Subconscious Effects of Daylight


Subconscious Effects of Daylight is a pioneering innovation. Casting artificial light from underneath the table top onto the floor, it creates the impression of daylight at night, luminosity seemingly without electricity. It is a design which challenges traditional methods of lightning and one that forms an astonishing interaction between space, illumination and interiors. 

”My interest in the effect of daylight was born when I saw the strong impact natural light had on one particular room in my mother’s house in Oslo,” says Daniel Rybakken at the School of Design and Craft at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. “When the sun came through the windows, the room was bright and beautiful, it felt open and alive. Once the natural light disappeared, the room suddenly felt very small, dark and gloomy. It made me realise the strong visual impact of natural light and I wanted to explore if the same effect could be achieved artificially” he

explains. Daniel Rybakken had previously experimented with different ways of integrating light as a key element in interior design, primarily in a product based on creating ‘fake’ windows, which projected a strong artificial light, similar to that of natural daylight, onto the room. Drawing on this and previous projects, investigating how artificial light could be perceived as natural, Rybakken started to develop the idea behind what should become Subconscious Effects of Daylight

The result is a playful, plug-in product, witty yet plainly purposeful with a formula which is as pure as it is potent. Attached underneath the table top is a simple slide projector casting light onto the floor and the surroundings which creates shadows in a recognisable pattern on the floor. The light is projected onto the room in the same way as it would project itself if it came naturally through the windows. The effect is an illusion of natural sunlight with a strong impact on the subconscious. The difference in the room is startling. “Natural daylight gives us the impression of something outside the physical room. It gives the feeling that the perceived space is larger than the actual space and the contrast between outdoor and indoor decreases.” says Rybakken.  

Besides challenging traditional methods of illumination, Subconscious Effects of Daylight takes lighting design into a context which is both abstract and direct. It allows for interior design and structural lightning to merge in a way so subtle, yet with such an immediate effect, that they come to form one sole entity. “I wanted to create light without the spectator being aware of its source. I wanted light without the bulb and the shade. It gives a more natural and comfortable experience and has a strong positive impact on the atmosphere in a room. It opens up claustrophobic places by giving the impression that there is light streaming in.” says Rybakken. 

The table itself is a matt black table top resting on four, slim birch legs in effortless elegance. It is a simple and honest, modern and minimalist what-you-see-is-what-you-get-design. Or rather, it would have been, had it not been for the slide projector and the fact that the table, in this context, is not the subject matter but simply a tool to achieve a purpose.

“Don’t look at the table!” says Rybakken. “The idea is that the table is kept as simple as possible, with an archetypical design. It’s a plain icon of a table to let the shadow on the floor dominate.” he explains. Had Rybakken not been so eager to eradicate any references to traditional methods of lightning, one could say that the table is a lamp in a highly unconventional shape.

“I will continue to work with light as a key element in the interior but I have not yet decided whether to copy the technique to other pieces of furniture as it is or whether to develop it further.” says Rybakken about his future plans. “Right now I’m looking for someone who could produce the table in larger quantities.” He thinks that, since this is a completely new concept, it may be difficult to launch as a product in a commercial setting as it would have to fit into a context which is more mainstream. “It is really an item for private homes and smaller rooms where it will have the highest impact and where it can create a truly positive feeling. The idea could, nevertheless, be developed to work well also in larger rooms and public spaces. But it is something that needs to be explored further and something I will continue to work on in the future” says Rybakken.


Being a product with such a strong cultural connection to northern Europe in its persistent and clever attempt at extending the hours of daylight, dare one say that finding a market for this highly functional tongue-in-cheek innovation should not be terribly difficult? 

The article was published in the Forum AID Awards Supplement 2009

Jury’s Motivation: ”Daniel Rybakken’s poetic work is a functional piece of furniture with a conceptual twist - light is projected from beneath the table to replicate the effect of sunlight slanting through a window. It appeals to anyone who has experienced the oppression of living or working in a windowless room, or who has felt starved of light in the depts of winter. Subconscious Effects of Daylight hints at a whole new potential area of research for designers”