Form and function: Mike Brannon and LightLink Lighting
By: Erin O’Brien
With the rise of the Do It Yourself (DIY) Movement, many people are turning their attention to re-purposing and recycling. This general interest has extended into the design world, as well, compelling an increasing number of designers to improve on existing materials to create something new that is both functional and fabulous – a trend called up cycling.
For some designers, however, upcycling is far from a mere fad – it’s a way of life. One such designer is Mike Brannon, a South Texas-based lighting extraordinaire who has been championing upcycling and practicing what he preaches since the birth of his design company, LightLink Lighting, nearly 20 years ago.
“I use an additive process,” Brannon says. “I go with what I’ve got and then find ways to juxtapose the materials. I only drill and cut when it’s necessary, because I believe in honoring the material as it comes to me. And I try to use as many green and sustainable products as possible so that hopefully, for example, a piece of scrap metal I find can become a light instead of being sent to a landfill. But while my prototypes may come about from industrial scrap, you will never be able to tell from the finished product.”
Indeed, Brannon’s lights, in their finished forms, are very clean and classy, often featuring clever blends of cool “space age” and Bauhaus-inspired elements with earthy woods and other nods to nature’s wonders. In other words, his visions are often simultaneously down-to-earth and out-of-this-world.
“A lot of my designs come from astronomical phenomenon, like the Northern Lights, shooting stars, desert-scapes and sunsets. Those things have always informed the designs,” Brannon says. “But I’m also inspired by things mankind has sent up into space, such as the Sputnik, which reminds me of where we were in the ‘space race’ at that time.”
Some of Brannon’s additional influences include more “grounded” natural fixtures, such as oceans and other waterways; modern architecture and designers, such as Frank Lloyd Wright; and sci-fi films, such as Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 epic, “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
But Brannon’s lights aren’t only about form; they’re also about function. He employs wireless dimmers and touch-sensitive technology in his lights so that people don’t have to walk over to a wall switch in order to light up the room or select their ambience of choice. However, he is looking to take this convenience a step further and switch to entirely wireless lighting.
“Lighting should be simple,” he says. “We should be able to put our lights anywhere we want, wherever we want, inside or outside, without having to worry about wires and bulbs. It should not be ‘plug and play,’ but ‘place and play.’ This is something Tesla was able to do 130 years ago, so why aren’t we doing it now?”
Ultimately, Brannon’s priorities are simplicity and essence – providing his clients with lights that are cool, clean and convenient in a series of beautifully blended nods to earth, sky and outer space. It’s a simple approach, but a brilliant one – the true embodiment of Zen/Industrial.
Lighting Up the World: IYL 2015
It’s a special year for the light sciences, as 2015 has been dubbed the International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies (IYL 2015).
Thanks to this announcement from the UN General Assembly 68th Session in December 2013, many different entities from educational institutions to scientific unions and societies have joined forces to educate the world population about the many potential benefits of light-based technologies – and as Mike Brannon, owner of LightLink Lighting, notes, education is key.
“We’re at a place in the world where you can’t not think about the environment,” he says. “It has to be part of our kids’ education now. Education is vital, and IYL 2015 is a great way to help make that happen.”
The IYL 2015 programs have been occurring throughout the year, and to date, the cause has been endorsed by numerous scientific unions all over the world, and has over 100 partners from over 85 nations. For more information, visit www.light2015.org.
Photos courtesy of LightLink Lighting