The Story Behind the Ballon Collection
Tunto’s Ballon series is inspired by nature and its endless organic shapes and moods. The Ballon combines various materials and the latest technology with a highly visual form language. The end result is a truly unique series of state-of-the-art lights. Read what inspired the Ballon, and learn about the challenging but exciting process of creating the new series – as told by Tunto Designer and CEO Mikko Kärkkäinen himself
Organic inspiration from nature
Before the Ballon series was born, I felt I had the need to add a touch of more organic design language for Tunto, as we were mostly known for our graphic and angular designs in our products. I’ve created a lot of visual arts and shaped various materials in a myriad of ways. I feel that this is something where I’m good at.
I’ve also always been a big fan of Karl Blossfeldt and the unique close-up photographs he took of plants which were published in his legendary book ”Art Forms in Nature”. I remember him saying that those photos had the potential to provide years of inspiration for designers. As they did for Blossfeldt, the endless beautiful forms in nature certainly act as a big inspiration for myself. I’ve always admired how nature is the ultimate master in form and design – and as a Finnish person who has a deep relationship with nature by default, I feel that it is an essential part of us.
Finding the right approach and materials
With the Ballon, I started looking for an approach that combines symmetry and asymmetry with geometry, creating an interesting but coherent design language. I believe that a certain geometry and symmetry are essential factors for a good, usable product, as is the dynamic between free-form and controlled shapes.
Metal seemed like the best material for bringing out the organic and geometric nature of plants. I’ve worked with metals since I was young and know my way around them. We had metal machines in our own factory that could do the required machining. I decided that Tunto would go on to expand our lights to be made of metal.
In addition to metal, I wanted to involve other materials in creating the new light. Deviating from traditional Finnish humbleness, I decided to add a 24-carat coating option to the lamp in order to create an air of luxury and dignity, expanding Tunto’s previously-known boundaries.
At the time I had also started working with organic light sources (OLED), and that felt like the perfect choice for the new lamp, as OLEDs combine lightweight and airy lighting with state-of-the-art technology.
The process – challenges and rewards
I made all of the first prototypes myself, machining and soldering the lamps. The process involved multiple protos as I explored how to come up with the required symmetry and visual approach. My motto in a process is "think simple” – that’s how I usually find the solution.
I still remember the music I was listening to when making the first lamps. This is important to me – I listened to the same style of music throughout the whole initial formative process, which was very creative, intensive and energizing.
We encountered various challenges during the process. Regarding technology, the challenges appeared in the form of development and changes in organic light sources. We ended up choosing OLED technology for the light source, creating our way of doing it. It took a few innovative moments and the help of our extensive partner network.
We quickly realized that it would be difficult to outsource all the complicated and ambitious parts and solutions for the Ballon. Thus we ended up manufacturing most of the parts in our own factory. This required us to obtain new machinery and also to design and create new machines ourselves, in order to be able to manufacture the lamps.
I had to train new employees and learn new methods of working. The whole thing has been a long and challenging process, but at the same time, it has brought about a completely new dimension to our whole company.
Lessons learned: the future looks even brighter
Looking back at all the things we had to do, I’ve realized that at Tunto we possess another whole aspect of creativity: that of overcoming the challenges of creating a complex product, enabling the highest quality, and making the whole process possible in the first place. All this was essential in creating the Ballon series.
The new direction for Tunto that was opened by the creation of the new series is something that I and the whole company can find a lot of inspiration and energy from. I’m glad and grateful that we decided to venture into the unknown. We’ve discovered countless new ways of thinking about lighting. We’ve found new, skillful and especially top-quality subcontractors and experts, whom we can trust to help us with our projects and products now and in the future. All in all, the whole complicated process of creating the Ballon series has provided us with loads of new professional competence that enables us to create unique, innovative new products and solutions for consumers, designers, and architects alike. This feels like the start of something new and exciting, something that will offer inspiration and possibilities for Tunto and our clients and partners for years to come. New products and models are already in the works. Stay tuned for more innovative lighting with a soul.