Monday, June 13th, 2011

Designer Interview: Nick Sheridan, Bret Englander and Dan Wacholder of Cerno


Posted by Ali | View all posts by Ali
3 Comments » | Published in Designer Interviews, General  |  3 Comments

So, I’d have to say, the designers for Cerno Nick Sheridan, Bret Englander and Dan Wacholder are three dapper dudes. Not only do they create quality stellar lighting pieces but they make time to surf and support the local taco truck. Oh, and check out their “Start to Finish” video…great insight in to what makes these guys tick.

Tell us about the process of starting Cerno and how you got where you are today. What did you guys do before Cerno?

Bret Englander: Honestly Cerno’s roots started growing when were really young and whether we were on the beach or at each others house we were always starting the next project. We built anything and everything from sailboats, to a beautiful fanned out stairway and archway to memorialize a friend, to a huge palapa at our favorite beach, later we restored an RV, that we drove from Laguna all the way up to Canada, and the list could go on. Prior to Cerno and after College, Nick teamed up with his cousin to form a custom residential architecture firm that designed several exquisite modern homes in Southern California. Daniel helped expand a boutique manufacturing firm from a small garage into respectable company with an international presence, and I worked in land acquisition and marketing for several of the nations’ largest Home Builders, and later for my dad, which was a true gift and learning experience.

How did you guys come together as a team?

Bret Englander: The three of us were restless and itching to once again collaborate like we had when we were younger and apply what we had learned in academia and the professional workplace to something that was our own creation and we knew it was time. One morning in December 2008 we woke up early and were on a mission to find some waves, but the ocean had something different in mind for us. After driving for several miles along Pacific Coast Highway the ocean was uncooperative and not going to give us any surf. We ended up sitting on the beach brain storming about how we were going to manifest this childhood dream of working together into a viable business. It was a pivotal conversation that would quickly materialize into Cerno. After about 9 months of working nights and weekends the 3 of us left our previous jobs and started working full time just down the street from where our original drawings and prototypes were conceived. Nearly 3 years later we are still motivated by the same passion for design that originally ignited the fire and desire to form Cerno. We design what we want to see built and enjoy “almost” every moment of it.

So the word cerno means:  -Verb (Latin) 1. To resolve, distinguish, decide, sift, determine, to perceive. How did you guys come upon this or decide on this as your brand name?

Nick Sheridan: In architecture school at the end of a project critique the teacher would often say – you have not fully resolved x, y, and z or on rare occasions would say a design was resolved. That stuck with me. In architecture, like all design, it was clear that success is measured on many different levels and only when the design has been fully resolved, all levels addressed, did it have that feel of good design.

Cerno Start To Finish from Cerno on Vimeo.

I loved watching your Cerno Start to Finish video. Could you tell us more about the design process and how your lamps come into fruition? What sources do you use for inspiration?

Nick Sheridan: I am designing all the time. Lots of thought just imagining different concepts, plenty of hand sketching, and tons of computer drawing and modeling. At any time there are a multitude of designs all with different iterations explored. As for inspiration often a specific need and a particular LED light source informs the design from the outset. A big point of inspiration is the desire to push the limits of the latest LEDs technology. Once I have a design and its materials and construction are somewhat thought out Dan then soild models each part in the computer and assembles it virtually. We then build 1-5 prototypes in our shop because it gives us an opportunity to learn from the fabrication, and assembly that often leads to tweaks to the design. Final drawings are then created, and some are sent to our machining fabricator and the laser cutter – the rest we fabricate at our facility (wood parts, metal tube parts, concrete parts, etc.)

I’d have to say the Cubo concept is genius. How did this piece come about?

Bret Englander: Long story short, Daniel did not want to disturb his girlfriend while reading at night and he also wanted a clean modern ambient light source for when he was not reading. He explained the concept to Nick and within a few weeks the first prototype was completed.

You guys seem too cool to just be interested in design. What are some of your interests outside of the design world?

Bret Englander: As anyone who has been involved in a start-up knows, most hobbies and other interest tend to be put on the back burner for the first few years. However on the rare moments when we do escape the office and shop, we all love the ocean, surfing, sailing, playing music, and just relaxing on the beach with friends and family.

