In product and industrial design, many projects involve enhancing existing products, re-thinking their benefits and adding new features. Light is a very versatile way to achieve this and generate added value, but its possibilities are often not well known.
Illuminated lines - Ideas, impetus and inspiration
The integrated, flexible lighting elements increase the cones’ visibility and ensure they can be seen easily as an active source of light. This is useful in one respect when emergency vehicles’ bright blue light is dazzling and deflects from the cones in a cordon. However, it is also beneficial when the illuminated cones are in the dark – unlike conventional traffic cones, which are only visible when light hits them in the dark because of their reflective coating. By expanding on the possibilities of modern lighting solutions, visibility and warning functions can be enhanced even further by using dynamic light such as flashing or a running light function. Situation-based changes to the colour of the light, controlled, for example, by a proximity sensor, or the integration of illuminated symbols into the centre of a cone through textile lighting solutions create even more options.
Access control in public transport – safety and usability
Adding light to modern access control systems can improve the user experience and help security staff in their work. An elegantly integrated traffic-light function intuitively guides the user to open entry points and deters them from approaching closed ones. Dynamic light boosts this effect. Surveillance procedures can be automated by using visual support. Camera systems can be programmed using colour coding and then react accordingly. A colour change can trigger a photo or video recording or initiate automatic storage. It can send an automated message or signal to the security staff, who then monitor “unauthorised” users or respond in another way. A technical fault indicated by a flashing light alerts the technical support services rather than the security staff. In future, autonomous public transport, light will tell a user whether their authorisation level (e.g. their type of travel ticket) permits them to use a vehicle.
However, lifebelt lighting is useful and prudent on land too, as it helps rescuers to act quickly and intuitively. One example is in a private or hotel swimming pool, where there is not always a trained, experienced lifeguard on duty. Every second counts in an emergency in those settings too. A brightly lit lifebelt hanging in a charging station will be found immediately in an emergency, even by helpers who aren’t familiar with the pool. When the lifebelt is detached from the charging station or is controlled using a gyro sensor, the brightness of the light is maximised for the duration of active use in an emergency.
Smoke alarm or loudspeaker – communicate through more senses
Thanks to solutions with product-integrated light, products can be equipped with an extra communication component cost-effectively. Users with physical disabilities, such as people who are deaf or hard of hearing, can gain direct information from the use of lighting. In addition, various different statuses such as the temperature, a malfunction or the battery level can be communicated more clearly with light than by using sound alone. But communication via visual signals also offers advantages for people who aren’t hearing impaired. This applies in particular in environments with loud background noise. Traffic, construction sites, concerts or clubs and bars are just a few “illuminating” examples.
If a segmental or complete light is placed inside a suitcase, it makes it easier to do a quick check at night or to search for important items without having to switch on the main room light – so there’s no need to disturb fellow travellers or partners with a glaring overhead light. Integrated lighting in rucksacks serves the same purpose if a traveller joins or leaves a dormitory in a hostel at night. And it’s a feature that’s truly appreciated by camping fans.
Lighting improves the user’s safety when used on the outside of a rucksack, or if an internal light is folded out when needed and is only activated by a photosensor and gyro sensor when the user is on the move in the dark. These lighting solutions and others like them cover a whole range of scenarios.
This can also be used in rented event furniture, for example chairs, stools, tables or display cases. At trade fairs, exhibitions or events such as weddings, neutral-toned furniture can be enhanced with light to coordinate with the primary accent colour of the event or an exhibitor’s brand. Another effect is revealed in the dark or very low light: furniture that is invisible in the dark becomes visible, but only along its illuminated contours – it turns into a “light figure”, as it were. In addition, light can be integrated into the surfaces of furniture and only switched on at the appropriate time.
In this way, light is used to emotionally and aesthetically charge the event setting, to increase its dramatic effect. When it comes to lighting in seating and other furniture in public places, there is no doubt that integrated lighting can be extremely useful and versatile. Extra visuals in public transport can help staff – and passenger – processes to be more intuitive and more highly automated.
In this example, light not only has a hard, functional benefit. As so often happens when light is integrated into a product, it also affects the aesthetics of the product itself and the surrounding area. Light makes it possible to create an individual look and can be coordinated with the decor scheme of a space or living area. The brightness can be controlled on a timer or using optical sensors triggered by the level of ambient light, and the colour of the light can be adjusted to practical or aesthetic requirements. The possible locations for this feature are very diverse: they range from retirement homes or shared accommodation, privately owned homes, the staircase of a company lit in the appropriate brand colours or markers for emergency exits and fire escapes. Light safely guides and assists people and helps them find their way, whilst also having aesthetic effects.
Individuality, convenience, guidance, safety, communication, usability, aesthetics and emotion – the examples described above show that product-integrated lighting creates significant added value in many different types of consumer and capital goods. Or as designer Martin Schmidt puts it: „Thanks to modern lighting systems, we have greater creative freedom to design products that meet expectations more effectively, are more intuitive to use and are better suited to their purpose.“ One way to make use of this creative freedom is through M-Fibre. As a side light fibre system, it is absolutely perfect for creating directly visible, functional yet decorative linear lighting or indirect ambient lighting.
Profile of Martin Schmidt
Martin Schmidt (born in Nuremberg, Germany in 1989) is a product and industrial designer and lives in Essen. After graduating from Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences (2016), he worked as an industrial designer at ifm electronic gmbh in Essen, designing forward-thinking industrial sensor products. In 2019, he qualified as a certified Usability Engineer at Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology. Martin Schmidt is a member of German industrial designer association VDID (Verband Deutscher Industriedesigner e.V.) and volunteers there as Vice President.
At his own design firm „Martin Schmidt – product designer, Ruhrgebiet“ he specialises in efficient product design to ISO 9241 standards and has many satisfied customers. He assists SMEs with research, planning and design from the user’s perspective. For more information on Martin Schmidt, visit www.martinschmidt-design.com.