Dezeen Magazine

Rich Brilliant Willing combines flexible OLED panels with 3D knitting for NYCxDesign

Rich Brilliant Willing co-founder Theo Richardson discusses the potential of using OLED technology in lighting design in this movie Dezeen filmed in New York for the brand.

OLED, which stands for organic light-emitting diode, is a lighting technology that can produce extremely thin and flexible light panels.

For New York's design festival, Rich Brilliant Willing has combined OLED panels with thin strips of aluminium wrapped in 3D-knitted textiles, to create an installation in its Soho showroom called Light Inflection.

Light Inflection by Rich Brilliant Willing
Rich Brilliant Willing has wrapped OLED panels in 3D-knitted textiles to create an installation in its Soho showroom

"We've created an installation that explores the possibilities of OLED – flexible sheets of light encased in 3D-knitted textiles," Rich Brilliant Willing co-founder Richardson explains in the movie.

Rich Brilliant Willing teamed up with OLED manufacturer OLEDWorks for the project. Because OLED panels are so thin, they can be used to create much lighter and more delicate fixtures. Unlike LEDs, OLED panels also produce a highly diffused light, which means there is no need for the addition of a diffuser or reflector.

Light Inflection by Rich Brilliant Willing
The installation, called Light Inflections, is intended to demonstrate the potential of OLED technology in lighting design

"One of the downsides of LED technology is potentially the glare from a single directional source of light," Richardson explains.

"OLED is a glare-free source, it's almost perfectly diffused from all angles of view. The diffusion is already in the light source, so it's one less part that we need to include."

Light Inflection by Rich Brilliant Willing
OLEDs are even thinner than LEDs and the panels are flexible

Richardson says that Rich Brilliant Willing chose to wrap the fixtures in 3D-knitted textiles to emphasise the flexibility of OLED panels.

"For us, textile is really the ultimate flexible material and we wanted to liken that to OLED's flexibility," he explains.

Light Inflection by Rich Brilliant Willing
Rich Brilliant Willing wrapped the OLED panels in a 3D-knitted sleeve to create the fixtures

The lighting brand worked with 3D-knitting-machine manufacturer Stoll, which operates a prototyping and production facility in New York, to create sleeves of textile that are pulled over the aluminium substrate supporting the OLED panels.

The textile covers on the fixtures completely hide the OLED panels, which only become visible when the power is turned on and the light shines through.

"We wanted to avoid the novelty of just seeing a new technology naked," Richardson says. "We achieved a more integrated use of 3D knitting by having entirely opaque sections, which, when light is emitted through, become translucent."

Light Inflection by Rich Brilliant Willing
Rich Brilliant Willing co-founder Theo Richardson says the installation presents the brand's "first steps" with OLED technology

Rich Brilliant Willing created a variety of different hanging light fixtures for the installation, as well as a pair of wall sconces.

"What we're trying to convey is the sense of flexibility through this material sagging under its own weight," Richardson says, while stressing that the brand is presenting experiments that hint at the future possibilities of using OLED technology, rather than final products.

"This is our first step in exploring this technology," he says. "What we would hope the visitor would take away is to realise that this technology is coming and that there are combinations of materials and technology that we have not seen before. If this can be done, then what is next?"

Light Inflection by Rich Brilliant Willing
Rich Brilliant Willing created a range of different lighting fixtures for the installation, including a wall sconce

Rich Brilliant Willing was founded in Brooklyn in 2009 by Richardson, Charles Brill and Alex Williams.

The company was quick to see the potential of using LEDs in high-end lighting fixtures and product marketing manager Odile Liu says that exploring the potential of OLED is just the latest step in the company's mission to push lighting design forward.

"It was evident to our founding partners early on in our design practice that LED would become a vital and disruptive force in lighting design," she says.

"We believe the success of our practice has stemmed from embracing and adopting new technology to transform complex electrical components into beautiful design fixtures."

Light Inflection by Rich Brilliant Willing
The lighting fixtures on display are experiments rather than finished products

This movie was produced by Dezeen for Rich Brilliant Willing. All photography used in the story is by Federica Carlet.