Catching up with Switched On 2011 winner, Joseph Louis Tan.
20th November 2012
It's ticking over into the tail-end of the year, and just like the three years before this one, our national student design competition Switched On is well underway. We're looking for Australia's brightest, greenest student designer who can design the ultimate eco-lighting solution for residential or commercial use, with a prize pool of $3,000 up for grabs for the three best designs.
With one more month until entries close, we thought now would be a great time to catch up with last year's winner, Joseph Louis Tan. The now-Singapore based UNSW graduate really impressed us with his 2011 entry, RingLite, a USB-powered LED light that aids webcam video quality by increasing the amount of light on the user's face.
Writing to us from Singapore, Joseph tells us how he came up with his winning idea and talks about what he's up to now, one year later.
How did you come up with the idea for RingLite?
It all started from a studio project I did at UNSW, where we were tasked designed a lighting solution that uses LEDs and has to be USB-powered. Being quite a computer geek myself, I decided to explore into the world of video blogging and live stream platforms such as Livestream and BlogTV, where thousands of people film themselves using their webcam. What I discovered and observed from my experience using the service was that the video quality of the online broadcasters was pretty poor and not well-lit. Also, the lighting setup by video bloggers with better video quality involved a lot of lights, which were not energy efficient.
The design for RingLite was inspired from ring light photography and the flash equipment used, which helps to reduce the shadows casted onto the subject’s face. By using a similar and familiar design aesthetics and functionality of a ring light flash, RingLite hopes to help users light up their underexposed and unflattering video-recordings taken by their in-built webcam and improve their video quality and digital experience.
What kind of challenges did you have to overcome when designing RingLite? How did you overcome them?
Coming out with a working prototype to test the usability and functionality of RingLite was difficult due to our studio project's tight deadline, but I managed to make a quick and dirty one from an existing LED USB computer lamp and tried to mimic the output of RingLite onto my face while video recording myself via my laptop's webcam. I have learnt that delivering an 85% solution is better than not delivering any at all, and to test out my ideas fast and cheap was a great step in moving forward with a design.
How important is it nowadays to factor sustainability into design?
Understanding and implementing sustainability into design is paramount for any designers now more than ever, because it is not only our professional obligation as industrial designers, but our moral responsibility to create better products that improve people's lives and simultaneously reduce our carbon impact on the environment so that future generations can have the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest.
What advice would you have for anyone putting together an idea for Switched On 2012?
What first started as a university studio project, and reaching to where it has gotten to after winning the competition, I could not have imagined the favourable responses that I have received from both the public and the press. I would definitely recommend any and every industrial design student out there to join and have a go at it, because you would never know where life would takes you.
What kind of design projects have you currently got in the works?
I am currently working as a product designer at a global retail marketing and design agency delivering engaging and meaningful retail experiences for some of the world’s top brands and their shoppers with simple, simple, innovative and user-centred retail designs solutions. On the side, I am also working on a few personal projects such as a portable power plug and a modular furniture range.
To find out more about Joseph's work, visit his website.