October 3, 2015

How The Casablanca Design Team Stays Inspired



Year after year, Casablanca continues to lead the way in ceiling fan design—which begs the question: How does the design team stay inspired? Or, more specifically: Where do its members find the fresh ideas that keep Casablanca not just current, but always ahead of the curve?
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Inspiration is everywhere.

One of the basic tenets of the group is that inspiration is everywhere—just there for the taking—if you’re open to it. “You have to allow yourself that openness—openness to the magic,” said Christophe Badarello, design director at Casablanca. “I think it’s really an openness to your mind, to your heart, to what’s around you. I think that’s how I would define creativity.”

“I think it’s really an openness to your mind, to your heart, to what’s around you. I think that’s how I would define creativity.”

Christophe Badarello
Lead Designer

For Christophe and his team, preparedness is the other half of the equation. As artists, they’re trained to take in their surroundings at all times—and keep a sketchbook handy. “Even in the car,” said Christophe, “I might see an interesting hub cap when I’m stopped at a light, and that will give me an idea.” He’ll start drawing right then and there. (And, he admits, sometimes rely on the cars behind him to let him know when the light changes.) Of course, the flip side of being on high alert for inspiration is the need to tune out once in awhile. Every creative, Christophe said, “needs a time of quietness to let the mind rest.”

Collaboration is key.

Individual inspiration only goes so far. Collaboration—and yes, sometimes the friendly butting of heads—is what helps transition ideas from good to great. This emphasis on collaboration includes people outside the Casablanca team as well. The designers especially enjoy working with other artisans—blacksmiths and glassblowers, for example—for the unique perspective that comes only through an in-depth knowledge of a craft. “When somebody works with a material such as glass their whole life,” said Christophe, “they will have some way of looking at that channel that I could never could.”

Sometimes it’s in the hands, not the head.

Christophe also stresses the importance of working three dimensionally as a source of inspiration. That’s why, after sketch iterations, the design team spends so much time carving. Carving and sculpting “almost uses another part of your brain,” Christophe said. “When you take a piece of sandpaper and actually create lines of movement with your hands—when you think, ‘What would happen if I move my hand to the left?’ and then you do, you discover another dimension.” Working in 2-D with a computer and a mouse just doesn’t allow for spontaneous curves and lines of movement. “So by experimenting, not just with your mind, but physically,” said Christophe, “you push the limits further.”

Knowing your history, knowing your “now.”

Inspiration is also part trendspotting and part historical research—because you can’t break new ground if you don’t know what’s come before. It’s looking into adjacent categories—from fashion to architecture—and striking a balance between what’s artistically relevant from the past and what’s on trend today.

The importance of technology can’t be overlooked, either. “Technology is often thought of as a constraint to design and creativity, and sometimes it can be,” said Christophe, “but technology can also give way to exciting new ideas and concepts.” We need only look to the ceiling fan’s evolution itself as proof: in its earliest form, the ceiling fan was just a utilitarian machine that moved air. It wasn’t considered an element of décor, and lighting wasn’t even on the horizon yet. Today, however, the ceiling fan has evolved to become, according to Christophe, “more of a light that also moves air.” As far as the Casablanca design team is concerned, therefore, the way we think about ceiling fans—and what they’re capable of—will keep changing. And that means no end to inspired possibilities.