The Dwell 24: Lios Design

These Cambridge-based lighting designers created the world’s first molten-glass 3D printer.
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Lios, the design studio Michael Stern and Daniel Lizardo founded in 2018, gets its name from an entirely made-up word created by loosely combining "light" and "shadow." It’s not an obvious portmanteau, but neither is their process: making light-refracting glass pendants from the world’s first molten-glass 3D printer.

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The two helped design and build the 7.5-foot-tall machine as graduate students at MIT. The printer heats the glass to upward of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing the duo to "extrude molten glass like you’d extrude cake icing," Stern says. 

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The resulting fixtures have undulating forms that cast aurora-like light against surrounding walls. Next up: 3D printing metal—or even wood—to pair with digital glass.

Learn about Stern's and  Lizardo's daily rituals, plus read more of their responses to our Q&A below.


Bronx, NY —Stern

Pasadena, CA —Lizardo 

Describe what you make in 140 characters. 

We make glass objects. We make machines that make glass objects. We make computer programs that talk to machines that make glass objects. —Stern 

I often make things I didn't expect to exist or knew would be useful. I try to design the why and how, not so much the what. —Lizardo

What's the last thing you designed? 

I designed a new toolpath for our CNC mill. We make hardware to pair with our lighting fixtures. Recently, I’ve been overhauling how I generate toolpaths to improve the synergy between the mill and the aluminum . Each piece of hardware is custom cut for its glass component, so creating systems for this kind of design is both essential and very satisfying. —Stern 

A digital tool for generative glass design using our glass 3D printer. —Lizardo

Do you have a daily creative ritual? 

I start the day by reading the New York Times in bed. Then, my dog, Juniper, and I walk to work. I turn on the Mac 2000, an Italian espresso machine from 1991 that’s half project/ half tool. After knocking out some emails the machine is hot and I’m ready to grind some beans and pull a shot. —Stern 

I try and find a different order to my day or my workflow, to change where I write something down or where I sit and work. Changing things helps me think differently. —Lizardo

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How do you procrastinate? 

At my most devious, I procrastinate by working on something productive, but completely unrelated to my pressing deadline. This means that I might find myself fixing a broken tool, creating new designs, cleaning the studio, or cooking instead of working on the project at hand. —Stern

Cleaning my house, staring at my plants, playing video games (reading also, but I tend not to think of that as procrastinating). —Lizardo

What everyday object would you like to redesign? Why

I would redesign the voting machine. Right now I can’t think of something more important. We have machines that confuse voters, create ambiguity, and invite tampering. Our democracy rests on these devices yet they remain neglected. —Stern 

The user interface for my computers. I cannot stand the layers between me and what I'm working with. I dream of (and make an effort to) more directly understand the data I am manipulating and the hardware that manipulates it. Keyboards I can't fix and endless exclusive apps just don't do it for me. —Lizardo

Who are your heroes (in design, in life, in both)? 

Eero Saarinen, Jad Abumrad, Neri Oxman, Robert Oppenheimer, and Larry Sass. —Stern 

Kenzō Tange, Colin Chapman, Andrei Tarkovsky, Lewis Hamilton, MLK, and my parents. —Lizardo

What skill would you most like to learn? 

I so admire a clean stroke of the pen to illustrate an idea. When drawing carves a direct path between idea and hand—I envy this ability. I have worked with a number of very skilled artists and designers during my career and I would love to be able quickly, with a minimum of strokes, render my ideas with pen on paper. —Stern 

Any of them. —Lizardo

The Tetra Pendant by Lios Design

The Tetra Pendant by Lios Design

What is your most treasured possession? 

A glass vase from 2000 BCE from Egypt, given to me by my late grandmother. It was her father’s. This little green vase was in her apartment for years. I saw it, but never really appreciated it. Then I started blowing glass in college, and fell in love with glass. She recognized this passion. She told me of both its history and how it was passed down through our family, making an unlikely journey from the hands of a craftsman more than 4000 years ago to my hands, acquiring similar skills.—Stern 

Photos of my friends and my family. —Lizardo

What's your earliest memory of an encounter with design?Duplos. The giant Legos. I remember the empowerment of taking an idea and bringing it to life. I built mazes, buildings, and vehicles. Years later I remember another realization: someone made Duplos and Legos! This was someone’s job! These toys were designed to fit together beautifully and to encourage others to design. —Stern 

Summer art courses in middle school. —Lizardo

What contemporary design trend do you despise? 

3D printed objects for the sake of 3D printing. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. The nicer way to answer this question is 3D-printing designs that fail to take advantage of the technology and instead leverage it for recognition. —Stern 

"Minimalist" phones/laptops/tablets that can't be serviced or customized (and are released every year). —Lizardo

Finish this statement: All design should...

...offer an answer to a question. —Stern 

...improve relationships between things in the world. —Lizardo

What’s in your dream house? 

My close friends and family! The heart of my dream house is an open kitchen where food meets family, conversation, debate, celebration, laughter. It’s been too long since we’ve all been able to sit down around the dining room table and share a cocktail and home cooked meal. —Stern 

Books, vinyl collection (it's technically no better than digital, I just enjoy playing with the discs), a GO board, and plants. —Lizardo

Did you pick up any new hobbies or learn a new skill while in quarantine? What was it? 

Quarantine for me has been about making in the home and studio. My partner and I have been cooking up a storm and I’m learning to program and operate a CNC mill. —Stern 

I learned to use a new rendering engine and greatly increased the number of houseplants I'm growing. —Lizardo

How do you think the pandemic will affect residential design in the future? What about workplace or commercial design? 

I dream that this helps put into focus what is important to ourselves as a community, namely that quality of life does not track with GDP. In order to make human life the priority, I hope it diminishes the elitism and status that comes with design, and makes clear that everyone deserves to live comfortably and that consumption of product is counterproductive to that. —Lizardo

How can the design world be more inclusive? 

Design needs to be *for* everyone, not for anyone who can afford it. —Lizardo

What do you wish non-designers understood about the design industry? 

 How to be a part of it. —Lizardo

You can learn more about Lios Design by visiting their website or on Instagram

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