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Meet the Makers: Christophe Mathieu

Christophe Mathieu, a veteran designer for Marset, first had the idea for the Discocó Pendant in 1997—but the design wouldn’t come to fruition until 2008. It was an instant hit, and today, it has become an icon of modern lighting that has seen many covetable iterations over the past decade.

And in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Mathieu’s most prominent design for the company and Marset’s top-selling collection, they unveiled the Discocó Wood—available first, exclusively, here on YLighting.

With such a successful design, it’s surprising that the Marset Discocó took eleven years to finally be produced. Though Christophe Mathieu was confident in the final product, getting there was a challenge. After showing the design to Marset four times and not going forward to develop a prototype, Discocó sat on the drawing board. Yet Mathieu did not give up. After the fourth time, product manager Joan Gaspar came alongside and helped Mathieu develop a prototype. Finally, Daniel López, who is in charge of product development, improved the design further and Discocó entered production.

Traditionally, the Discocó features thirty-five ABS disks, which help to reflect the internal light source in an even and pleasing way—without glare—but this exclusive edition uses 35 disks carved from American Oak. A feat that was nearly as long in the making as the original itself.

We caught up with Mathieu to talk about the YLighting exclusive Discocó Wood, the collection’s iconic status and his design process in general.

The Discocó is 10 years old, did you think that it would turn into such an iconic piece with so many iterations?

CM: Honestly, no, not at all, these things happen once in a blue moon, and I’m glad it did.

The original Discocó took 11 years to be produced, was this version in the drafting stages for a long time as well?

CM: It wasn’t planned, but when I started to draft the Discocó, I thought about, as you would expect, what materials to use, and wood was one of them, but back then it was technically costly and complicated, but now, Marset, with the experience it’s acquired, has made it possible.

Why did you choose wood as the new material?

CM: I would talk it over with Joan Gaspar [Marset’s product manager] every now and then, even though we knew that development- and production-wise it would be costly, we really liked the idea and we thought that the Discocó would be that much better in quality, warmth and comfort, and this way we would also reach an audience that is particularly fond of wood. And to celebrate ten years of success of the Discocó, it seemed the perfect moment.

Have you worked with wood before?

CM: Yes, a large part of my first lamp, that went into production, was made of wood. I have made a few others and the most recent one, apart from the Discocó, was No. Ocho, which was also for Marset. I love wood, how it smells, how it feels. It’s very sensual.

Did the design or manufacturing process differ from the original process?

CM: For the rods and the central sphere, only the finish is different. What does change are the discs, which instead of being made from ABS are made of wood, and that’s what makes the difference in terms of the manufacturing process, and of course, in terms of the feelings that the object conveys.

Do the wood discs create a different shadowing effect than the lacquered ABS discs?

CM: Yes, keep in mind that one of the characteristics of the Discocó is its richness in terms of light. That’s because of the multiple reflections it creates. The lamp not only lights its surroundings, it also lights itself. In the original design the outside of the discs are illuminated by the light that filters through the discs and by the light that is reflected on the inner surface of the discs. However, wood does not allow the light to pass through the disc, so the light reflects on the top of the disc and descends down the wood, which reflects the light at the same time.

What are the main design principles you bring into each project?

CM: It has to excite, be truly useful, be well made, and the perceived quality has to match the price. These are the principles I pursue on each project, even if I don’t always achieve them to the fullest.

You used to be a professional swimmer, how did you transition from swimming to industrial design?

CM: Yes, it’s true. I was also working as an instructor while I was studying design. I enjoyed it and was pretty good at it, which lead to an opportunity to become a coach. However, I knew that if I accepted the job, to be any good at it, I’d have to devote myself to swimming and coaching full time. I had my doubts, and in the end, I turned down the offer so I could focus on design, which, deep down, is what I most wanted to do.

Is there anything CM: you learned from competitive swimming that you bring into your professional life?

CM: Yes, a lot. A spirit of sacrifice, resolve, perseverance, of planning in order to meet objectives, of staying upbeat when things don’t go as expected, the ability to be self-critical and to know where and how you need to improve, and to learn to enjoy victory.


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