An Interview with Industrial Designer Luke Mills

  • Having whet our appetites at last year’s edition, this year we are pleased as punch to be an official DENFAIR Media Partner. As Australia’s largest contemporary design and art trade event it’s a place to get to know who is making waves both locally and internationally and discover the next household names of design. Held over three days with the third day open to the public, DENFAIR 2017 promises to again bring together architects, interior designers, stylists and retailers in the one space to exhibit, present and connect with each other.

    As we warm up for the event itself we’re profiling a handpicked collection of designers who will be exhibiting at DENFAIR 2017. Today we feature Luke Mills, a Melbourne-based industrial designer known for his own design studio and lighting brand Lumil.

    Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to founding your own design practice.

    Luke Mills: Growing up in a small coastal city in New Zealand, I spent a lot of time building things, painting and exploring the outdoors, when I left to study Industrial Design at Massey University in New Zealand it felt like a natural fit. After graduating I rented a small workshop, freelanced and designed custom furniture pieces for clients. A year later an opportunity in Hong Kong took my wife and I half way across the world to live and work for two years. It was a big learning curve for me where I worked on national museums, exhibition spaces for high end automotive companies and developed new product ranges that we had manufactured out of Shenzhen, China.

    I spent my a lot of my spare time in Hong Kong prototyping furniture and lighting designs, so when we landed in Melbourne I was dead keen to pursue this path. I was fortunate to build some great connections early on that really allowed me to get in touch with local manufacturing around the city.

    Launching Lumil was a chance to create a creative brand that encourages material exploration and a certain level of customisation within its product ranges. I have enjoyed working on a number of installations over the years and lighting offers a nice balance between art and design.

    Your designs range from lighting to furniture and also span across a variety of materials. Did the diversity in your product collection develop naturally or as a result of exploring certain pieces or styles?

    Luke Mills: I’m a big believer in using hands-on processes during the conceptual phase of a design. Although an incredible tool, 3D software does not give you the same feedback as when you are holding or prototyping a physical object. For the most part the designs have developed naturally as I have explored new materials or processes.

    Your pieces are all highly functional ; how does this consideration drive the design process?

    Luke Mills: Functionality was what drew me to studying Industrial Design, it’s in some ways what divides design from art. I really grew a love for furniture and lighting design after graduating. There is something satisfying in creating objects that have a fairly humble yet necessary place in our everyday lives.

    Any design studios or individuals that have informed your approach to design?

    Luke Mills: Not one in particular, however I’m always on the lookout for new materials or new manufacturing processes.

    Is there a product you are most proud of or that represents your design approach best?

    Luke Mills: The Raw series is probably the simplest piece I have developed in Melbourne but despite its simplicity it’s the one I’m most excited about. We’re looking to launch a range of material experiments in the coming months, plus will be teaming up with a Melbourne-based artist to collaborate on a photographic series. The collaboration will be an exploration of design juxtaposed with natural environments – basically an excuse to combine two of my favourite things into a project.

    What opportunities at Denfair are you most excited about and what other designers are you looking forward to checking out at the event?

    Luke Mills: For me it’s a great opportunity to connect with the industry and like minded local designers. Also always exciting to see what studios present in regards to new designs and directions as well.

    What’s up next for you and your design practice?

    Luke Mills: Lighting design is my main focus this year. I have around a dozen lighting concepts sitting around in various forms so I’m looking forward to developing a few of these further. Outside of lighting I will be working on a couple of collaborations with local designers and continuing to design furniture with Life Space Journey, these are always great fun and source of fresh inspiration.


    You can visit Luke amongst the stellar lineup of designers, makers, stylists and retailers at DENFAIR 2017. Register for tickets here, or find out more our reader tours with our Editor in Chief Sian MacPherson here

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