Andrew Bates (MDes 2017) wants you to rethink functional lighting. He’s created a modern minimalist task lamp that has no switches, buttons, screws or fasteners. d’Jinn (pronounced gin) is built entirely of raw materials, and uses just weight and friction to provide a versatile source of light.

The idea came to Bates in the form of a question: “I wonder if you could have just a ball of light — how would you interface with it?”

Based on this concept, he built an initial prototype. But as any designer knows all too well, passion projects often get left on the backburner. “I kept meaning to go somewhere with it and never got there,” said Bates. That is, until he enrolled in a New Product Development class with studio instructor Zach Pino while pursuing his Masters in Design at IIT Institute of Design. In class, he was able to source materials and adjust design elements to reflect his vision of a light source that is simultaneously functional and ethereal.

“The great thing about the class is that it provides that accountability you need to drive a project forward,” said Bates. He was able to receive feedback from his classmates at crucial decision points, and ultimately take his product to market.

While perfecting the physical product, Bates was also committed to a successful launch on Kickstarter. Knowing he would have to build an audience in order to make d’Jinn a reality, Bates made the story of his process as transparent as possible. “It’s contrary to what I grew up with where you keep production and process a secret. Now I share as much as I can,” he said. He created a website where he describes his vision for d’Jinn, and posts regularly about his progress. He also keeps his supporters updated through Instagram.

Though Bates would happily spend all his time designing and creating, he recognizes that there is more to success than the individual product itself. “I think there’s a lack of knowledge for independent designers in how to run a business,” Bates noted. “The reason I came to the Institute of Design was to learn about the front-end work. A product is one part of a much larger system.”

He has plans to continue expanding upon the concept of d’Jinn in the future. Bates hopes to eventually employ a community of makers, instead of building each one himself, providing opportunities and support for people who want to learn to do so. “I don’t want to just be the lamp guy,” he said. He is excited to see d’Jinn out in the world, and to continue pushing the boundaries of business and product design.