum cabinets are the result of layering two transparent sheets of polarizing filter (most often used in photography)–in opposite directions to each other, preventing light from passing through easily– and a layer of PETG plastic. The addition of the PETG plastic is what makes this combination of films one that is reflective and iridescent in response to light and movement. Here, Onno has tapped into an effect called 'Birefringence,' which is often used in the plastics industry, to quality check products. 

In addition to the thin layers of film and plastic, curving 3D-printed frames compose the structure of the cabinets–they outline the shape of the cabinet's dome-like forms. The layered films fit into the frames, creating a structure that is in tension, and more robust that you would imagine. Modular, individual dome-like pieces come together and are placed atop a 'Light-base'. The ‘Light-base’ is a 19 mm thick composite of five layers, including an aluminum frame, LEDs, and a diffuser layer. The base brings light into the cabinets and allows viewers to experience changing, reflective colors consistently.

 The objects displayed by the Spectrum cabinets become a point of discussion.

The objects displayed by the Spectrum cabinets become a point of discussion.

In conversation with Onno, after discussing the diverse array of projects he has worked on, it becomes apparent that the Spectrum cabinets are emblematic of key themes in his work. The first is an interest in the functional and emotional experiences associated with light– an interest which developed organically for Onno, through multiple projects during his time as a student at the Design Academy Eindhoven. The second is the idea of delivering an atmosphere to users; of creating an unexpected sensory experience through his work, and sparking a sense of awareness for people.


The Spectrum cabinets were developed over a span of 6 months, and will be on display to the public at the prestigious Dutch Design Week, in Eindhoven, from 22nd to 30th October 2016. Onno's work will be a part of the POPcore exhibit. If you are in Eindhoven, lookout for this vibrant exhibit and Onno’s work!


Another exciting work by Onno Adriaanse that will be exhibited in the coming weeks is Flux– his submission to the Graduation Show at the Design Academy Eindhoven. Flux is a unique, kinetic light installation. Using a relatively small source of light and modest size of light fixture, Flux projects large, immersive, changing patterns of light onto walls.
By placing two layers of perforated, laser-cut acrylic sheet–one fixed, and the other rotating, with a motor–a Moire effect is created and transferred onto walls. One could easily spend several minutes just admiring and following the soft, changing patterns created by Flux.

 Flux, by Onno Adriaanse.

Flux, by Onno Adriaanse.

I ask Onno, what motivated him to create Flux. He says "Earlier this year, I had a chance to intern with Studio Drift, in Amsterdam. I was so excited to work with the studio, which creates site-specific installations and interactive sculptures that deal with space and light. I was thrilled to work on the monumental and beautiful installations, which make their way to large spaces– hotels, lobbies, and museums. When I returned to school, at the Design Academy, I wanted to create a similar, mesmerizing impact on viewers through a kinetic installation. But I wanted it to be something smaller, that you could easily place in a room in your house, or in a restaurant."

 The Moire Effect create by Flux, by Onno Adriaanse.

The Moire Effect create by Flux, by Onno Adriaanse.

Flux certainly achieves that powerful impact on viewers, using surprisingly simple construction and a relatively small size, making it easy to accommodate anywhere.

Regarding the materiality of this installation, Onno said: "For the gear system and legs of Flux, I used found metal that I had been gathering for months. In that sense, when I began building Flux, I had no exact form in mind. It was these individual scrap pieces, welded together, bit by bit, which determined the final result. There was no pre-generated computer model to guide me."

Onno's process is an exciting one and one that is shared by many successful designers– first, prototype and fabricate with your hands, using materials as a starting point, exploring new techniques as you progress. Once a prototype has been developed and perfected, shift gears to the computer, dimensioning and standardizing it all. With several of Onno's works having been developed in this meticulous way, they are now poised for a broader scale of production and consumption by users.

 The gear system for Flux, resultant from early hands-on fabrication with collected metal.

The gear system for Flux, resultant from early hands-on fabrication with collected metal.

In the same vein, is a creation of Onno's that is ready to step out of the studio almost immediately. Kaarsrecht is a small product that says a lot about its designer. It is an exquisite, frosty and beautifully formed candle holder, made from epoxy and copper. Much to the surprise of users, they will find this candle holder fitted with an elegant copper screw system–one that enables any size of a candle to remain fitted and standing straight. It is a simple idea, executed thoughtfully, and one which true to Onno's style takes the user by surprise.

  Kaarsrecht  by Onno Adriaanse

Kaarsrecht by Onno Adriaanse

  Kaarsrecht  by Onno Adriaanse

Kaarsrecht by Onno Adriaanse

All in all, Onno's work seems to say to us: "Let me offer you a beautiful, interactive experience. Let me surprise you and pique your curiosity. But rest assured that functionality is never far behind, and these products will always serve you well."


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