Haemi Chang, formerly a design director at IDEO, joined Marvin full-time in the winter of 2019 to lead the Marvin Design Lab, whose mission is to fuel Marvin’s innovation pipeline and drive future growth by creating offerings that further enable happier, healthier living. Reflecting on the process of designing Awaken, Chang said, “This project was really about what’s coming next. We asked, ‘What can we do differently with light?’”
Learning about Light Around the World
As part of the exploration of light, Chang and other Marvin team members went out into the world to study how other cultures experience natural light. It was a time to observe, to think, to imagine. Essentially, the seeds of innovation were being planted and watered.
First, the team traveled to Japan, where access to natural light is considered a basic human right for homeowners and apartment dwellers alike. As such, there are light ordinances for homes and multifamily units, which are designed to allow the sun’s rays to reach as many windows as possible—whether those windows are installed vertically in a home’s walls or more horizontally on the rooftop. Additionally, houses are often sited north-to-south, with the main rooms facing south, all in service to maximizing sunlight throughout the day.
“In Japan, we learned so much about the impact of light and how people think about light,” Chang said. “There are actually codes that govern every home’s access to direct sunlight coming in. We saw the importance of natural light and how other cultures value it, as well as connection to nature, and we were so inspired. We do this research not just for validation but to think differently about the ways we live our lives. When our team returned from Japan, we had a more informed design inspiration perspective.”
The team also traveled to more extreme climates, where sunlight is scarce at certain times of the year. In Denmark and Alaska, for example, the winter months can be so dark that natural light is limited to only a handful of hours each day. In the darkest times of the year, Copenhagen watches the sun set at 3:30 in the afternoon. Marvin experts asked how these conditions affected circadian rhythms and well-being.
“We sought out extreme stories as a source of inspiration to help us think outside the box and to spark new, bold ideas,” Chang said, who also spearheaded conversations with sleep scientists and astronauts as part of the research process.
When the team finally began prototyping a product, the ideas that kept sparking were centered around a skylight that could improve your well-being in many ways.