“Timeless design, ease of use, high quality materials,” Timo Niskanen describes his design principles. He launched his own lighting brand, Himmee, in 2014. Before that, the Helsinki-based designer and lower secondary school shop teacher used all his spare time during a year and a half to develop the products and build the brand.
“Only my loved ones knew what I was up to,” Timo says. Encouragement from the family and earlier experience as a freelancer working for lighting companies helped him achieve his goal. It was a big leap from being a designer to handling the whole business, but the hard work has paid off: Himmee’s first collection has been well received both by consumers and media, and the company has about 15 retailers in Finland, Britain, Germany and France. “A designer needs to have the courage to market his label and products. Many designers work hard until the product is ready, but are not interested in what comes after that.” Himmee’s collection consists of three product families: Toad, Filly and Lento (Finnish for flight). The design language of the collection is strongly Scandinavian, minimalistic and simple. Materials used in the products are wood (German oak), glass, aluminium and concrete. All parts of the products are manufactured in Finland, except for the glass parts, which are made in Poland. Assembly and packing is also done in Finland. According to Timo, every product has its place in the collection, and a story to tell. For example, the Toad lamp with a hand blown glass shade got it’s name from Super Mario’s mushroom friend. Timo’s first touch with the world of games was Nintendo’s Super Mario. Likewise, Lento pendant lamps have gained their inspiration and name from old UFO cartoons and toys.
One significant reason for Timo’s passion for lighting design is the freedom it offers the designer, as it differs from designing furniture, e.g., a chair, where the use dictates the form. “I’m able to play with the form and shape, and free to look for different solutions. Designing a lamp is also an interesting combination of technical and aesthetic elements. In addition, a lamp should look good even when it’s switched off.” “Good design without middlemen and compromises” is Timo’s motto. Earlier he visited many design and trade events, such asDMY Festival in Berlin and Salone Satellite in Milan, carrying his lamp prototypes around and trying to find manufacturers for them. He did find a few good ones, and the collaboration was well under way, but it always ended for various reasons. In Timo’s opinion many companies rely on well-known designer names, because their products are easier to market. “It was very frustrating, and getting tired of constant compromises, I even put the lamps aside for a while.”
In addition to now being his own master, there’s another change. Timo’s earlier lighting prototypes were experimental and unusual, such as a library lamp that is switched on and off by using a coin. The prototypes gained attention, but were more for public spaces rather than private homes. “Now I’m creating simpler products that suit especially Scandinavian-style homes. It’s a completely different approach.” Timo wants his products to be long-time companions for the people who purchase them. For him, timeless design also means sustainable and ecological design. “When products are not designed following any trend or fashion, they can still be in use after 20 years without looking old-fashioned or outdated.” Where does Timo see Himmee in five years? “My aim is to make Himmee a reckoned Finnish design label. I plan to launch a couple of new products every year and grow side by side with other Finnish lighting companies.” Timo is still teaching a shop class twice a week, and plans to continue doing so in the future. “I’m really fond of teaching! My seventh graders know about my other career – and they like my products.”