Matthew McCormick Studio: The Beauty of Architectural Lighting

March 19, 2018

Owen Hurst

Matthew McCormick Studio in Vancouver has rapidly become one of Canada’s prominent sources for fresh, uniquely designed lighting options. Matthew is a hands-on guy who always has his mind on new designs and possibilities that he has developed into a product line up that can change the look and feel of any space. He has also been the recipient of numerous international awards.

In a short period of time Matthew’s designs have found themselves in numerous corporate offices, commercial stores, malls, restaurants, casino’s and high-end residences. Lighting Design & Specification had the opportunity to ask Matthew some questions about himself and the rise of his company within the lighting industry.

 1) Tell us about yourself?

I am originally from Toronto and as an avid snowboarder, moved to Vancouver in 2003 to be closer to the mountains. While it was always meant to be a temporary stint in Whistler, I eventually made my way down to the city and can safely say I’ve planted some roots with my wife and the arrival of our first baby last summer.

I left Toronto with a degree in technology and minor in marketing and entrepreneurship from Ryerson. My first job in Vancouver was actually as a Creative Director, and although not related to product design at the time, it helped shape the foundation of my current brand. On a more technical level, it was a great corporate experience that offered me the opportunity to present creative concepts to clients, lead teams and learn how to run a fruitful business. While being in this type of the role was never a long-term vision of mine, the experience at a corporate enterprise was invaluable to who I’ve become today.

I founded Matthew McCormick Studio in 2013 and developed bespoke lighting installations. In 2015, launched my first collection internationally

2) What first got you interested in the lighting industry?

I started my career as a graphic designer, but after a while couldn’t stand being on a computer all day. I wanted to take that graphic creativity and apply it with my own two hands, using new tools and material, but specifically in regard to lighting (a long-time obsession for me). While I never expected to do it as a full-time job, I made a conscious decision to follow the opportunities that continued to present themselves and here I am today – making a living out of lighting design, which started out as just a pastime.

When it comes to my biggest inspiration in lighting, I always reference the time when I stumbled across one of Ingo Maurer’s lights for the first time. It was the Mozzkito lamp, made from the most obscure parts that were seemingly items found in the household. When you see the sum of its parts come together and turned on, it was honestly one of the most beautiful creations I’d ever seen. The brilliance of his artistry still sticks with me today

3) What was the path that led you to founding Matthew McCormick Studio?

I’d probably say the path that led me to where I am today started with a series of commissions which presented themselves after a friend “discovered” my interest in lighting through a piece I had made for my own home. Soon enough, I realized that it was a passion I could turn into a business. While I started in custom lighting, I slowly moved into producing my own collection as it is much more scalable than only offering one-off, elaborate pieces.

Initially I was only interested in designing, because that was my passion. But setting up a studio seemed like a natural way to evolve my ideas. I like to think about the business also as a design project, because how you structure it and how you shape the business involves a lot of creativity too.

4) Your company has been highly successful in various areas of modern design, how do you continue to stay on top of this market and maintain a steady stream of fresh designs?

I think design is iterative and evolutionary, so I’m constantly sketching and drawing inspiration from every corner of my life. It’s important FOR me to see everything and stay curious. As a trained graphic designer, I tend to find myself drawn to two-dimensional shapes that I then coax into new and unexpected contexts. I don’t follow trends per se, and my way of thinking usually involves pen and paper (or a napkin at a restaurant!) so I always have new ideas I can refer to when it’s time to go to the drawing board.

When it comes to my designs, I am obsessed with distilling an idea to its simplest form. My pieces present clean lines that may look simple to achieve, however they usually hide a complicated and very precise construction process. Their beauty is very architectural and relies heavily on geometry, precision and balance.

5) Being an authentic lighting designer how important is it to maintain authentic designs and in what ways do you protect your designs from being copied?

Simply put, the magic of design are in your ideas. It doesn’t matter what form they take – the idea, as previously mentioned, can be as simple as a sketch on a dinner napkin. It is crucial for young designers to learn this quickly, as I did, to protect their ideas as they are what drives the creation of your products and ultimately your brand.

In the early days of my business, I ventured into the manufacturing process with some naivety regarding the importance of protecting my designs and intellectual property. This eventually came back to haunt me as one of the first fabricators I used out of Vancouver started claiming that the products I designed belonged to them. Needless to say, a strong Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) has become mandatory in how I do business and I now only do business with partners who work in alignment with my belief system.

In the world of design, we know that imitation can be commonplace, especially as notoriety grows. It can also be difficult for small companies and independent designers to legally challenge cases of infringement. As such, my philosophy has somewhat evolved: when you don’t have time to compete with the knockoffs, fine tune who you are selling to and refine the product to where it simply can’t be beat in quality, craftsmanship and marketability.

6) Behind success is often a great team, how has your team helped you maintain such a high level of success?

I’m a huge advocate of collaboration. I wouldn’t be where I am today without having collaborated with brilliant people. My motto is always that two minds are better than one, so I will continuously invite other craftsmen and designers to be part of my creative process. It serves to better inform the final product and make it as best as it can possibly be.

7) In an industry that is rapidly evolving and introducing new technology how do you and you team stay ahead of emerging industry trends?

We are tirelessly refining our products to achieve the highest standard. As an example, with Halo, we have already gone through 11 iterations of the housing alone – from removing visible mechanical fasteners, to incorporating a tongue and groove assembly, to engineering all of our own proprietary com-ponentes and experimenting in various finishes.

8) With increasing labour costs in Canada how vital do you feel it is to maintain complete Canadian manufacturing of your products?

At the moment, while we continue to refine our product line and create new prototypes, it’s important that I have a direct handle on the manufacturing process where I can. I love being in the shop and producing locally affords me the opportunity to do that.

9) What do you see on the horizon for your company?

All of the above. We will be back in Milan for the second consecutive year at Spazio Rossana Orlandi where we will be presenting our latest pendant, Mila. We also have ambitious plans to expand production and reach many more markets across Europe and exhibit in some exciting new places. In terms of technology, we are incorporating some new advancements in LED along with finalizing some new prototypes, which I am extremely excited about.

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