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Product+Evolution: Rain

June 29, 2016

by Sonneman Ltg.


The Rain collection from Sonneman—A Way of Light captures the beauty of a falling tear-drop in a new modern format. “I have not seen this kind of minimal rendition of ultra-slim pendants projecting and reflecting light from within,” stated designer Robert Sonneman. “The application of singles or multiples provides an interesting composition of radiance and reflection conveying the directional activity of rain.”

An LED diode sits atop an internally laser-etched crystal 14.375-in. rod with a polished chrome finish in the Rain pendant. What sets it apart is the light shines through all while the product maintains a smooth exterior surface. The technology is usually reserved for engraving trophies and vases, and few have used it to provide illumination from a concealed source.

Read below to hear more about the Sonneman design process and the evolution of Rain, which was sent to market in just a few months from concept to completion.

Robert Sonneman

Robert Sonneman is the owner and creative force behind Sonneman—A Way of Light. He is responsible for all concept work and maintains control throughout the development, engineering, and first phase of manufacturing for more than 100 designs the company cranks out each year. We love that he’s an active contributor to design education, having served on the advisory boards of Pratt School of Architecture, Parsons School of Design, and the Art Center College of Design, as well as the design advisory board of Nissan Motor Corp.

A Night of Inspiration

Sonneman envisioned the Rain collection as he watched rain fall outside his window one evening. “I noticed the linearity of path they described as they fell through the beam of an outside light. The drops in motion left a trail of reflected light as they passed through the angled beam of this floodlight.” He wondered how to get a single narrow glass rod to be similarly illuminated, in a way that was self-contained (yet minimal in form and scale).

To the “Drawing” Board

“We think in SOLIDWORKS.” Sonneman brought digital drawings to the team who then developed them into 3D prototypes utilizing this CAD program that serves as the “engineering basis” for all their pieces. Once they had gone through the proper refinements, the final piece was sent to the China office and factory partner.

From the Inside Out

Helix patterns are laser-etched from the inside of Rain’s crystal rod. “Only lasers could achieve patterns and shapes for reflection internally, without disturbing the surface of the glass. The engraving is permanent and lasts as long as the crystal is intact. Because laser beams pass through glass, the depth of the laser must be set by coordinates to target a specific focal point. The laser is moved within the crystal, injecting engraved points with micron precision, at a very high speed leaving the outer image unmarked.”

Make It Your Own

Even though Rain is available in only one shape and size, it is applied to Sonneman’s system of canopies that can provide anywhere from a single pendant to up to 16 lights. There are 10 different ways to configure and arrange them, from creating a dynamic rainstorm to releasing a single teardrop.

About the Author

AnnMarie Martin | Editor-in-Chief

AnnMarie has been covering the commercial design space since 2005 and has been on the editorial staff at i+s since 2011. Her style and vision has helped the brand evolve into a thought leader in purpose-driven design and cultural movements shaping the way we live and work. She returned to the role of editor in chief at the start of 2023 and her journalism and fiction writing background have helped to craft bi-monthly issues that don’t just report the latest industry news, but tell a cohesive tale of some of the biggest topics facing designers today.

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