Text by Annemiek van Grondel
Photo by Boudewijn Bollmann
His passion? ‘Design for a changing world.’ Since 2010, Rogier van der Heide (43) is responsible for product, industrial and communication design and design innovation at Philips Lighting as Chief Design Officer and Vice President. Van der Heide: ‘The world is changing, and I design to show people and have them experience the positive effects of this.’
His background as a light designer comes in handy in making this happen. ‘Philips now realises how the company can create more value with light,’ he says. ‘I think that in general manufacturers have a bigger influence on society. Designers and manufacturers work more closely together creating light experiences in architecture. I try to invent an expression for a brand, an exhibition or a building. And to keep it simple: one colour, one gesture, one operation.’
His design for the interior of the Rijksmuseum illustrates this: only one shade of white light, but so carefully designed that everything in the museum is being shown at its best. Or the lighting design for the Beijing Olympic Stadium: a red bowl covered with a yellow ‘web’ of light: China in a beautiful nutshell.
The Van der Heide’s light tells a story with one simple gesture, one simple statement. And he puts a lot of time and effort into ‘discovering’ and expressing this. ‘Light does more than emphasize architectural aesthetics; it has its own expression in architecture. So I add an extra to architecture. Something that is easy to read. Everyone understands it.’
At Philips, he and his team want to influence the ‘well-being of people, their wonder and imagination, their health’, as he puts it. ‘Design is the bridge between technology and people. Technology is just an enabler. To love an innovation, one should make a well-thought design for the technical product. Philips has transformed from being the best manufacturer of lamps to an innovative company that creates applications for technology. We look at what motivates people, why should they want to use a product, what is “the question behind the question”? Our work is “people-centric” as we call it in the studio, and “designed around you”.’ Easy to use, loveable and recyclable.’
What concerns him ultimately is the light effect, not the aesthetics of the luminaire. Van der Heide: ‘We pay much attention to how the luminaire makes light: what is the beam width, which is the texture, the shadowing, is the edge of the beam soft or sharp? How many opportunities can we “build” for architects to be in the game? And we do this by investing more than ever in innovation and design – in addition to research and development in new materials – like the possibilities of OLED and other new lighting sources. Our aim is to make “light experience” even more inspiring and personal. In the 17th century, Dutch painters Vermeer and Rembrandt were the “Masters of Light”. It is my ambition to work with all my colleagues to make Philips the “Master of Light” of the 21st century.’
This interview was published in Connecting the Dots #8 for the Dutch Design Week 2013.
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