Tom Dixon says his hugely popular Mirror Ball light is "a failure in design terms"

Most Loved: in this exclusive movie, British designer Tom Dixon says the light that helped turn his company into an international brand would have been less successful if the design had achieved what he set out to create.

Mirror Ball by Tom Dixon

Mirror Ball is a highly reflective lamp consisting of a lightweight transparent plastic sphere coated with a thin layer of aluminium.

The lamp is one of Dixon's best-selling products – his brand sells over 1,000 every month. However, the British designer claims the success of the product was completely inadvertent.

Mirror Ball by Tom Dixon

"Mirror Ball is a sort of failure in design terms," he says in the movie, which Dezeen filmed in Milan.

"I thought that if I made the simplest shape I could get away with in highly polished mirror, it would be invisible because it would reflect its surroundings."

Mirror Ball by Tom Dixon

In fact, Mirror Ball's reflectivity makes it highly conspicuous, which Dixon believes is the reason it is so popular.

"In practice, it did the polar opposite," he explains. "It is very much a focal point of a room, almost a blingy object in a way. But it made it a more successful object commercially as a result."

"So that's a lesson for all designers," he adds. "Sometimes your biggest failures could be your biggest successes."

Mirror Ball by Tom Dixon

Mirror Ball comes in three sizes – 50 centimetres, 40 centimetres and 25 centimetres – and is available in silver and gold versions.

The highly reflective surface is achieved by a process called vacuum metallisation, where a tiny amount of metal is vaporised and applied evenly in an extremely thin layer across the surface of the plastic.

"It's a technique that's used a lot in optics," Dixon explains. "Particularly in things like sunglasses and astronauts' helmets."

Mirror Ball by Tom Dixon

The lamp was launched in 2003, a year after Dixon started his own brand. He says it was an immediate hit.

"It gave us access not to lighting shops but lots of furniture shops," Dixon explains. "They have all of this space above the tables and chairs that is effectively free space."

"So I think we accessed our distribution in the beginning by just inhabiting the lighting space in furniture shops, which is an interesting way of going about it."

Mirror Ball by Tom Dixon

Today, the lamp can be seen in a bars, restaurants and hotels around the world, often clustered together to create a spectacular chandelier-like effect.

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"We were a very small company at the time and it's really been the foundation of the business," Dixon reveals. "It was the product that really took off. Without that as a hit object I think we would be in a very different place now."

Tom Dixon portirait
Tom Dixon

This movie was filmed by Dezeen in Milan. All photography is by Dezeen.

Most Loved is a collaboration between Dezeen and car brand MINI celebrating design objects that have found a special place in people's hearts. Over the coming months, we will be interviewing some of the world's leading designers about their most popular and enduring designs.

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