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A Feature on Our Best of Launch Pad Winners for 2022

A Feature on Our Best of Launch Pad Winners for 2022

Tianning Zhao and Erika Cross have been awarded the Best of Launch Pad awards for lighting and furniture respectively at WantedDesign Manhattan 2022.

The Launch Pad program is presented with media partner Design Milk and sponsored by American Standard.

Article written for Design Milk by Vy Yang

Tianning Zhao, Best of Launch Pad for lighting

“Astral is an indoor and outdoor portable lamp with wireless charging. In the absence of daylight, foliage and bodies of water capture subtly reflected light. I enjoy this soft and quiet light in the evening which feels as if its illumination is growing from the darkness.

Astral creates a serene lit environment which helps people appreciate the beauty of both light and shadows at night. There are two led ring lights inside of it, one aiming down to light up a table or the floor, and other aiming upwards to make the lampshade glow and spur people’s emotions like a candle.”Tianning Zhao

Tianning Zhao’s award reception at WantedDesign Manhattan 2022

Tianning Zhao was selected by Launch Pad’s jury members for lighting as the Best of Launch Pad 2022 for this category. The jury included Alvaro Catalán De Ocón, Founder, ACdO; Andrea Cesarman, Co-founder, Design Week Mexico; Jean-Jacques L’hénaff, Leader, LIXIL Global Design AMERICAS; and Matt Davis, Co-founder, ANDlight.

“Tianning’s Astral lamp was a compete surprised! It is deceptively simple and unassuming – until you really look closer. Astral is whimsical, simple, complete and fully thought-through. The contrast between the first row of LEDs creating a glow on the upper dome, and the second creating a ring of dots visible mostly from the reflection of the table it sits on, makes Astral rather whimsical.” Jean-Jacques L’hénaff

Design Milk‘s team had the opportunity to speak with Tianning about his project, practice and future. Click HERE to read the full interview.

Can you tell us a little about your background?

TZ: I was born in China and decided to further my studies in the US after graduating from high school. I studied industrial design at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and received a master’s degree in furniture, lighting, and fixture design at the ArtCenter College of Design.

When I turned on my first lighting prototype, I was so excited that I kept running around the studio. When exploring lighting design, I found that light is subtle, emotional, and poetic. I became deeply attached to both the scientific and artistic nature of lighting, and the more I explored, the more I fell in love with its beauty.

What has been the biggest influence for you in your design work?

TZ: The experience of learning Kungfu influenced my design work. It was the first time in my life that I found myself facing the limitations of my physical body, and trying to learn the connection between myself and the physical and psychological world.

This newfound discovery between the connection of the physical, psychological, and emotional, and the sensory effects of design, greatly influenced my approach to generate design concepts. I also learned the importance of loyalty and forgiveness from my mentors, which helped me to explore the intuitiveness and openness of my design work

Astral Lamp by Tianning Zhao

What would be the best result from your product’s use?

TZ: Astral was designed to be an indoor and outdoor portable lamp. It creates a serene lit environment which helps people appreciate both light and shadow at night. I hope that my piece will encourage people to go outside and enjoy nature with their friends and family.

See more of his work at tianningzhao.com.

Erika Cross, Best of Launch Pad for furniture/home accessories

“Elements is a collection about composition. Simple geometric shapes yield elegant building blocks, which combine to form sculptural objects. Elementary forms inform the whole, through interaction, configuration, and reconfiguration. Each object is defined by dialogue, a conversation among its elements.” – Erika Cross

Erika Cross’ award reception at WantedDesign Manhattan 2022

Erika Cross was selected by Launch Pad’s jury members for furniture as the Best of Launch Pad 2022 for this category. The jury included Giulio Cappellini, Founder, Cappellini; Jean-Jacques L’hénaff, Leader, LIXIL Global Design AMERICAS; Nicole Meier, Director of Branding, Ultrafabrics; and Sherri Simko, Director North America, Carl Hansen & Son.

“Throughout the collection, you can see a lot of thought was given to the dialogue between the various shapes and materials – thin metal and imposing cork, black and white, interlocking volumes – and ultimately the user. There is both a thoughtfulness, an economy of means, a simplicity, that I believe is a good reflection of where design is heading today. The collection was beautifully presented, and all the aspect of the brand touch points had been developed consistently.” – Jean-Jacques L’hénaff

Design Milk‘s team had the opportunity to speak with Tianning about his project, practice and future. Click HERE to read the full interview.

Can you tell us a little about your background?

EC: I grew up in a small town in Michigan. When I graduated high school, I had already earned enough credits to start college as a sophomore. I studied at two universities simultaneously, earning two bachelor’s degrees at the same time – a BFA in Art and Design from the University of Michigan (with a minor in Multidisciplinary Design), and a BS in Interior Design from Eastern Michigan University. I went on to study at the Royal College of Art in London, where I got my MA in Design Products. After several international research projects and internships in Europe and in Asia, I returned to the States to found my design studio and focus on my one true passion – furniture design.

Where does your design inspiration come from?

EC: That’s a tough question! I’m inspired by so many things in the world around me. My debut collection in particular is heavily inspired by geometry, tactility, relationships, and play. In this collection, I’m exploring ways to encourage more intimate relationships between object and user and also to emphasize the importance of relationships between different components of an object – how they work together, articulate, etc.

I’m also very interested in materials, methods, and fabrication processes. Quite often I find myself exploring how to make something do something, and then engineering a solution to make it happen. This might mean building a table on a CNC router which is much taller than the Z-axis travel on the machine, or making a flexible rug out of hardwood, or cutting a pattern into a cork sheet so that it can hold a shape and bear weight with minimal support.

Coffee table part of the Elements collection by Erika Cross

Where do you see your work being used in the world?

EC: I want my pieces to become part of people’s everyday experiences in their interior spaces. And I want my work to bring positive energy to those experiences, by embodying a modern aesthetic vision. I want my pieces to provide value and delight, so that they will be used and loved for many years.

See more of her work at erikacross.com.

WantedDesign’s co-founders, Odile Hainaut and Claire Pijoulat, share their thought on why they belive these two designers were selected by the jury members as Best of Launch Pad:

“It was quite impressive to see how Tianning was able to captivate his audience very quickly when talking about his lights to the visitors during the show. His project was very clear, well made and very well explained. From afar, it looks pretty but when you get close and you hear Tianning describe the intention and the making process, you really understand the project.Sometimes Best Of Launch Pad winners have the simplest project. It’s the right balance between good design, originality, quality of the prototype and the most important, the story telling.

Erica has some experience already and it shows in the execution of her furniture. The simplicity of the lines, the level of craftsmanship came together perfectly for this collection. The jury was seduced by how market-ready the project was.

After a decade of seeing hundreds of designers taking part in Launch Pad, we’re always amazed to observe the jury process and how certain projects win and others don’t. Sometimes the smallest detail makes the difference and sometimes it’s mostly about the person, their energy and passion. The beauty of the Launch Pad program is that we have as many success stories with the winners than with the non-winners.”

Learn more about Launch Pad and WantedDesign Manhattan

Tianning and Erika will be presenting their latest projects at WantedDesign Manhattan 2023.

Application for Launch Pad 2023 at WantedDesign Manhattan (Javits Center, May 21-23) will open in September.If you are interested to learn more about 2023, fill the form HERE.