Materials Testing Under Different Light Sources

Now that I am back home and not in Sweden, I have been combing through some of the work that I did in my first few months at KTH.  I took a lot of photographs of pretty much everything I could take photos of when I was in Sweden, and I got some interesting shots of a variety of things, including project work.

One of the first projects we did in groups was the Materials Testing project.  It was a very simple project with a goal more along the lines of working in groups that really much else – each group was to pick three “materials” out of a bin of random stuff in the lighting lab and take pictures of it under three of the different light sources in the lab’s light box.  The box was a shelf of chambers, each with a different light source in it – halogens, fluorescents, incandescents, oh my (et al):


As a group, we analyzed each material under the sources we chose – an opal (frosted) incandescent (around 3,000 Kelvin), a Philips Activiva fluorescent source (at around 17,000 Kelvin, I think), and high-pressure sodium lamp (around 2400 Kelvin).  What our group wanted to do over other groups was to give the images we took representational names as opposed to descriptive modifiers with no artistic or intrinsic value.

I’ve listed the nine images below – I’ve also grouped them into material type, as it’s interesting to see the same material under three different sources in contrast.

First material:  an ellipsoidal reflector
Light sources, in order:  incandescent, HPS, Activiva
The image names we invented were based on the group’s collective emotional response to each material and light source.

“Loud Halo”

“Martian Effect”

“Deep Blue Eye”

Second material:  a piece of gold and silver reflective material
Light sources, in order:  incandescent, HPS, Activiva

“True Fracture”

“Super Sodium”

“Regal Death”

Third material:  a wash reflector, stippled
Light sources, in order:  incandescent, HPS, Activiva

“White Desert”
White desert_web

“Golden Waffles”

“Moon Waves”



I’m writing this post at 3am in the Arlanda International Airport in Sweden – today is a travel day for me.  I’ll be getting on a plane to Frankfurt, Germany in a few hours where I will sit for two hours before embarking on an eleven hour flight directly into Dallas.  This is probably going to be a very, very long day, and when I get home it will only be 2:30pm.  Crazy jet lag time awesome!

Tonight I left the dorm house where I had lived with eleven of the most excellent people I have ever had the chance to meet.  Sweden, as little as I got to see of it, will never compare to the friendships that I was given for coming here.  Jamie, Francisca, Tatiana, Orqui, Saghi, Kunal, Gustavo, Guoliong, PK, Por, and Nicolas – I won’t ever forget you.  Thanks for making my time in Sweden so awesome.

I can’t wait to see you, United States of America!

Bye, Sweden!


Well, I’ve made a huge decision over the last few weeks.  I’ve decided to leave the KTH program and head back home to the United States to continue working on my design firm, Alive Lighting, and to keep writing full time.  It has been a great two months, and I have made so many great new friends that I will have forever – the relationships I made here in Sweden have enriched my life so much, and I will miss these people very much.

I’ve decided to leave the program at KTH because I don’t believe I’m being challenged.  Unfortunately, I don’t feel the education is advancing my academic and professional goals.  I’m not happy with that and, since this was a huge expense and commitment, I had to decide if staying for another eight months would pay off for me.  I’m very glad that I checked it out and am grateful for the opportunity to have done so.

I am so grateful for meeting the professors, seeing the beautiful Haninge KTH campus (which I’ll be posting some pictures of in coming weeks), and Stockholm is stunning.  I have new friends.  It’s been a great journey.  I can’t thank my lovely wife enough for her support, and all of the JimOnLight readers and Tweeters for their daily interaction.  It’s made me feel like home!

As of Thursday, I will be available for lighting design and consulting, and continuing to write JimOnLight every day.

I am SO back.


Good morning everyone!

It has been one crazy week that kicked my lighting designing butt:

  • I spent a whole bunch of time outside in the cold last week for an outdoor lighting project in a town called Nynäshamn
  • I made an awesome Fall cold even worse by above said lighting project
  • I was on a team that made a very cool outdoor lighting installation
  • I discovered that wine-in-a-box in Sweden is actually not half bad
  • I made some huge decisions (and no, I am not changing my name to Mac Daddy LD)
  • I got an awesome care package from my wife with GOOD coffee, candy, and BEEF JERKY (et al)
  • I got registered for LDI 2009

Sorry for the delay in posts – I needed a day to regroup!  I hope you have a fantastic day!

Willem van der Sluis – Dutch Designer


At the beginning of this month when we were participating in the “Lighting Machine” project and seminar, our class had the absolute pleasure of spending time learning from Willem van der Sluis – a product designer from Amsterdam.  Willem’s work extends into many product categories, from mobile phones to luminaires, to social structures.  Willem is a very gifted, talented designer – I feel we all learned a lot from his work with us during the weeklong seminar.

Willem’s design firm, Customr, is based in Amsterdam, and has an excellent repertoire of work.  Two of Willem’s most recent accomplishments are the Aircon luminaire that was produced by Luceplan (images below), and the SportDome, a project that Willem and his team created for the Dutch Department of Justice.  I have included some images and some video of Willem’s SportDome from Dutch Profiles, a design site that featured Willem recently.

