Marjan van Aubel is the winner of the Swarovski Designer of the Future Award 2017. We met the industrial designer for an interview
Marjan van Aubel lives in London and is originally from the Netherlands. In her work, the designer is primarily concerned with the intersection of sustainability and technology – a field that requires complex research and intelligent thinking.
Within the framework of the Swarovski Designers of the Future Award at Design Miami/Basel, she created an entry called “Cyanometer” under the theme “Reshaping Societies.” And look at that: It’s a combination of the latest solar technology and “living objects.” With the help of (blue) crystals, van Aubel created a very aesthetic series of three light objects – which, by the way, were inspired by the instrument of the same name created in 1798 to measure the color intensity of the blue sky. Van Aubel’s light installation consists of circular, hanging rings that take up sunlight via integrated crystal solar cells, store it, and then give off light through the energy they create. We had the honor of exchanging a few words with this very special designer.
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How did the cooperation with Swarovski come about?
One day I received a phone call from the Design Miami/ team with the amazing announcement that I had been nominated – along with Jimenez Lai and TAKT Project – for the Designers of the Future 2017 Award. This is a program run by Design Miami/ and Swarovski that acknowledges emerging talent, and I feel very honoured to be part of it.
What did you like most about the Designers of the Future project?
That it allowed me to bring an ambitious vision to life. Unlike most other projects that you get to work on as designer, the Designers of the Future project had no restrictions or limitations. The three of us were given a quite open brief to make a design, using crystal as a material, that would help shape societies in the future. But apart from that there were no other limitations, and we were given access to the incredible resources and capabilities of Swarovski. I got the opportunity to collaborate not only with a big team of engineers at Swarovski, but it also opened the doors for an external collaboration with the Dutch energy centre for solar cells, ECN.
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What fascinates you about working with crystal as a material?
When I visited the Swarovski headquarters in Wattens, Austria, I knew that I wanted to do a design with opal crystal. Unlike other crystals that refract the light, the Opal crystal collects the light inside. As a result it has more subtle qualities too it, emitting more soft hues of blue and red colours, depending on what angle you see the material from.
How did you get into the profession of design?
I went to the Gerrit Rietveld art school in the Netherlands and realized throughout my studies that I was more and more fascinated with telling stories through design. Unlike art, I like the constraint of design as I see it as a tool to improve objects and environments around us.
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What topics do you deal with mostly in your work and why?
My work is inspired from the trilogy of technology, sustainability, and design. This guides my design process, which is also demonstrated with the Cyanometer lightings for Swarovski’s Designers of the Future 2017 installation. I think there is a lot of potential in using crystal in combination with solar cells to create self-powered lighting objects. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this field of design.
Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.