It all began with a phone call from a friend to Piero Gandini, president and chief executive officer of FLOS, during one of his trips to New York. The friend suggested that Gandini take time to visit with a designer living near the city, and although he receives such recommendations multiple times a year, Gandini decided to follow the lead. His journey led him to the studio of designer Ron Gilad and the rest, as they say, is history—a beautiful, productive one at that.
The meeting between Gandini and Gilad reflects the founding philosophy of FLOS’ management—develop relationships with talented designers based as much on the human relationship as a respect for their design innovation and expertise.
“We are in a somewhat peculiar position in the lighting market,” says Gandini. “Our culture is in design. When we bought a lighting company a decade ago, our approach from the start was to focus first on the art of lighting, including working with many talented designers such as Ron.”
Gandini believes they have achieved success by marrying advanced lighting technologies with an avant-garde attitude and a burning desire to bring innovative products to a competitive marketplace. “Our international business is growing because we seek to find the ultimate solution for every new product we bring to market,” he says. “We are out to change the world with what we offer.”
According to Gandini, the working relationship between the company’s management and its designers is like a mixed salad when it comes to developing new products. In some instances, a designer brings an idea to the table. In other cases, Gandini or another member of the FLOS team may contact a designer to develop a new solution for a bulb or address a need for a certain price point.
“Whether we are working with Ron or another designer, our relationship is never rigid,” Gandini says. “Our discussions are open and we spend time developing prototypes and engineering the product. It’s very much a combined venture—perhaps an adventure—between the FLOS staff and the designer.”
Part of the adventure for the FLOS design team lies in learning to speak a common “language” with outside designers; in this case, it meant introducing Gilad to the newest generation of LED technologies.
“Working with LED is smaller than what I had previously worked with,” Gilad says. “Diving into this new world allowed me to look at products in a new way.”
Judging by Gilad’s first design to emerge from the collaboration—the technologically advanced La Linea line, a series of three wall-mounted fixtures providing indirect light—he is a quick study. The diffuser is fixed to the body by a nickel-plated neodymium magnet and the feed for the LEDs is located in the rose. The head can be rotated 45 degrees on the vertical axis, and the lights have an eco-friendly spray paint finish. La Linea includes an injection-molded diffuser in methacrylate and a photo-engraved internal finish.
“There is poetry to Ron’s work,” Gandini says. “His designs are strong yet gentle, and he brings great energy and vision to his work with us.”
In addition to his designs for La Linea, which were based on old sconces, Gilad‘s work includes delving into “soft architecture” products that combine architecture and technology in a light source. “For Wallpiercing, I used the perfect shape—a ring,” Gilad says. “All the technology for the light, the wires and diffusers, are housed inside the wall and offer users great design opportunities.”
Gilad likens Wallpiercing, which is available in four variations, to a frisbee embedded in a wall. The rings are manufactured from die-cast aluminum and feature polycarbonate diffusers. The light fixture is available as a white or RGB light; the RGB lights may be changed manually with a dimmer or via automatic controls.
The ring theme also appears in Gilad’s 2620LED fixture, but manifests itself as a chandelier. According to company literature, Gilad’s design for the 2620LED is based on the historic 2097 by Gino Sarfatti, originally produced in 1958. Indirect light is provided via 2,620 LEDs embedded in 20 rings. According to Gilad, the layout builds a chaotic pattern that suggests a rotational movement.
Gilad says that he appreciates the approach that FLOS executives have brought to their collaboration with designers. “I have the freedom to develop a design on the computer and submit small prototypes to FLOS executives for their consideration. We move forward if they see potential in the marketplace for the proposed product.”
And while Gilad is energized by the partnership that has allowed him to elevate his work technically and aesthetically, the human relationships that have developed over the course of the process have been equally as important and rewarding. “My collaborators
at FLOS and I enrich one another through the design process,” he says. “This is beyond work. It’s an exciting opportunity to partner in a very human process to develop great designs.”
For more information on FLOS products, visit the company’s main website at www.flos.com or www.soft-architecture.com.