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Azure Magazine November December 2022 Cover: The Residential Interiors Issue

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Nanoleaf Lighting colourful rainbow rod lighting

Ten years ago, a trio of University of Toronto engineering grads dropped what was considered to be the most energy-efficient lightbulb of all time on Kickstarter. The crowd went wild: backers pledged over $250,000 toward the project, and Nanoleaf’s groundbreaking LED technology has been a mainstay ever since — you’ve likely seen the touch- and sound-activated systems backdropping a famous YouTuber, DJ or maybe even your spin instructor. Since its days as a scrappy start-up briefly based out of a factory in Shenzhen, China, the company — which was co-founded by Gimmy Chu, Christian Yan and Tom Rodinger — has gone global, establishing a head-quarters in Toronto in 2015, a European main office in Paris in 2018, and outposts in Hong Kong and the Philippines. And it has continued its mission to make lights that do more than turn on and off, pushing the intuitive capabilities with each new model.

Nanoleaf Founders Gimmy Chu, Christian Yan and Tom Rodinger

In 2014, Chu found himself admiring the aurora borealis from an airplane window. It was an “Aha!” moment. “Why does light need to be restricted to a light bulb?” he asked himself. That out-of-bulb thinking led to the production of a series of modular, ultra-lightweight panels in unexpected shapes — triangles, hexagons and straight lines — that are simple to mount and configure in endless mix-and- match patterns. These fully integrated models might seem a world apart from the earliest versions (which featured origami-folded LED bulbs, circuit boards and hubs) but they are actually natural evolutions. Along the way, Nanoleaf also added smart home connection and fine-tuned controls into the mix, allowing users to adjust brightness, temperature and colour through touch and voice commands. And the more panels used, the more immersive the experience, which is part of the charm. “We’re inspired to model our products after natural light and the feeling of joy that comes from it,” Chu says.

Nanoleaf geometric rod lighting white light
The newest collection, Lines features back-lit colour-changing LED bars that can be used to create linear layouts, abstract patterns or signature shapes.

The brand’s pursuit of this feeling of joy has led to playful, responsive features that encourage users to have more creative interactions with their lighting systems. The Nanoleaf Canvas, Shapes, Elements and (most recently) Lines collections have built-in rhythm modules that react and dance to sound; most can be paired with a soundscape app for seamless audiovisual atmospheres, and are able to mirror any screen for a real-time light show or play touch-based games during a quick work-from-home break. On a grander scale, they have been used to create everything from the dazzling wall-to-wall installation that broadcasts moving images of the aurora borealis and polar bears in the atrium of Alaska’s Anchorage Museum to a wood-look mural that creates a warm, dynamic background for the Japandi dining experience of Toronto’s Minami restaurant. They have also been used to soothe minds and calm moods in sensory rooms, meditation centres and rehab clinics.

Interior hexagon geometric lighting
Nanoleaf’s robust offerings include a range of geometric shapes that allow for completely custom installations.

Remaining true to its crowdfunding roots, the company still looks to its massive online community to help steer product development and discover unexpected new uses — including car tail lights, ice cream trucks, dining tables and pyramids, to name just a few. With fans that range from DIY enthusiasts to music-makers, Nanoleaf has learned to look past trends and always strive to try to do things that haven’t already been done. By staying focused on intelligent lighting products that simply know what you need, when you need it, the company delivers opportunities for personal creativity and experience through unconventional illumination.

Nanoleaf’s New Lighting Collection Embodies the Brand’s Innovative — and Playful — Spirit

Since its original lightbulb moment a decade ago, Nanoleaf continues to push boundaries.

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