Times Square Ball Designer Explains How the 12,000-Pound Icon Was Made

updated Dec 30, 2019
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It’s almost that time—time to gather around Times Square (or, more likely, around the TV) and watch the ball drop. The nearly 12,000-pound crystal ball has become a New Year’s Eve icon, but it’s changed quite a lot since the first one debuted in 1907. Originally made out of wood and iron, the ball is now designed by architectural lighting design firm Focus Lighting and covered in 2,688 Waterford crystal facets.

Design website 6sqft recently spoke with Focus Lighting’s Christine Hope, the principal designer of the Times Square Ball. She shared some behind-the-scenes history of the ball’s design.

Focus Lighting first designed the Times Square Ball in 2007, replacing the lightbulbs inside with LEDs. The next year, the firm was invited to design an even larger ball, which is still used for the New Year’s display and lives on top of One Times Square year-round. 

In 2014, House of Waterford Crystal—which had been creating crystals for the Times Square Ball since 2000—began making special themed crystals for the ball. Each year since, it makes a new set of crystals to replace some of the old ones, so that by 2023 the ball will include 20 different themed crystal designs. (The themes are all gift-related: Gift of Imagination, Gift of Love, etc.)

Hope told 6sqft that part of her team’s goal was to light the ball in a way that would emphasize the crystal’s sparkle. In order to do that, they decided to have the faceted part of the crystal face the inside of the ball, where it would catch the LED light.

She also explained that the 2,688 triangular crystals are divided across 672 triangular LED modules, each containing 48 lights (that’s 32,256 total lights in case you instinctively went for your calculator app). These individual modules allow more control over the individual lights, meaning cooler, more sophisticated light shows. Apparently, the ball can display more than 16 million colors. We know we’ll appreciate the countdown show even more knowing the precise technology and human effort behind it.

You can find the whole interview with designer Christine Hope on 6sqft here.