Computer ArtsFeature

My design classic: Plumen light bulb

Airside’s Nat Hunter selects the design that has lit up her creative life

The Plumen light bulb is a wonderful piece of design. A collaboration between Hulger and Samuel Wilkinson in 2010, it has all the necessary eco credentials, not only using 80 per cent less energy but also lasting eight times longer than incandescent bulbs so that fewer bulbs end up in landfill. What makes the Plumen special, however, is that it has ignored the traditional design constraints of the light bulb and has burst out of its allotted space. This bulb is not for hiding away, it’s for showing off.

The Plumen light bulb is a wonderful piece of design. A collaboration between Hulger and Samuel Wilkinson in 2010, it has all the necessary eco credentials, not only using 80 per cent less energy but also lasting eight times longer than incandescent bulbs so that fewer bulbs end up in landfill. What makes the Plumen special, however, is that it has ignored the traditional design constraints of the light bulb and has burst out of its allotted space. This bulb is not for hiding away, it’s for showing off.

Although the first spiral energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs were invented in 1976 in response to the 1973 oil crisis, they were then subsequently shelved due to the cost of building new factories. Full-scale production eventually commenced in China in 1995 and sales have steadily increased since then. However it seems that the original energy-saving bulbs were created by engineers, not designers; functionality is favoured over aesthetics.

Many of us have a bad relationship with these standard compact fluorescent bulbs – they take a while to light up and look ugly, sticking out of lampshades where the old incandescent bulbs would have happily resided. We all know how important it is to save power, but many still prefer incandescents because the bulbs have simpler shapes and are less jarring to the eye. They are also thought to give off a warmer quality of light. To be fully embraced by the market, energy-saving light bulbs need to compete aesthetically as well as ecologically. Thankfully the Plumen bulb does just that and hopefully is the first of many such designs.

Plumen is a statement. It forces people to do a second take, and makes us question what a light bulb is for and how it could be used. I myself have a Plumen bulb hanging from a deep yellow cord attached to a porcelain holder. I don’t want to cover it up with a shade as I love it just the way it is, and I also love what it says and does.

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