mahabis interviews // nicolas roope, plumen
We caught up with Nicolas Roope, a multi-disciplinary designer, artist and creative. Founder of Plumen, the world's first designer energy-saving light bulb, Nik tells us about how he balances his time between developing his ideas, and switching off. Despite being a man of many jobs, (Jury Chair of The Lovie Awards, Founder and Creative Director of Poke London, and Hulger), Nik says "I’m not a workaholic at all so don’t need to be persuaded to kick back". We talk to him about his downtime, and how this helps to make his ideas a reality.
Before we begin, tell us what you do in one sentence.
I have ideas, and then most of my time trying to make them happen.
You must have worked on many exciting projects at Poke, are there any particular ones that always stand out when looking back?
There are two that really stand out for me. One is the Never Ending Web Page. Our client Orange was promoting an unlimited tariff and wanted a way to excite people about it online. So we created a never ending web page full of weird and wonderful things. The other is Globalrichlist.com that calculates your position on the world’s wealth scale. We made it because most westerners are a lot better off than they think they are in terms of the world population. We thought this twist would lead to some greater generosity (which it did!)
You’ve spoken before about artistic thinking, creativity, and your time at art school, how much does the artist in you continue to live on?
The artist in me is still very much alive! Most think of art school as an easy and undemanding education. But for some, it forces an incredible discipline in the way to generate and shape ideas.
Working in art forces you to deal with ambiguity and this is critical for dealing with creativity in business. Everything new you create is a risk, a leap into the dark. With all the market research in the world, you can’t be sure what will happen. It’s a lot like being an artist. You have an idea, passion or perspective and you do your best to craft it in a way that will be well received and understood. But you can never guarantee the outcome.
At mahabis, we’re all about switching off and enjoying downtime — so, there’s definitely a relevance in Hulger’s concept of renegotiating the relationship between technology, design and the consumer. Where do you see the role of technology in downtime and relaxation?
At Plumen we’re mainly interested in switching on ;) (although we also make sure our designs are beautiful and sculptural when off). But seriously we’re all about trying to find the really positive benefits of technology and crafting products that give more than just raw function.
In the case of Plumen we’ve created lighting products that looks great, create really nice lighting experience, but also offer the buyer a symbol of progress in their lives. They like the way the product looks in their spaces but also feel really good and positive about the fact that they’re efficient.
It just feels great to discover a way to live better without compromise and in that respect it’s a de-stresser and karma-enhancer. We see it as a part of wellbeing, having things you love that reduce the burden on the world’s meagre resources.
As well as the great philosophy behind Hulger, the brand has a brilliant personality. How did the journey of creating Hulger help to kick off Plumen?
The reason we come up with the ideas we do, is our irreverence. We started saying that phones are getting too small and stupidly complex. So we made a dumb old retro phone that was comparable with all this new fangled tech. It made a kind of joke about it whilst also offering a genuine solution. With Plumen, we simply asked the question; why a global lighting industry hadn’t thought to make a lovely looking low energy lightbulb, if they were actually keen to see people transition to more sustainable technologies.
We don’t just accept things because they are the way that they are. This kind of questioning is both a kind of sense of humour and also the basis of our enterprise. Asking big dumb questions and coming back with clever answers.
What prompted you to start Plumen, and reimagine the lightbulb as we know it?
Everyone was telling us to use energy more responsibly and yet there were few products that really inspired us to change the way we consumed. Lighting seemed like such an obvious arena to focus, because as an art student I’d seen artists creating beautiful, poetic art in light for years and then on the other hand an industry allergic to art. And we were very excited about playing with the very symbol of ideas (you see, that irreverence coming out again).
What’s next for Plumen?
We’re developing what we’ve already launched as there’s so much more potential with what we’ve already created. But we have some very exciting launches coming up in the next few months and years that will make another great impact in the world of lighting, But this is all secret!
As Chair of the Lovie Awards, honouring some of the best of Europe’s Internet, what key things do you look to be impressed by when reviewing the entrants?
Originality, authenticity and brilliance in creativity, technology and craft. The complexity of technology is bewildering, so when you see people, teams and organisations navigate through and manage to realise inspiring, beautiful and successful initiatives, I find it incredibly impressive and worthy of recognition. It’s so important to hold up the standards to which everyone else should aspire.
Balancing a range of projects must be pretty demanding. How do you delegate time to turn off from work, and relax?
I work with brilliant people and know my weaknesses (and the brilliant people I work with know them too). I’m precious with my time and try to focus on the things only I can do, not on the things that lots of other people can do (better than me) Having young kids help. They demand attention which tends to purge work stresses away pretty quickly.
When you’ve come in through the door, and arrived home after a day of work, what does your evening routine involve on a typical day?
Cooking, putting the kids to bed, checking Plumen socials, maybe squeezing in a Netflix and then getting to bed an hour too late.
How important is downtime for you?
I need downtime because I need to keep perspective. If you never decompress, you start to see a distorted world and that leads to ill-formed ideas and counter-productive perspectives.
If you can stay balanced and grounded, then you’re more able to come up with good ideas and make the right decisions. I’m not a workaholic at all so don’t need to be persuaded to kick back.
I’m just so committed to realise my ideas which takes a lot of time, so I have no choice in the matter.
If you had an extra hour in the day, how would you spend it?
I’d like to read more. And write more. And cook more, and play more. I’d see my friends more and spend more time with my family.
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