When encouraged – or provoked – HOK Lighting Group Director Tom Kaczkowski says designers typically have an opinion on most aspects of the built environment:
The aesthetics: “I don’t like chartreuse, curvy things.”
The performance: “It won’t turn fast enough.”
The ergonomics: “Hurts my pinkie!”
The epiphany: “That’s just plain cool.”
The introspective: “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Kaczkowski has been designing lighting systems for HOK projects for 23 years. During this time he has witnessed many of the “custom” light fixture designs that have emerged from his projects become commercially available as catalog standards for lighting manufacturers.
Today, Kaczkowski is taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the launch of HOK Product Design, LLC, to create his own innovative lighting products. His creations include, “LUMINOUS,” a recessed lighting fixture with interchangeable translucent materials and high-performance, energy-efficient optics and the “Apollo 8 + LED Reading Light”.
Creating a product can trigger a dramatic change in a designer’s perspective, says Kaczkowski. “Not unlike the thousands of design decisions that shape a building, every small detail or large component becomes a subject of pause and contemplation.”
“Product design provides an opportunity for HOK’s designers to author a small piece of a larger architectural whole, whether it’s a carpet tile, a life-saving healthcare product or a light fixture,” adds HOK Product Design, LLC, Director Susan Grossinger. “These all are important components in a larger visual environment.”
Kaczkowski approaches the product design process as a smaller-scale but “uniquely rewarding” version of the architectural design process. His methodology begins with programming (defining needs) and moves to schematics (scale, function and aesthetics) before reaching construction (fabrication).
“HOK project designers coordinate between disciplines – architecture, interiors, lighting, MEP and structures – to create cohesive environments,” he says. “Product design aligns the technical requirements of a product with the realities of the marketplace, which include challenges related to fabrication, hard-tooling methods and bottom-line profit margins.”
Kaczkowski is the Product Design Ambassador in the St. Louis office, the home of the firm-wide Lighting Group. In this role he works to inspire, encourage and help other HOK St. Louis team members create their own new products. He is excited about the potential for the intellectual expertise demonstrated in HOK’s projects to also be displayed in new products.
“HOK-designed products might be used in an HOK building or in your grandmother’s hospital room,” he says. “Or maybe someday we’ll see them on the shelves at Target. I hope others HOK designers will embrace this product design opportunity and one day be able to say, ‘I did think of that!’”