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How The Casablanca Design Team Stays Inspired

Inspiration is everywhere.

One of the basic tenets of the group is that inspiration is everywhere—just there for the taking—if you’re open to it. “You have to allow yourself that openness—openness to the magic,” said Christophe Badarello, design director at Casablanca. “I think it’s really an openness to your mind, to your heart, to what’s around you. I think that’s how I would define creativity.”

“I think it’s really an openness to your mind, to your heart, to what’s around you. I think that’s how I would define creativity.”

CHRISTOPHE BADARELLO
LEAD DESIGNER

For Christophe and his team, preparedness is the other half of the equation. As artists, they’re trained to take in their surroundings at all times—and keep a sketchbook handy. “Even in the car,” said Christophe, “I might see an interesting hub cap when I’m stopped at a light, and that will give me an idea.” He’ll start drawing right then and there. (And, he admits, sometimes rely on the cars behind him to let him know when the light changes.) Of course, the flip side of being on high alert for inspiration is the need to tune out once in awhile. Every creative, Christophe said, “needs a time of quietness to let the mind rest.”

Collaboration is key.

Individual inspiration only goes so far. Collaboration—and yes, sometimes the friendly butting of heads—is what helps transition ideas from good to great. This emphasis on collaboration includes people outside the Casablanca team as well. The designers especially enjoy working with other artisans—blacksmiths and glassblowers, for example—for the unique perspective that comes only through an in-depth knowledge of a craft. “When somebody works with a material such as glass their whole life,” said Christophe, “they will have some way of looking at that channel that I could never could.”

Sometimes it’s in the hands, not the head.

Christophe also stresses the importance of working three dimensionally as a source of inspiration. That’s why, after sketch iterations, the design team spends so much time carving. Carving and sculpting “almost uses another part of your brain,” Christophe said. “When you take a piece of sandpaper and actually create lines of movement with your hands—when you think, ‘What would happen if I move my hand to the left?’ and then you do, you discover another dimension.” Working in 2-D with a computer and a mouse just doesn’t allow for spontaneous curves and lines of movement. “So by experimenting, not just with your mind, but physically,” said Christophe, “you push the limits further.”

Knowing your history, knowing your “now.”

Inspiration is also part trendspotting and part historical research—because you can’t break new ground if you don’t know what’s come before. It’s looking into adjacent categories—from fashion to architecture—and striking a balance between what’s artistically relevant from the past and what’s on trend today.

The importance of technology can’t be overlooked, either. “Technology is often thought of as a constraint to design and creativity, and sometimes it can be,” said Christophe, “but technology can also give way to exciting new ideas and concepts.” We need only look to the ceiling fan’s evolution itself as proof: in its earliest form, the ceiling fan was just a utilitarian machine that moved air. It wasn’t considered an element of décor, and lighting wasn’t even on the horizon yet. Today, however, the ceiling fan has evolved to become, according to Christophe, “more of a light that also moves air.” As far as the Casablanca design team is concerned, therefore, the way we think about ceiling fans—and what they’re capable of—will keep changing. And that means no end to inspired possibilities.

Casablanca Stingray modern ceiling fan sketch

An Ocean of Innovation: Creating the Stingray

With sleek and flowing aesthetics, Casablanca’s latest fan, the Stingray, seemingly captures a snapshot of aquatic motion.

It’s not hard to see where the inspiration came from. It might be harder to imagine designers at one point using duct tape, cardboard and a coffee can to construct such an elegant fan.

“It’s very crude, but it was a way to figure out how the blade went into the housing,” said Casablanca Designer Christine Holmes.

Designers and engingeers used this first 3D model of the Stingray to see how the electronics would fit.

It’s all part of the creative process. Holmes shared the Stingray began as a simple elevated sketch before evolving into a rough model and a clay model. She shared creating a fan, especially one as unique as the Stingray, can be a lengthy but collaborative effort.

“We’re riffing off of each other, we’re talking to each other, we’re putting things down and someone’s picking it up,” she said, “There’s some designs even as a group they’re easier than others; there was a lot of work to make this vision happen.”
A 3D model was later printed for the Stingray design. This allowed the designers and Casablanca’s engineers to take apart the pieces to see where the insides – the motor, LED light and fan blades — could fit. This meant some changes to the initial Stingray design’s leaner housing.

“The question was what happened inside there,” said Holmes, “When you do something that extreme and exotic, there’s a lot more configuration that goes into it.”

Compared to the initial sketch, the Stingray’s housing evolved into something larger following these design meetings. However, throughout the process designers and engineers made sure the clean, sleek design concept kept constant.

There are no visible screws or fasteners; the absence of color also helps emphasize the Stingray’s elegance and simplicity. It’s an uncompromising fan perfect for formal and contemporary spaces.