Dana Cannam – Interview

Dana Cannam Portrait

Today we present the Rotterdam-based product designer Dana Cannam. After his University studies and a Master in Social Design he launched in 2010 his own studio, Dana Cannam Design. Interesting in craftsmanship and technology, his Clamp lamp design won the 2012 Red Dot Design Award. He answered our interview and it’s with pleasure that we show you his projects.


Hello Dana, how are you ?
Hi Dennis and Tiffany, I’m very well thank you.

Can you introduce yourself  ? Tell us more about you.
I am a multidisciplinary designer living in the great city of Rotterdam. I have a background in Industrial Design from the University of Alberta Canada, and a Masters in Social Design from the Design Academy in Eindhoven. In the fall of 2010 I launched my studio, Dana Cannam Design, specializing in the relationship between craft and technology.
I also love Indian food.

Where is your studio based and what do you like about this place ?
My studio is based in the historic port of Delfshaven. The area untouched by World War II, is a small inner-city harbor dating back to the late 14th century. Steeped in history and architectural beauty, I’m inspired each morning on the walk to work.

What is your experience and approach to design ?
I’ve always been inspired by functionality. My approach to design in a sense, strives to communicate the truthfulness of an object to the user.
I was once told, “always aim to make people think, that they are thinking”. This bit of advice, for me, really coincides with what I do as a designer. Whether I’m utilizing the latest in lighting technology, or developing a parametric form utilizing computational analysis, the result of my work will always implore simplicity, and above all, an intuitive insight into the functionality of my designs.

Your “Clamp” lamp design won the 2012 Red Dot Award for product design and innovation. Can you tell us more ?
The project was initially a study into the potential of one material. Basically I wanted to push the functionality of wood, in designing a task LED lamp without the addition of unnecessary components.
During the design process I was obsessed with the idea of functional-annoyances. Think of how many times your keys end up in a complicated mess at the bottom of your pocket. They practically do this on their own, while it takes real effort to untangle each key from the ring. I was intrigued by the simplicity of mishaps like this. And while not appreciated, the result usually is very effective. This insight brought me to consider instances of objects jamming, like an old door. I eventually arrived at the compression fit system that essentially forces 3 simple pieces of wood to function together as a fully adjustable task lamp. Ultimately this simplistic design provided the perfect bridge between the natural beauty of wood and the efficiency of LED lighting.

How do you process in your work ?
Along with a very pragmatic research, sketch, and prototype approach, my process is always kept in check by constantly asking myself  “why”. This simple yet effective question ensures my process to be objective and honest to whom I am providing a solution for. For me, this consideration is crucial when introducing another object into the all-mighty system.

What was the idea behind the “Hummingbird” rocking chair you did with the Studio Agata Karolina ?
Agata and I were given the opportunity to create an object based on geometry and color. We decided to re-create the traditional rocker in a more contemporary way.
We focused on colors through natural materials like beech and felt, while creating a very minimal aesthetic through geometry produced in a 3D computer space. The chair is primarily designed around the ergonomics of the standard office chair. It’s really more of an upright chair, that can be rocked back for moments of relaxation; something to accommodate a contemporary work/ living environment.

Have you been influenced by any movement or designer in particular ?
I’ve always enjoyed the theoretical aspect of Modernism; how it served as a reflection of society rather than an idealized perspective common to the classics. Reading Greenburg in university really helped me understand the social and political underpinnings associated with 20th century art. The movement represented innovation and originality by facilitating a voice from the fringes of society, something that is completely commonplace in social media today.
However these days I’m mostly influenced by the people around me. The Open-Source movement found in fablabs, social meet-ups and of course online is really what drives my inspiration today. There is an incredible amount of substance out there, the trick is to refine what you come across into something that is your own perspective.

Which books are on your bedside table ?
The Age of Turbulence by Alan Greenspan and Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku. The former is really an interesting look at design within a financial context, while the latter is a wild interpretation of how science will shape our not-so-distant future.

Some projects to come ?
Currently I’m working with Rachel Griffen from Ernst Studio on a component based table-top system, that can adapt to a multitude of needs and environments. Also, I’m working with Agata Karolina on a material research project involving a newly developed bioplastic, waste marble and LED lighting. Both will be shown in Milan this year. And of course there are a few projects that I cannot mention, so keep a look out for some awesomeness this spring.

The last word…


>   danacannamdesign.com

Interview : Dennis Moya & Tiffany Baehler – 04.13

All the pictures are ©Dana Cannam Design.

Dana Cannam and Agata Karolina Hummingbird 3

Dana Cannam Bravais Desk 1 Dana Cannam Bravais Desk 2 Dana Cannam Bravais Table 1 Dana Cannam Bravais Table 3 Dana Cannam Clamp 1 Dana Cannam Clamp 2 Dana Cannam Clamp 5  Hummingbird-1-1Dana Cannam and Agata KarolinaHummingbird 4Dana Cannam and Agata KarolinaHummingbird 2