David O’Driscoll – CEO of Brightgreen

David is the CEO and head product designer for Melbourne-based premium LED lighting company Brightgreen. They design long lasting, energy efficient lights in Australia that are sold around the world.

The core purpose of Brightgreen is to put an end to planned obsolescence – a business model based on making profits from designing products with intentionally shortened lifecycles. We’ve disrupted the way the lighting industry works by designing lights that last for about 30 years, forcing competitors to follow suit.

Think big and then use market research to define what the best ideas are.”

This year Brightgreen won the top honour at the Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Awards for our DR700, which is an LED replacement bulb that matches the brightness of a 50W halogen globe on one fifth of the power. It was really nice to have all of our hard work acknowledged at a state level.

What are you working on right now? 

My team and I are working on a number of new LED lights that we hope to release next year, with the main aim of designing people-focused, world-first products. I’m really interested in the relationship between emotion and design, so a lot of our new products will address this particular area of concern.

How do you make ideas happen?

Think big and then use market research to define what the best ideas are. After that it’s just a matter of believing in those ideas and putting in the hard yard to work them into existence. Anything is possible.

What does your typical day look like?

I occupy a hybrid role that involves product design as well as business strategy development, which leads to a lot of variation in my workday.

Most days though you can find me working closely with my marketing staff and product designers, in between holding meetings with various external stakeholders including Skype sessions with our international offices and manufacturers.

Thankfully Brightgreen provides healthy lunches for all team members everyday, so I have a reason to stop for a moment and grab something to eat around midday.

I also try and break away for some product design down in the lab, which is my main love.

And if I can, I’ll fit in a swim or a run to keep the blood and ideas flowing.

What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?

My brother Barry and I started Brightgreen from our garage in Perth back in 2008. We had terrible misfortune with the launch of the company, as soon after we were up and running the GFC hit. Investors were extremely reluctant to part with any cash, so we ended up funding the entire business ourselves.

Faith in our designs made us persevere, and we ended up releasing the D900 Curve (the world’s first LED downlight to match the brightness of a premium 50W halogen) anyway. It paid off as the light was a market success and ever since then Brightgreen’s been going from strength to strength. One thing I’m really proud of is that we’ve sold over 150,000 D900 Curves without any luminaire failures.

What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?

…don’t be afraid to create the future, instead of waiting for it to unfold around you.”

When it comes to product design, it’s really important to ask your market the right questions so that you can come up with a practical solution for the end user.

And don’t be afraid to create the future, instead of waiting for it to unfold around you.

What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment? 

Lighting designers Electrolight have always got great stuff going on. They’ve lit up major buildings like the Crown Casino, Melbourne Recital Centre and the State Theatre Centre of WA. Earlier this year they created a light installation for the reopening of Hamer Hall in conjunction with artist Robert Owen, which featured 1000 LEDs.

What about Internationally?

I really admire Austrian lighting manufacturers Zumbotel. They design their lights with health and ergonomics in mind, in addition to energy efficiency and aesthetics.

What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?

Businesses can influence consumer behaviour – a power that can be used for both good and evil.”

Businesses can influence consumer behaviour – a power that can be used for both good and evil. I believe that businesses can play a big role in affecting social change – for example, we argue that by buying Brightgreen lights, which we’ve designed to last for 30 years, you opt out of wasteful product consumption cycles and sustain less harm on the environment.

Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers?

  • The Design Files – a hugely popular site that uncovers the best in Australian design. Fantastic photos too.
  • Assemble Papers – a great website about small footprint living. We just wish that they had time to update more often!
  • Illumni – the go-to blog for news on lighting design.

Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter? 

Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea?

We’re always happy to take on work experience students who are keen to gain insight into how an industrial design firm actually works. Most of the ones we’ve had in the past have felt very much at home, which is what happens when most of your staff are in their 20s!

What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?

Vue de Monde in Melbourne – their degustation menu always has me rolling home with complete food euphoria. I’m interested in chef Shannon Bennett’s gastro-molecular approach to food in addition to his emphasis on sustainability, employing more than 50 new technologies around the restaurant.

We thought it would be cool to crowdsource an annual prize to award to the interviewee’s choice (each person interviewed gets one vote) winner for the year’s best interview. Are you willing to kick in a prize?

Sure! Every year we sample local wine and select the best drop to be bottled and sent out to our stakeholders as part of our Words For Wine annual survey. We’re always sure to keep a good few saved for ourselves in the company cellar and we’d be happy to throw a couple of Brightgreen bottles your way.

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