Paper Desk Lamp

This project was an assignment for my Design Studio class at CMU. We were required to make a lighting engine out of paper and each student was assigned a specific use for the light. My lamp is for working at a project at a desk.

First I want to fully think about the sense of place that sitting at a desk gives off, and how I can incorporate this into my light fissure.

  • formal/structured

  • almost stiff

  • professional

  • negative relationship (may not like going here)

  • productive maybe creative space? doesn’t have to be negative

Thinking about how this space makes people feel made me realize that the average desk is a place of negativity since many people only use their desk for work. They develop a negative relationship with this place because they dread going there to do work. I want to make a light engine that makes working in this space more enjoyable.

I started this project with experimenting with how light interacted in my environment with different papers. I began with photographing a bare bulb so that I could compare the rest of my images to that control. The first row of images show the bare bulb and experimenting with crinkled paper, the second row is trying different shapes, and the third row is types of paper. My initial idea after this testing was to make an adjustable lamp shade that you could change how much light is dispersed based on the lamp cone shape.

Above are the different variations that I made with my first model and how that affected the way that it dispersed the light. I didn't pursue this design in the long run, because I didn't think the adjustability added much to the design.

Here is my first model with a base, which utilizes a counterweight to keep the shade of the lamp steady. The lamp was able to bend and take on different positions as it pivoted on its joint which I was aiming for, but it was a very rough model. I think the joint idea was interesting, but it is something that is already done so often with desk lamps. The lamp I made is not very interesting, I’d like to experiment a little more with my next sketch models.

These images are the result of my second round of experimentation. I ditched the idea of having a base with a shade and decided to explore lighting engines that would stand on their own on the desk. The top right is one of my favorites because it has the benefit of being more compact than some of my other designs so it would save space on a desk. The bottom left is my favorite design of the bunch that I made today. I added layers of paper until I was able to create the look of the paper “spilling” out of the cone. This has the added benefit of directing the light better into what would be the workspace on a desk as the light is reflecting off of the curve of the papers. The bottom right is the drawings that I made after these design sketches. I picked the two designs that I thought had the most potential and then came up with some iterations of those to pursue.

I decided to pursue my favorite design of my last sketch session and the above image is what I made. It had some stability problems since I made the main tube that held up the cone slanted to better create the chaotic paper look I was going for. I solved this by putting a triangle piece below the cone to support it which helped with the problem, but it was still too unstable.


I downsized my light engine to make it more effective to use at a desk which also helped it with not seeming so fragile and collapsable since the paper is more tightly wrapped into a cone so it is sturdier and less limp. I also made the angle that the light was leaning at somewhere in between my two designs: not exactly a right angle like my first design but not as leaning as my last design. I found inspiration from the motion of paper falling which is why the lamp is created from individual squares of paper layered over each other. This is also the reason for the wavelike curve of the paper if you view it sideways.