Ep. 80: Pablo Pardo

Lighting designer Pablo Pardo was born in Venezuela 3 minutes after his identical twin brother, making him the youngest of 5. His father’s work as a civil engineer took them to Chile until age 7, and then to Ohio. Making remote control airplanes in Dad’s workshop revved up his curiosity and he followed it directly into industrial design. (So did his twin and a sister, that’s 3 in one family!) After some time in both automotive and toy design he found his love of light and he’s been glowing ever since.

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What is your earliest memory?

My earliest memory was at the age of 5 when when my twin brother and I were allowed to run free in our countryside neighborhood in Chile and we were building a small shelter with tree branches, rope and large leaves to enjoy our little home away from home. Then, at dinner time, my mother would ring a large bell.

How do you feel about democratic design? 

Although I believe in democratic ideals which allow the ideas of many to filter in to define and refine a design, a truly inspired idea can only come from the individual. Only then can a team help execute the idea to its most refined state.

Shoebox twins... Pablo pictured here with his identical twin brother Fernando. Pablos says “We learned efficient packaging from my mother.”

Shoebox twins... Pablo pictured here with his identical twin brother Fernando. Pablos says “We learned efficient packaging from my mother.”

Pictured with his brother in a friendly game of foosball

Pictured with his brother in a friendly game of foosball

What’s the best advice that you’ve ever gotten?

Persistence and never giving up on an idea that you feel adds value to the world.

How do you record your ideas?

I start with napkin sketches and sketching in a book that I carry at all times. I than build many many simple sketch models in paper and other low tech materials that are easy to shape to then  bring the light into the object. This is when the magic happens. It’s all about discovery and play. From here, we take many photographs to capture the interplay. Then we formalize the designs and manipulate them into CAD to better understand the object and its individual component parts so they can be captured for building to production standards. 

What’s your current favorite tool or material to work with?  

Pilot fineliner and a napkin.

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What book is on your nightstand?

Dieter Rams: As Little Design as Possible. There is also a great new documentary about Dieter Rams by Gary Hustwit (Clever Episode 29!) called Rams, A documentary Film. It’s a must see for anyone who appreciates Design.

Why is authenticity in design important?

Authenticity is critical in a world full of noise and copycat designs. Authenticity should be an extension of our individual passions as designers and without it, it only adds to the noise.

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Grid light

Grid light

Favorite restaurant in your city? 

Zuni Cafe. I frequent it not only for its delicious farm-to-table cuisine, but because it magically seems to attract just the right crowd of people from all walks of life. Zuni packs up the very best ambiance in SF and and has the best roasted chicken served on a bed of greens that’s to die for. I can always to depend on great service and makes for excellent people watching.

What might we find on your desk right now?  

Lots of papers, sketches and models of all kinds. A classic Tolomeo lamp with an incandescent bulb, a phone, and an Apple monitor and a cup of Earl Gray tea.

Bola light

Bola light

Solis light

Solis light

Who do you look up to and why? 

German Designer legend Dieter Rams is one of my design heroes. His very rational approach to design is inspiring, giving credence to the importance of following his 10 principles of Good Design. It’s a beautiful list of design guidelines that reinforce following a disciplined design methodology.  

What’s your favorite project that you’ve done and why?

Without question, it has to be our Uma Sound Lantern and now our new Uma Mini. This project allowed us to transcend the world of light into the world of sound. The idea of combining these two sensory elements allows us to create magical spaces paves the way to a magical experience. Our new UMA mini can now be paired together in up to 50 lanterns at a time all playing together from a single device. It’s designed for indoor outdoor for use in restaurants hotel lounges, or any outdoor environments. They also can go with you everywhere you go.  

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UMA mini

UMA mini

What are the last few songs you listened to?

An Ending (Ascent): Brian Eno 
Pink Moon: Nick Drake
Simple Man: Lynard Skynyard
Cavatina: theme song from the Deerhunter


Follow Pablo’s work at pablodesigns.com, and Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


Clever is produced by 2VDE Media. Thanks to Rich Stroffolino for editing this episode.
Music in this episode courtesy of
El Ten Eleven—hear more on Bandcamp.
Shoutout to
Jenny Rask for designing the Clever logo.