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● Focus on contextual human needs

● Leverage existing infrastructure



Drop ceiling lighting is both ubiquitous and unsightly. With high rise buildings and public spaces regularly being renovated for modern use, architecture firms and institutions are seeking new lighting solutions that can work with existing infrastructure. 

2.5 Weeks


Andre Salyer: ­
 Lead Designer / Co-­creator

Lyle Klyne:­
Lead Developer / Co­-creator

1st Place - Gizmos Competition
 2016 UW Maker Submit


LED lighting is quickly becoming a more affordable, more energy efficient alternative to fluorescent lighting. We intend to  demonstrate that an LED array has the flexibility to provide a much wider selection of lighting scenarios, including more natural, humanistic lighting and special case lighting for emergencies. Companies such as Philips are developing OLED technology that can make a light as thin as a sheet of paper that can bend - opening up a whole new world of potential smart lighting. Our prototype is intended to be a first step towards this new technology. 


  • Large office environments
  • Large public, spaces such as airports
  • Warehouses
  • Department stores
  • Retail




It was important that our methods were fast and creative. We utilized mapping methods such as 2x2's to brainstorm. Here we have identified fluorescent ceiling boxes as an outlier, that is widely adopted, and has a large physical footprint.




I very much wanted this to be an accurate scale model, however we had the limitation or working with LED stripes, where each light is 33mm apart. So in our model 33mm = 4 feet, which make this model approximately a 1:75 scale model. Every detail down to the 3D printed furniture is to scale.

Physical Prototype



We created a grid of 45 individually addressable LEDs divided into walled boxes (to prevent light bleed). Using a piece of arduino hardware called Fade Candy, video is fed to the LED array, allowing different lighting scenarios. 




  1. The first step was to build a model in Rhino, this model was then used for part­ planning. 

  2. Sheets of acrylic were laser cut, then glued together using a bonding solution. 

  3. LED strips were hand soldered into a single array of 9 x 5 (45 all together). 

  4. The array was added to the model. 

  5. Then, connected to our software platform via the Fadecandy breakout board and Processing

  6. A Fadecandy database was modified to run video on the array. 

  7. The GUI for selecting videos was hand built. 

  8. Videos for controlling individual LEDs were built in After Effects

  9. Lighting scenarios were tested and evaluated.

  10. Once we were confident in the lighting scenarios, we continued to improve the fidelity of the model with 3D printed furniture

  11. The model was coated with paint for a uniform look.

  12. The model was presented at Marker Space, where we conducted more user testing with the final lighting scenarios. 


Lighting scenarios

  • Day Dream:  Blue sky with slow moving cloudsOrganic light variation to an indoor static environment
  • Work Lighting:  Humanistic lighting that mixes blue and yellow light to achieve a more natural "white"
  • Flux  Light:  Lighting changes very slowly over time, starting with white and removing the blue light frequency in order to aid the bodies natural circadian rhythm. 
  • Emergency:  Special case scenario, where exits and safe areas are illuminated with a pulsing red light.
  • Sun through leaves:  Organic light that mimics light filtering through leaves. 
  • Storm:  Experiential - potential entertainment application
  • Sunset:  A lighting effect that mimics a slow sunset. Radiation through brilliant yellows and red, and ultimately dimming al the way to black. 
  • Fireworks:    Experiential - potential entertainment application
  • Happy Hour    A lighting scenario that acts as a notification that it is time to stop working and move out onto the balcony for happy hour. A cascading animation dims the lights in the working area while simultaneously illuminating the balcony. Exits and entrances stay illuminated in the indoor space. 
  • Party On:    Garth. (dance lighting)
  • Staging:    An animation to demonstrate the ability to light up any of the 6 key areas. 

Visual Design

The Design is in the details. From sketch, to assembly every detail was considered. Everything was built to scale, which had a cascading effect, making every design decision easier. When laser cutting the sheets of acrylic, the thickness of the sheet was accounted for, producing a model with flush corners. The roof also acts as a high end display visible to surrounding buildings.

The same thought and consideration was applied to the animations, and the in-person presentation to students and faculty. 

Product Video

Final Thoughts

This project was mostly about building a functioning, high fidelity physical prototype. To this day it is still one of my favorite projects, because myself and my creative partner Lyle did not get bogged down with process. We knew we had a good idea and we built it. We worried less about integrating every conceivable step of user testing and instead relied on our vision and intuition. 

That said, I would have loved to spend more time on this project and build it into a more robust prototype. Here are some additional steps that I imagine taking for the next stage.

  • Building a full scale model in a warehouse or commercial space.
  • Creating a user facing GUI that allows the user, or a technician to create a custom lighting array animation and share it.
  • User testing with architects, fabricators and business owners. 
  • Concept development for a wall mounted, and / or application for controlling the array in real time.