It’s that time of year again, and the “Oscars of the design world” have recently been announced, so to follow up last year’s post on the subject here is my take on the 2011 winner.
Even before the individual category winners were selected I had already chosen what I believed to be the two front runners of the accolade, championing both Barclays Cycle Hire, overall winner of the Transport Award, and Plumen 001, eventual winner of the Product Award.
The Barclays Cycle Hire scheme (aka Boris Bikes) is a fantastic scheme and has been hugely successful, but earlier this week the Plumen 001 was eventually crowned the overall winner of the Brit Insurance Design Of The Year holding off strong competition from more than 90 other entries.
As a lighting designer myself the Plumen 001 holds my particular interest more than most, but this isn’t the reason I believe it to be a worthy winner. Not the sole reason anyway. I believe that it won perhaps more for what it represents than what it actually is. The product itself has been dubbed “the world’s first designer lightbulb” which says a lot. In a world where we are increasingly being encouraged to save energy and use electricity more efficiently it really is a wonder it has taken so long to get here.
The two intertwined swirls have been designed by Samuel Wilkinson and they really offer the general consumer public an opportunity to utilise an aesthetically superior bulb, which is conveniently a great sustainable alternative. It’s no secret that previous ‘low-energy’ bulbs have been designed such that they look clumsy, and quite frankly ugly, so getting people on mass to use them as been somewhat of a struggle. Until now. The Plumen 001 has been designed to be on view, it deserves to be seen.
The lamp itself is said to use 80% less energy and last eight times longer than the more traditional incandescent bulb tucked up under the shade in your dining room. These figures are typically on par with existing low energy lamps, but given the choice I know which I’d have.
Chair of the jury panel Stephen Bayley has got it spot on, noting that “the Plumen lightbulb is a good example of the ordinary thing done extraordinarily well, bringing a small measure of delight to an everyday product”. That, and that alone, is reason enough for it to triumph over all other entries.
Without light, we really wouldn’t see anything, so it’s no wonder that light is considered primary to design. The design of the light sources themselves are therefore absolutely crucial and a core component of design aesthetic, it’s time people took note of this and used it as a basis to drive forward. We are, after all, still relatively early on the era of low energy bulbs. Creating a shape that is as functional as it is beautiful is no easy feat, combining the artistic element with a form that still achieves sustainable efficiency and maintains the best colour of light. I’m entirely sure one day the Plumen 001 will be bettered, but it may well be a while before we see it.
‘Anything that is made betrays the beliefs, preoccupations and fears of the people who made it, never more than this year. There’s a strong sense of austerity, responsibility and realism here.’ Couldn’t agree more.
All of the shortlisted entries can be viewed in person at the Design Museum until 07 August this year.