Reasons Designers Love Creating with Glass
Reasons Designers Love Creating with Glass
Article contributed by Brett Lovelady, Designer & Chief Instigator, ASTRO Studios
My design firm, ASTRO Studios, specializes in commercializing consumer products and brands for a wide range of markets. Like most designers, we crave diversity, a competitive edge and uniqueness in the type of projects we work on. Typically we need to solve functional problems, advance market perceptions or even generate new iconic forms to lead the creative process. With increased frequency, we’re finding some form of glass helps us achieve these goals.
In our process, the materialization of a product is key to its integrity and often the overall appeal to the end user. Over time people develop unique relationships with the products they use and love; the craftsman with his favorite tile, the baker his favorite bowl, or the artist with her favorite electronic sketch tablet. And how the materials in these products perform, is one of the first characteristics that define a successful product relationship. Characteristics like the wear, the consistency, the patina, or conformity of a well-used product over time.
Glass has long been a favorite material category (as there are many forms of glass) for designers for wide range of reasons. So I would like to touch on a few of these reasons in a bit more depth:
1) Unique Interactions
In our modern applications, we can interact with electronics by touching or even gesture thru glass or broadcast imagery via gigantic billboard displays or projectors. In architecture, we peer through picture windows or walk up floating planes of glass stairs. Or in personal products, we eat, drink, and contain liquids or cook in glass. I don’t believe there is another category of materials that can provide this range of unique interactions like glass.
2) Structural Integrity
Glossy materials, often glass, provide the focal point for many products or environments, like windows, dividers, light fixtures, displays, etc., often performing well beyond their actual and perceived expectations. Glass often has multiple capabilities, like providing structural integrity, or security to the overall product or fixture while also delivering light, messaging, or imagery to people or spaces. Although fragile in some settings, the tradeoffs are usually in favor of using glass.
3) Delivery of Light
Transparency, translucency, or being “active” (the ability to change from one state to another), is fairly unique to glass. These characteristics allow designers the ability to deliver light, data, and visuals for a range of communication applications or artistic effects. Combining glass to other materials or adding multiple layers of glass together can expand the range of features, effects, and methods of utilizing glass. For example, you could use glass in communications, in LED or OLED technologies, in ceramics, or in fiber that brings light effects or “life” to static products.
4) Diversity of Texture and Finish
The ability to look thru or into a material can provide an infinite range of visual effects. Some of these might include options in depth, gloss, reflection, textures, molded features, patterns, inlays, in-mold elements, etc. Quality glass finishes can convey a premium nature to a product or sense of added value. Humans, like many creatures that are attracted to shiny, bright, reflective materials, often find themselves drawn to the effects of glass and it’s perceived value.
5) Magical in Nature
I believe some of the draw to glass is in its magical transparent nature and the tangible interplay of light. Historically glass was hard to create and stained glass was seen as magical, valuable, and reverential. The sustainable nature of glass is also provides a high perception of value in the overall product lifecycle as well. Perhaps the fact that glass is the offspring of two of the core elements we’ve revered in nature forever, fire and earth (or sand), we have a greater respect and desire to possess glass objects. Designing with glass is nearly as old as the craftsmanship of other materials. However, I believe, after working with Corning engineers, scientists, inventors, and developers the past few years, that we’re just beginning to see the opportunities that glass, ceramics, and a myriad of hybrid combinations will offer the coming decades in technology, architecture, transportation, consumer goods, lighting, and communications, just to name a few. The future of glass is bright and I would encourage all designers and developers to get to know glass better and how to apply it in their future crafts.