The Anglepoise Lamp
The Anglepoise desk lamp (Apex 90 model, 1989-2004)
It's all in the geometry. Since its introduction in 1934, the Anglepoise name in the UK has come to stand for a whole genre of articulated task lights based on the 'constant tension' principle of human limbs.
In the United States and elsewhere in the world the generic name for articulated lamps is 'Luxo' – Latin for "I give light" – a more inspired and internationally recognisable name than 'Anglepoise' and made since 1938 by Luxo, a company which originated in Norway as a textile machinery importer. But the original articulated task light system was conceived and patented in 1932 by the English automotive engineer and inventor George Carwardine.
The original Anglepoise task light
Carwardine's company manufactured vehicle suspension systems and during experimentation he hit on an idea involving springs and pivoting arms which could be repositioned easily but remained in place when released. It was this that he patented. The articulated task lamp was yet to come.
Eventually, Carwardine decided to deploy his patent in a focused-beam lamp mounted on sprung arms fixed to a solid base. He thought it could be used in his factory to help to illuminate the assembly process but it soon occured to him that the lamp was just as useful within the office. Herbert Terry & Sons of Redditch were Carwardine's suppliers of springs and Charles Terry, the eldest son of Herbert, saw its potential. Charles was keen to expand the business for spring-based products and it was agreed that the Terry company would begin manufacture under licence.
The first Anglepoise desk lamp was model 1209 launched in 1933. Initially it had four springs but Terry reduced this to three in 1935, with the introduction of the domestic model 1227. The design of the bulb housing threw its light in a particular direction, towards the task, and Terry promoted the Anglepoise as being very energy-efficient with a 25 watt bulb instead of the usual 60 watts. In 1938 this was increased to 40 watts in a revised version of the 1227 model with a wider shade and a heavier, tiered base. It remained in production for over 30 years and is now regarded as the 'classic' version of the Anglepoise lamp.
Competition from Luxo and the rest of the world
The commercial potential of the articulated task light was also noticed early on by the Norwegian Jac Jacobsen company, importers of textile equipment since 1934. Two large four-spring Anglepoise lamps were included in a 1936 shipment of sewing machines from England, and Jacobsen approached Terry to negotiate a license to manufacture and promote the luminaire from Oslo, under the name Luxo. The Luxo lamp was launched in 1938, with a slightly revised four-spring design.
The success of the Luxo led to Jacobsen obtaining a license to produce and market the product in all countries outside the Commonwealth. Luxo went on to become an international group with annual revenues now in excess of £50 million, whereas Terry was constrained to the UK and Commonwealth market. Low cost global competition brought the company to the point where in 2001 it was making only some 50,000 lights a year, and faced the prospect of closure.
The Anglepoise desk lamp relaunched
John and Simon Terry, great grandsons of company founder Herbert Terry, decided to make a clean break. They relocated from the English midlands to Portsmouth in the south, with better access to suppliers of the high-quality precision components that would allow Anglepoise to be relaunched as a premium-price brand, addressing the international marketplace.
Industrial designer Kenneth Grange was brought in as Consultant Design Director. The result was the £250 (or so) Anglepoise Type3 (2003, inset), a showcase model based firmly on the geometric principles of the original three-springed design, and the Type75 (2004), a budget-priced redesign of the 1970s model 75.
The marketing focus of the flagship Type3 model is now the style and quality-conscious consumer shopping for pedigree in design-oriented stores throughout the world, instead of the UK office catalogue market of the previous three decades. And Anglepoise now defines itself as a Personal Mechanical Motion company, not a lighting company. Simon Terry refers to the tendency of his competitors' products to sag at certain angles, or after a certain period of use, as the 'flop factor', to which a Carwardine-calculated articulated light will never be prone.
Anglepoise has also expanded the product range to include:
- Floor standing versions of the Type75 and Type3
- Giant 'flocked' (velvety-surfaced) pendants
- The Giant Anglepoise (three times the normal size)
- The 'Moonbeam' range – single-armed with linear bulb
- The 'Radia' medical range, with a magnifier option
For more information, visit the Anglepoise website.
[ First published July 18th, 2007 ]