Describe your typical work day…

Nick Sheridan: We arrive at the office/shop (headquarters) at 8 am, check emails, talk with the partners, and get a cup of coffee. Around 9 am the other workers arrive and we spend a moment getting them set up for the day by pulling parts from inventory and setting goals for the day based on orders that need to be filled. At 10:15 am the burrito truck honks its lengthy song and some of the Cerno team congregates in the sun with the other workers from our industrial park. By 1 pm Dan and I often try to finish our office/computer work for the day and head down to the shop to work on current production and new prototypes. In the afternoon Dan or I do a lot of quality control making sure that all the freshly assembled product is achieving our high standards of execution. From 5:30-6:30 pm after the other workers have typically gone home for the day you can find all three of us at our computers in the office again, now recapping the day and talking about the future. We call it a day around 6:30 when Dan heads a ¼ mile up the road on a bicycle to his house, Bret typically tries to get some exercise in before heading back to the South Laguna house he lives in and I often take a quick nap before taking some creative alone time in my South Central Laguna Beach apartment.

What is your dream project?

Nick Sheridan: We are very interested in fusing technology with good modern design. One general direction we have been interested in for some time is using wireless technology to network a large array of lights with interactive functionality. A large outdoor installation in a public space would be great.

How would you describe your design style/philosophy? How has it evolved over the years?

Nick Sheridan: At architecture school you are exposed to art, design, sociology, philosophy, and science and more and forced to engage and practice in all of these disciplines. They give you time to think about design in a holistic way. Some time while at school I gravitated to the modern Bauhaus philosophy – the work of Le Croubosier and Mies Van De Rohe I had an affinity for. From concept to production I work very closely with our mechanical engineer/partner Dan so design decisions can be informed by the reality material properties and manufacturing processes. This attention to detail is to stave off that moment when a specific component, material, process, availability, etc, and typically cost implications forces a design to change at the hands of an engineer instead of the designer.

What is your workspace/studio/office like?

Bret Englander: Modern eclectic, with a lot of Cerno lights and furniture, and each our work spaces tells a different story of the personality behind the desk. Nick’s space is cluttered with prototypes, material samples, and lots of drawings all over the walls and his desk. Daniels’s desk and shelves have a lot of components, technical drawings, and prototypes of the guts of the fixtures, as he is always engineering and perfecting the technology in our products. My desk has a lot of design magazines on it and usually the Wall Street Journal. Nick has our Sero desk lamps on his desk, Daniel and I use the Onus task lamp.

What advice would you give aspiring designers?

Nick Sheridan: It is becoming extremely popular to be a designer now a days – there are far more designers around then there used to be so it is getting a lot tougher to have your designs realized. Differentiating yourself in some way is a must I believe – and try to keep in mind that everything needs to be designed, not just things that cast shadows.

Finally, what is next for Cerno?

Bret Englander: More new lighting products and a more diversified line, this spring and summer we are introducing several new pendants a new sconce and a floor lamp, all the new product looks great and I can’t wait to get them into production and in the market place. We showed at ICFF for our first time will be showing at Dwell on Design in LA and then back to New York for NYIGF in August. And hopefully we get a couple days in at the beach as well.

Thanks Cerno team!

View all of the Cerno lighting pieces on Design Public.

About Ali:
I enjoy wood paneled station wagons, German food and senior citizens (I am 80 years old at heart). Nearly every weekend I am taking photos at other people's weddings and I have a blog of my own (but I don't update it often enough). I love to paint, sew and knit. Check out my DP Staff profile on Hatch.

About Ali

Ali has written 149 post in this blog.

I enjoy wood paneled station wagons, German food and senior citizens (I am 80 years old at heart). Nearly every weekend I am taking photos at other people's weddings and I have a blog of my own (but I don't update it often enough). I love to paint, sew and knit. Check out my DP Staff profile on Hatch.



  1. Kevin says:

    June 17th, 2011 at 11:54 am (#)

    The Cerno group is so interesting! These three young men working together is fantastic. The designs of all of their lamps are magnificent. I have two of their lamps and love them!

  2. Paul says:

    June 17th, 2011 at 4:09 pm (#)

    Great video! it really gives a deeper insight into what you guys do. Keep up the good work.

  3. Positive Reviews | Unique Eye says:

    June 20th, 2011 at 1:02 pm (#)

    […] video… Great insight in what makes these guys tick.” Check out the full interview here. Our video will be playing inside the Cerno booth at Dwell on Design this weekend, which is the… ← Online Video is more powerful than […]

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