WantedDesign Manhattan 2022 Launch Pad Lighting Winner: Tianning Zhao

Design Milk was the official media partner for the 2022 WantedDesign Manhattan Launch Pad program, sponsored by American Standard, and today, we’re excited to present the winner for the Lighting category: Tianning Zhao for his Astral lamp design!


“Astral is an indoor and outdoor portable lamp with wireless charging. In the absence of daylight, foliage and bodies of water capture subtly reflected light. I enjoy this soft and quiet light in the evening which feels as if its illumination is growing from the darkness.

Astral creates a serene lit environment which helps people appreciate the beauty of both light and shadows at night. There are two led ring lights inside of it, one aiming down to light up a table or the floor, and other aiming upwards to make the lampshade glow and spur people’s emotions like a candle.”

Launch Pad 2022 Tianning Zhao

Today, Tianning is sharing more about his work, his design influences, and what’s next:

Can you tell us a little about your background?

I was born in China and decided to further my studies in the US after graduating from high school. I studied industrial design at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and received a master’s degree in furniture, lighting, and fixture design at the ArtCenter College of Design.

When I turned on my first lighting prototype, I was so excited that I kept running around the studio. When exploring lighting design, I found that light is subtle, emotional, and poetic. I became deeply attached to both the scientific and artistic nature of lighting, and the more I explored, the more I fell in love with its beauty.

Launch Pad 2022 Tianning Zhao

Launch Pad 2022 Tianning Zhao

What has been the biggest influence for you in your design work?

The experience of learning Kungfu influenced my design work. It was the first time in my life that I found myself facing the limitations of my physical body, and trying to learn the connection between myself and the physical and psychological world.

This newfound discovery between the connection of the physical, psychological, and emotional, and the sensory effects of design, greatly influenced my approach to generate design concepts. I also learned the importance of loyalty and forgiveness from my mentors, which helped me to explore the intuitiveness and openness of my design work

What would be the best result from your product’s use?

Astral was designed to be an indoor and outdoor portable lamp. It creates a serene lit environment which helps people appreciate both light and shadow at night. I hope that my piece will encourage people to go outside and enjoy nature with their friends and family.

Launch Pad 2022 Tianning Zhao

Launch Pad 2022 Tianning Zhao

Launch Pad 2022 Tianning Zhao

What kind of designer do you want to be known for?

I would love to be known as a designer who approaches projects with naivety. I believe curiosity, intuition, and imagination will let designers come up with new concepts naturally.

Now that you’ve won WantedDesign Launch Pad, what do you plan on doing next?

Receiving the Best Lighting award for Launch Pad at WantedDesign from industry mentors encourages me to continue exploring the lighting experience. I am planning to launch a lighting studio next year, focusing on central lighting fixtures. Craftsmanship and attention to detail are what I am going to emphasize with my work.

During the trip to New York, I enjoyed making friends with the different designers and cabinet makers, sharing practice with each other. Recently, I have been sourcing glass fabricators to work on new concepts together. It would be great to collaborate with local fabricators, talk face-to-face, and bring products with exquisite details to clients.

Launch Pad 2022 Tianning Zhao

Launch Pad 2022 Tianning Zhao

See more of his work at tianningzhao.com.

As the Lifestyle editor, Vy Yang is obsessed with discovering ways to live well + with intention through design. She’s probably sharing what she finds over on Instagram stories. You can also find her at vytranyang.com.

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