As I sit on my couch writing what's sure to be another titillating session of In the Details, I can't help but turn my neck every time I catch—or even think I catch—the flicker of my glowing rectangle.
I turned off vibration mode because I began to sense its familiar pulse at all hours, in what has now been identified as 'phantom vibration syndrome.' But still, my focus is broken by anything, really, and I know I'm not alone. Studies have found that smartphones are among the 10 biggest workplace productivity killers. In this newfound environment of incessant notifications and hyperconnectivity, I find myself asking less how to make it stop, and instead look for new ways to exist in this brave new world.
So, needless to say, I find some solace in products like Tranquillo, a desk lamp that only works when you relinquish your phone to its dock.
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"The brief was to come up with a new way for switching on the light," says Avid Kadam, a designer from Wellington, New Zealand. Working with fellow students Ruya Akyol, Jules McGannon, and Yong-Ming Wang while enrolled at Domus Academy, the group was tasked with exploring the switch as an interface through which to control a variety of user needs, behaviors and wishes. Part of a collaboration with lighting brand Fontana Arte in May 2015, the project brought together the students, who focused on creating a new gesture for activating a light.
The output of that project was Tranquillo, a lamp that works solely when you surrender your phone to its base and set the device to 'Do Not Disturb' mode—allowing its user to focus in more ways than one.
"We started of by looking into daily problems, like finding switches when you enter rooms, not being able to focus on work because of smartphones and having too many lights in one single room for different activities," Kadam says. "The idea of using your smartphone as a switch came from the Offline Bar Glass, which we used as a starting point."
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The team began with a trend analysis focused on the ever topical issue of connectivity and cellphones, then zoomed in to integrated charging, connectivity between lights and phones and portable lighting. As the lamp is still a concept, the team still has a few—erm—kinks to work out. "The biggest challenge for the lamp right now is that the near-field communication (NFC) support needed to switch the phone to 'Do Not Disturb' mode is not advanced enough yet, and wireless charging is still rare and only works on iPhones with a special case," Kadam says. "Even though most major players in the phone market support wireless charging, iPhones don't, so they need to get an extra external case." Even with that case, shares Kadam, alignment of the phone on the base has to be just right, and inductive charging is still much slower than just direct cable charging. (That all being said, the technology has already grown leaps and bounds since the team first started the project, and will continue to advance as they work to tackle these barriers before looking for investors.)
Fontana Arte set the stakes high for the project, sharing their own design philosophy with the students by encouraging them to create objects which are technologically advanced, beautiful and practical with a human-centered approach.
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"We wanted to maintain the Fontana Arte design language: clean, simple and minimal," Kadam says of the lamp. "We did a series of mock-up models from basic materials to get the feel and size of the lamp. We were mentored by Philippe Tablet and Irene Sartor whose experience in the lighting field helped us a lot. Also, we had valuable input from Giorgio Biscaro, the art director for Fontana Arte." The final prototype for Tranquillo was made from wood and clear plastic tube, turned on the lathe. The frame is another hollow plastic tube, heated and bent into shape, then adhered to a wooden base and coated in every industrial designer's favorite "looks-like" medium: spray paint.
"For the materials, we really wanted to maintain the Fontana Arte design philosophy and pick materials used in their existing products." The final Tranquillo shade is two parts: a white polycarbonate base and translucent opal polycarbonate shell, which sits atop a metal frame attached to the base. For manufacturing, the team imagines the lamp would be produced through a rotational moulding process for the shade with a CNC-cut base and frame.
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Tranquillo uses a 10 Watt Led line voltage Light color, warm white (3000 Kelvin) Consumption, 400 lumen, which is similar to the Philips Hue bulb's color shifting abilities. Inside that base, there are induction charging pads similar to the technology used in IKEA lamps. One clever design feature is that the light shade can be slipped out of its frame to become a transportable ambient light.
Those with low self-control will have to exercise some restraint all on their own. Tranquillo is only a prototype at the moment until its inventors can find the means to bring it to production. "At this point, the project is still in its conceptual stage, but we are looking into making some design changes and approaching some manufacturers," Kadam says. Since the prototype was first created as part of a school project, the concept is owned by the school, and Kadam and his team are currently looking at a variety of routes to bring this product to life.