Over the next two weeks on the Cooper-Hewitt Design Blog, students from an interdisciplinary graduate-level course on the Triennial taught by the Triennial curatorial team blog their impressions and inspirations of the current exhibition,‘Why Design Now?’.
Sometimes the most modest designs become the architype. The Anglepoise lamp, designed by George Carwardine in 1932, was a complete original, a product that utilized springs in its arm to tip the lamp up, down, forward and back—though not a completely novel movement, the Anglepoise did this the best and most clearly. Additionally, its artless shape suggested an industrial authenticity—and it told you how it worked.
I feel a bit uneasy talking about a product I have never used, but I’m curious to see the Shawn Littrell designed Ninety Light at the Cooper Hewitt—because it could be a similar archetype of LED lighting. Luxo developed the lamp in 2008, as the “worlds most efficient task light.” There have been other LED lamps before, but will the Ninety Light become the most widely used, the Anglepoise of LED table lamps?
This will matter most: is it the best? The lamp uses 4 LEDs and only 6 watts, and is able to last 25 years. 25 years! In that time trends may come and go, new technology could be invented, but it is at least promising to think of a light that you could just forget about.
The knock on LEDs, like fluorescent, has been the light quality. At best, they have hovered somewhere around 70 out of 100 CRI (Color Rendering Index), which is good—but this sucker comes in at a whopping 90, still a bit under the 100 offered by Incandescent. This means that my hand will appear its natural pink rather than white. Since it is so efficient, however, it could be a substitute (and its 3000 Kelvin Color Temperature appears warm, like an incandescent bulb). Of course, a 90 CRI is important enough to make the Ninety Light’s namesake.
But how does it look? The Tizio lamp, launched in 1972 was the opposite of the Anglepoise—a provocatively “praying-mantis” (according to Deyan Sudjic) spindly, black balancing act. It was overdesigned. The Ninety Light is a combination of the two—it is designed, but its simplicity is responsive to the current times. It communicates visually its purpose, unlike most design. Like the ipod, it may outlast many other designs and for that reason needs to be experienced in person at the Cooper Hewitt’s Why Design Now?
School of Visual Arts Design Criticism MFA program