Vibia is a company that makes this a great era to be a designer. The award-winning company strives to be pioneering and brings out lights that aren't lights in the conventional sense; rather they're products that offer architects, lighting and interior designers the chance to be an artist and paint a space with light.
Take the much garlanded Wireflow by Arik Levy, launched last year. It's a system of thin metal rods that can be configured in straight lines, or in sculptural shapes, with small LEDs on the end of each rod that give precise beams of light. Wireflow can look like line drawings in mid-air if rods are configured in lines, or as three-dimensional suspended wire sculptures, and it's the client who dictates the shape.
Pere Llonch, who joined Vibia in 1999 initially as marketing manager, says Wireflow was a very ambitious design project that people have had to get their heads around, given that it isn't a single fixture. 'But it's been a great success and many design professionals are taking the challenge to work with it in their projects’.
'You can achieve stunning results with it in residential interiors of all sizes; but I would say Wireflow is especially suitable to light up wide spaces with special requirements in terms of height, such as hotel foyers, flagship stores and bar counters.' And he adds: 'I guess professionals like the fact that it's an ego-friendly collection which can be moulded and adapted to their vision, so they get to make it unique.'
And being LED, it's also eco-friendly because LEDs consume minuscule amounts of energy compared even to compact fluorescents let alone halogen or the old incandescent bulbs. Llonch says sustainability is crucial to Vibia and that means its products must be energy efficient. 'Vibia provides an extremely comprehensive range of products to ensure high energy efficiency. Ninety per cent of models in our catalogue feature highly efficient lighting sources and 70 per cent include an LED light source, while nearly all products have dimmable systems.'
And he says LED has been a game-changer in terms of design. 'Besides lowering energy consumption we believe that LED technology provides a great opportunity to change design, allowing shapes, sizes and profiles that could not be achieved with the older light sources.'
Vibia is based in Barcelona and was founded in 1987 initially as a family company specializing in decorative lighting. Fast forward 17 years and the company is a global brand working in 80 countries, and while it continues to offer beautiful contemporary lights for residential clients, it is known for its innovation with products for corporate interiors such as hotels, offices, restaurants, and public buildings such as galleries and museums.
'But since it was founded, Vibia has always had a strong focus on quality and innovation in processes and materials,' says Llonch, 'so our core values remain the same though our design vision is in a state of constant evolution.'
A successful company needs to be both stable and ready to change and Vibia manages the latter by working with top independent designers who bring new ideas and thinking. Llonch says Vibia isn't insular, rather it believes in shared creativity. 'We are a design-oriented manufacturer and our mission is to help create better spaces. We strive to become more sophisticated and innovative and we want to offer a diverse portfolio of products to our customers’.
'So we always create in collaboration with other designers. We like to get inspiration from outside and we enjoy working hand-in-hand with independent design studios. Every product is the result of a long collaboration process, where the designer illustrates their ideas after we've given them a outline of the concept. Then there is a huge amount of testing, changing, rearranging until we come up with the final design. We believe strongly in co-creation.'
Designers Vibia enjoys working with include Pete Sans, Xuclá, Jordi Vilardell, Ramón Esteve, Victor Carrasco, Oscar & Sergi Devesa, Liévore Altherr Molina and Diego Fortunato, and all are encouraged to be what Llonch describes as 'techno-poetic', so being experimental, using technology but always making products that have beauty – wackiness or zaniness aren't what Vibia looks for in products.
'Formal rigor is one of the main values in our design,' says Llonch. 'The 70 collections in our catalogues seek an essential, timeless and harmonic design. Technology plays a subtle, invisible and emotional role. It's not the obvious thing, it's simply about making the unthinkable work.'
Pieces by Xuclá illustrate this point. The modular wall light collection, Set, comprises rectangular pieces holding an LED that can be arranged in a composition on the wall. Light from each piece projects onto the other pieces, so depending on how you arrange them, you can achieve incredible effects by playing with light and shadow. And Empty looks like minimalist rectangular seats or tables, but at night they provide soft lighting because they have invisible LEDs housed in the internal structure of the piece, which is made from polymer cement.
Around 85 per cent of Vibia's product is exported and Llonch attributes Vibia's success as a business to its worldwide network of distributors who know their countries' markets and clients' needs. And Vibia works to build a strong relationship with architects and designers through trade shows and other events. 'We rely on close interaction with consumers and professionals around the world.'
But this is the internet age and Vibia's website is highly interactive. 'To make it possible for professionals to express their creativity and tailor lights to their projects, we provide them with fast and efficient online tools so they can preview and visualise our lights in the setting they're working with. We also give them reports on budget control and energy consumption.'
As to what we can expect from Vibia in the near future, well, Llonch doesn't want to give away too much, but he says the company is introducing new categories and concepts. These include Sculptural Pendants, Skylights, Wall Arts, Furniture meets Light, Landscape Integration Lighting, Digital Co-Creation and Spot(less). They sound intriguing… Vibia's next product releases can't come soon enough.