Volume 50, Issue 11 - November 2015


Attention Grabbers
Using Glass as a Focal Point in Design

by Steve Sudeth

Me: “How about we do a two-sided, linear pattern with the client’s corporate purple color as the interlayer?”

Designer: “Hmmmmmmmmm … I was thinking of going with white.”

Why do designers always want white glass? I’ve spent weeks doing product development with a design team only to have the final product end up being a shade of “cool white.” Heck, Benjamin Moore just announced that its color of the year for 2016 is “Simply White.” It can get a bit frustrating having all the technologies and capabilities at our disposal only to see them go unused.

Find the Focus

In the early stages of the design process, designers look for a central material that satisfies multiple levels of the client’s needs. The majority of the budget is going to the place where people spend the most time.

I asked my friend Alison at the Los Angeles office of IA Interior Architects to help me understand how materials are chosen, and she put together a sample material board for a new work space (see image). As you can see, the flooring and desk materials are neutral with the seating textiles carrying most of the color and pattern. There is some standard transparent blue glass for a conference room and backpainted glass for backsplash accents. Nothing fancy. She did include a hound’s tooth frit pattern over a dark grey backpaint as an accent piece that doesn’t conflict with the other patterns and could be used in selected areas.

It’s important to create products that push designs forward, but it is just as important to offer products that complement and accent the other materials. As much as we might want to be the focus, glass is often a complementary material. Designers want a clean, white backpaint because the seating features a bold red print. Or they want a vertical linear pattern because it goes with the flooring design. It’s all about bringing something to the table that is going to play well with everything else.

We Can Do That in Glass

It’s easy to try and force glass to be the focal point of a project because we want to show off what we can do. Whether that’s trying to include graphics or brand identity into a feature piece or mimicking a different material, overdesigning can clutter a project and might plant a seed of doubt in the designer’s mind about using glass at all. My primary focus when working on a project is to maintain a positive relationship with the design team and help their vision become reality.

The really impressive jobs do eventually come around and they often go to the company with which the designers feel most comfortable. Even though the current project might be another shade of “off white,” the next job might be a four-story mural. When the design team knows which company can hit the deliverables of their previous jobs, that’s who they will call first when glass is the focal point of the design.

Designers often work with material boards to determine which colors and products will work best in a given project.

the author

Steve Sudeth
is the creative director for Glas-Pro in Santa Fe Springs, Calif.

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