The SportDomes project is an interesting project – they are essentially an exercise area for illegal aliens being held by the Dutch government.  When Willem lectured about this project in our class, he said that at first he wasn’t interested in designing anything for a jail, which frankly is completely understandable.  To design a structure that could give people being held against their will some form of pleasure in their confined day seems like a project for the cold hearted – but Willem created a structure that not only allows the inmates to play a little sports, but shields them from being scrutinized by outsiders.  The magical aspect of this dome is that at night, when it is illuminated, it is a diamond – a piece of beauty inside the terrible concept of criminality and imprisonment.

I hope you enjoy Willem’s work – it was a pleasure to get to know him a little, and to spend time learning what he had to teach.

Willem is also up for a Rotterdam Design Prize in 2009 – the winner is announced in late November.  Good luck Willem!  I voted for him, and you should too! (wink, wink)




The Aircon luminaire from Willem van der Sluis and Luceplan:





Make sure to check out Willem’s firm, Customr.

The Lighting Machine Project – “Happy Umbrella” at KTH


Our class just finished the first module of study and our first major lighting project here at Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan in Sweden.  Our first module of classes has just finished – an introduction of sorts to the world of light and lighting and a good way to bring everyone in the program to a level playing ground, so to speak.  There is a huge range of backgrounds in our class, and the instructors have done  a great job providing information to level the field.

The first project, called the Lighting Machine project, was the culmination of a week-long seminar on working with Dutch designer Willem Van Der Sluis.  Willem was in residence with us for a week, mentoring us through this project along with faculty professor Diana Joels.  Willem gave us a great lecture on working with light and an in-depth look into a few of his projects.  I’ll be chronicling some of Willem’s work in a post later this week.

The basic principles of Lighting Machine was that each group was to create a full-scale lighting machine that focused on the distribution of light rather than on the beauty and form of the machine itself.  We were to analyze our campus building for places we felt had illumination problems, and create this lighting machine to aid in the solution of this problem.  I created a video to describe our project and problem, but we took a positive outlook on the “problem.”  On the lowest level of our building there is a hallway full of patio umbrellas that are lit with low temperature (around 2700 degrees Kelvin) fluorescent lighting.  It’s a place where people hang out all day at different times during the day, and we sought to make it more happy.  Hence, our group and lighting machine was called “Happy Umbrella.”  Check out a few pictures of the space and of the building:



Lighting Machine was an interesting project on many levels.  First, we were assigned into groups of four people, each with a different background – architecture, interior design, lighting design, electrical engineering, you name it.  The program is being administered in English, but there is a wide variety of comprehension of the English language.  The language barrier makes communication interesting.  Drawings and sketches – visual communication – sometimes take the place of verbal communication in these situations.  We chose a handful of locations with what we perceived as problems, and came to a consensus as to which project we all liked – which ended up being the umbrella location project.  In the creation of the lighting machine, we were also given the choice of two light sources – a 50W T5 circular fluorescent, or a 40W halogen PAR20.  We chose to use both.

A long story short, we decided to provide the location with a feel of nature – the umbrella representative of a tree with a pattern, and the table with better illumination and contrast, as the overhead fluorescents provided next to none.  We invented an optical projector with a homemade template out of miscellaneous pieces and parts of reflectors and lenses, and a wash-type unit from the fluorescent.  Happy Umbrella also incorporated both the umbrella and the table as part of the product.

I’ve embedded two videos below – the first is an overview of the project (about seven minutes long), and the second is a quick explanation of the projector for the class.  These videos were something I made for the heck of it, just for the blog.  I did use the projector explanation video in the presentation of the Lighting Machine as a way to help explain how a projector works.

Project Overview:

Projector Explanation Video:

Happy Umbrella from below:


Vesa Honkonen’s Lecture at KTH


Last Thursday I was in attendance at a lecture given by Vesa Honkonen, an architect and lighting designer in Finland – Vesa came to KTH Haninge and gave a lecture on several topics, including art and the commercialization of design.  He was gracious enough to talk to us about several of his projects in recent past, and show us his process – including process sketches, notes, and images of projects in various stages of completion.

I have to admit that this lecture blew my mind open into little nondescript pieces.  We hadn’t started classes yet (we officially started lectures for the first course module last Monday), so it was an incredible start to our program.

The lecture was fantastic, I cannot say that enough – Vesa talked about many topics, but there were two that really rattled the inside of my cranium.  As lighting designers across the world in our respective industries we must consider what is mainstream and what is avant garde.  As ideas and designs that are new and different propagate in the industry and all around us, they’re considered avant garde.  This idea isn’t limited to any industry – it’s about art, design, and anything else subjective.  For example – my wife does amazing things with cascading style sheet programming, and I always consider her ideas and her understanding to be so far above the mainstream thinking that it amazes me every time she tells me about her projects.  At what point does her thinking about CSS become how everyone thinks?  At some point in every industry, in art, and in design, the mainstream thinking is replaced by what was once considered edgy, different, and not mainstream.

