Designer and entrepreneur Max Gunawan launched the Lumio – a portable lamp that folds into a compact book – on Kickstarter two years ago and pulled in almost US$580,000. Now his book lamps are available at New York’s MOMA, Fondation Louis Vuitton and Lane Crawford. We caught up with Gunawan in Hong Kong as he launched a cool min version of the original book lamp.

Q: Why did you choose books as your creative vessel?

A: The reason is that books are much more practical. Books were something that I always carried around when I was an architect. If not books, I always had a sketchbook with me. I realised it’s the most compact way of packaging this. I wanted the lamp to be in a form that people are used to carrying around – it’s compact. 

Q: You started the crowd funding on Kickstarter. Did you expect the immediate takeoff?

A: Not at all. First I was like ok, gotta get funding and then boom, I got almost 10 times more than what I expected. The big challenge then was that I didn’t want to disappoint people who supported me. So I lived in the manufacture for four months to work out the production.


Q: Have you always been a product designer?

A: I’m not trained professionally as an industrial designer. I was trained as an architect. I have a different way of thinking when I’m building something. But at the same time, it's also an advantage because I’m able to look at things from a different perspective. 

Q: Can you tell us about the mini version of the Lumio?

A: I want to design things that are practical and [fit] my own lifestyle. When I launched the original version, it was quite well-received. So I was travelling a lot to promote it but it was hard to carry the Lumio with me all the time. I wanted something smaller, and I also want an object that can remind me of home when I’m travelling. Hence the mini Lumio. It’s compact and doubles as a portable battery pack. You can also mix-and-match your own version with colourful sleeves.

Q: Do you have any tips for people who want to be entrepreneurs and make it big?

A: I try to get a lot of advice from different people so I can make an educated decision. But at the end of the day, that decision really needs to come from my heart. It’s important for an entrepreneur not to just blindly follow someone they admire.

Q: What is a good design for you? What are the criteria?

A: Something that’s functional and also pays attention to details. Detail is everything.

Q: What’s your all-time favourite book?

A: Tadao Ando’s works.