Industry still resistant to new form factors, say designers

Leading designers and manufacturers passed judgement on the stand-out luminaires made possible by LED and OLED designs at today’s Lighting Fixture Design Conference in London.

'We’re in the throes of a technological revolution,' said Lux publisher Ray Molony. 'But we’re not quite out of the confusion stage and into the renewal phase with LED technology.' He asked the panel of experts whether LED technology has indeed delivered the design freedom it promised and for them to nominate their favourite – and last favoured – products.
 
Phil Champ of Champ Industrial Design’s choice was a product which came out five or six years ago, the Luxo Ninety task light. 'It’s elegant, it’s understated and it’s a lovely piece of design,' said Champ. 'It’s also dimmable. I’m a great believer in task or localised lighting.' He said he was not so keen on the Philips Arcitone which he placed firmly in the ‘so what’ category, calling it ‘inelegant and fussy'.
 
David Morgan of David Morgan Associates said his choice of stand-out LED product is the Concord Lytelab (pictured). 'It’s extremely powerful; it’s controllable with a zoom-lens system and it plays on the Concord heritage, carrying on the design story,' he said. His chosen ‘bête noire’ was the Dialight Durosite high bay. 'It looks horrible although I’m sure it’s very efficient,' he commented. 'It’s just unnecessarily ugly. Everything should be designed as nicely as possible.'
 
Tony Lawrence of Concord said technology is moving so fast that it’s necessary to design in such a way that products can be updated easily. 'It’s possible to be too clever,' he warned, nominating ACDC's brand new Fusion fittingas his stand-out product: 'It ticks all the boxes and it’s very now in terms of design. It’s also robust enough to go outside. It’s got lots of outputs, it’s slim, it’s got intelligence built in. It’s first class.' Lux’s Molony agreed, describing it as ‘the kind of product Apple would design if Apple designed light fittings’.
 
Liz Peck of LPA Lighting’s choice was the Concord Glace. “The picture doesn’t do it justice,” she said. “It’s replacing conventional T5 and one of the reasons it’s great is because it’s super-thin. When it’s lit the edge catches the light and it turns into a thing of beauty. As far as I’m concerned that’s what lighting should be about.'
 
Products that came in for criticism included the Cree Ledway, of which Tony Lawrence said: 'Possibly it meets the brief, but that brief must be to be low cost and good value and designed to be retrofitted, with too many compromises'. The Acuity Kindred also didn't impress, described by LAPD's Steve Dean as 'low on substance'.
 
Peck also praised the Louis Poulsen Artichoke, suitable only for incandescent, as an iconic ‘thing of beauty’ in terms of form. 'It’s 45 years old and it’s still a thing of wonder. It proves that sometimes the form factor overrides the technology.'
 
'In the future, I don’t think we’ll be putting holes in ceilings. I think we’ll end up with a sheet that glows. There will be no holes, just a glowing form,' added LAPD’s Steve Dean, who nominated Cree's Aeroblades as going a great job of light distribution but dislikes the Acuity Kindred. 'But with all these products,' he added, 'it’s about: do they sell?'
 
Champ added: 'It’s hard to be revolutionary with form factor at the moment. The industry wants something in terms of form factor that it feels safe and comfortable with. The investment in design and in testing is huge. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. A light fitting needs to do its job.'
 
Yet the panel agreed that designers and manufacturers will be in a position to make braver, more innovative lighting solutions over the coming months and years.