Alex O’Connell, Industrial Designer and founder of AO Innovations 

August 29, 2014
Alex O’Connell, Industrial Designer and founder of AO Innovations

Written by guest blogger Alex O’Connell

Inspired by the world around me, natural forming patterns, organic textures and reclaiming used material... I'm a designer and maker based in Melbourne focused on creating practical, balanced furniture and lighting that are environmentally sustainable, simple and innovative. Industrial Design in my eyes was the way to do this as a profession. I wasn't aware of my passion for designing furniture and lighting until I had undertaken the associate degree in furniture design to gateway into Industrial Design. Through my studies I was able to explore my interest in sustainability:

I believe sustainability and design go hand in hand. Firstly, resources won’t be around forever so we need to use them with thought, sparingly. Secondly, recycled materials can add value and character to products. It is stimulating to design something, but challenging to design something sustainable - This is what makes design interesting.

alex oconnell light 3

Sustainability makes design more challenging but at the same time more rewarding when you manage to come up with an innovative solution. I take all aspects of the material and product life cycle into consideration and try employing a holistic cradle-to-cradle approach to design. I'm always trying to reach maximum yield for materials during manufacturing stage. All my pieces utilise a combination of both organic, eco-friendly synthetic materials and a lot of up-cycled reclaimed materials; and for lighting I utilize the low consumption of LED.

The idea of the designer as the maker really resonates with me: items created by hand in batch runs, responsibly and locally. The social economic consequences of cheap offshore manufacturing are too high for it to be ignored. When purchasing one of my products, I want the individual to take that piece home knowing it is a product for life; that they invested in an item that will see them through. The craftsmanship is superior, the materials sustainable and high quality, the manufacturing ethically responsible. To me that is true honesty through craftsmanship.

My passion is to blend originality with innovation to create beautiful and seamless objects, which is how I ended up starting AO Innovations. AO Innovations exercises holistic and sustainable principles to develop and create ideas. Working mainly in batch production runs, CNC technologies are used, including 3D printing (3DP), CNC routing and laser cutting to deliver precise quality craftsmanship.

alex oconnell light 2

alex oconnell light 1

My latest design is the ‘HEKTA’ pendant light. Constructed mostly from up-cycled office furnishings and interior (Alucobond, Echopanel and Perspex). By up-cycling the materials using precision CNC technologies, I am able to reduce waste and achieve maximum yield from the materials. The HEKTA is flat packed for easy transport and simple to assemble using the provided hardware. There are no adhesives required, making it trouble-free to disassembly at end of the product's life cycle. HEKTA is illuminated by a low consumption 12 volt LED module concealed within the top section of the unit; not only does this create an ambient warm glow once the light protrudes through its lens, it is also energy efficient. Each assembly measures 330L x 330W x 100H and is customisable in the way of colours and finishes.