Thinking outside of the mainstream and going against the flow is how we progress.  This is not to say that everything mainstream is crap and that we have to find new solutions for everything in existence, but when you create, create.  Do what is best for the solution in your eyes, even if it is different than everything else you see.

This is a small bit of how the whole afternoon lecture with Vesa went – it was great.

He also told a story about Evert Lundquist, a painter and etcher from Sweden.  One day a poor engineer friend of Evert’s discovered him sitting in the dark, alone, in his studio.  The poor engineer friend had come by to visit Evert, and was curious as to why he was sitting alone.  The friend asked Evert, “why are you sitting alone in the dark?”

Evert replied, “I am simply waiting for the light.”

Thank you for your wonderful lecture, Vesa.  Please visit Vesa’s website, Vesa Honkonen Architects – His work is riveting.

I Live in A Dorm.

Yeah, I live in a dorm right now.  Is this a huge deal?  Is this really worth a post?  Perhaps not, depending on who you are.  But – since this is my blog, and I am trying to document my entire trip, I figured that some pictures of my living arrangements might be in order.  You see, it’s been a decade since I lived in a dormitory, and I live in a dormitory in Sweden – two things I’ve not done at least in this decade.

Swedish dorm living (at least where I am) is like living in a communal apartment – rooms, two bathrooms, two showers, and a freaking sauna!

Check out some images of Dalarovagen 33 – my home away from home for the next ten months:









Jim On Sweden – Been Here A Week, All Is Good


I’ve been here in Haninge about a week, and I am getting a little more acclimated to the way that living here might go.  The city of Stockholm is beautiful – more beautiful than it has ever appeared in pictures I’ve seen – and the town of Haninge (where I am living) is less than beautiful.  I’ve found places here to shop for groceries (Coop and ICA), and I found a store that is a lot like a Big Lots (Oob) – comparatively, everything is a little more expensive than back home, especially red meat and chicken.  I was surprised to see that even salmon is a bit more expensive here, but crawfish and shrimps are much cheaper than in the United States.

I am meeting so many great people here – my dorm mates are from Iran, Sweden, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, India, Canada, Sri Lanka, France, China, Thailand, Chile, and a fellow American.  The kitchen is the most excellent place to converse, and it seems like every time I go in there, I leave after having some kind of great discussion.  This weekend I went in for coffee, and left 45 minutes later after talking about OLEDs.

One of the weirdest things that I have noticed is that my listening skills have exponentially grown in a matter of days – having people from so many different countries with so many different inflections on English is one of the most wonderful experiences I have ever had with people.

I enjoy traveling with people to common places like the grocery and the city, and I am sure that we’ll be traveling in groups to other countries and cities around Sweden.  I’ve had my camera in my bag nearly everywhere I’ve gone so far, and I probably look like a tourist white guy, but I could care less.  This country is beautiful, and these people I am spending time with and getting ready to learn with are great.

Some things I’ve learned in the last week:

  • red meat is expensive here.
  • in Russian, you say “kind morning” instead of “good morning”
  • people in several languages say “pardon my French” before they swear
  • yogurt is not sweet everywhere
  • I have muscles in my legs and back that haven’t had exercise in years from walking so much
  • public transit is awesome

Anyone interested in seeing some pics?  I’m uploading everything to my Flickr account, and I’ll be posting random images here and there on the blog.  Check out these latest pics:

Waiting on the bus back from ICA grocery – we missed the first one…


Our group at the flagship Ikea!  Francisca, Kunal, me, Tatiana, Uthayan, Saghi, and Orquidea:

trip to ikea

Me, Tatiana, Francisca, and Kunal waiting for Saghi and Orquidea to get to the train station back to Haninge:

waiting at Ikea station

A sight we don’t often see in Dallas:

SL train

Ikea and flags – the only difference between American Ikea and Swedish Ikea is language:

Ikea flagship

This one is for my dad – everywhere I go, I take a picture of my feet in that country:


What An Awesome Day – Stockholm ROCKS!

On Thursday afternoon I went to a Stockholm walking tour/city rally thing with some international students.  In addition to getting to see a whole bunch of Stockholm, I met several new friends – Ahmed from Egypt, Mohammad from Iran, Kate from Austria, Jamie from Boston, Fernando from Brazil, Andreas from Sweden, and Reza from Iran.  We seemed to be the spry bunch, and after about 3/4 the way through the city walk, we decided to get lunch and a beer (which was nine bucks, by the way – damn):


Hands down, it was an amazing day.  At some point, I am going to get out at night and take some long exposure shots of Stockholm – that will be amazing!  Check out some photos from my day, if you’re interested – just a few, I took hundreds:

Where I’m living this year:


Stockholm Central train station:


KTH Main Campus library:


Walking in Stockholm:


The Royal Theatre:


Walking along the water:


Fountain above the train station – you walk underneath this thing!