While most lighting and furniture designs come and go, there a chosen few that have stood the test of time, gracing both homes and businesses for decades, eventually becoming icons of the industry. This year, there are several design icons approaching milestone birthdays of 30, 40, 50 and even 60 years, and we choose to honor them for their incredible influence on the world of design.
Bulb by Ingo Maurer
Roughly 50 years ago, in 1966, German designer Ingo Maurer left a promising career as a freelance graphic designer and founded his own company, Design M, now Ingo Maurer GMbH. Shortly thereafter, the Bulb was one of his first creations, which celebrates the simplicity of a single bulb in both shape and lighting. This piece drew people in from the start as it blended functional and decorative elements in a way that hadn’t been seen before.
Atollo by Oluce
The Atollo was created in 1977 through a collaboration between Oluce, Italy’s oldest active lighting design company, and acclaimed Italian designer and architect Vico Magistretti. Since then, it has become a veritable icon of Milan’s modernist movement, winning the Compasso d’Oro (a prestigious Italian industrial design award) in 1979 and joining several international museum collections.
The piece is easily recognizable by its mushroom shade (made from either polished metal or opal glass), which sits atop a pointed cylindrical base. The simple overall design emulates the shape of a traditional lamp while smoothing out the frills that usually come along with it.
Coupé by Oluce
In 1967, Oluce released the Coupé series: table, wall and floor lamps with a semi-spherical or semi-cylindrical shade that tilts on either a straight or long curved rod. This innovative range of designs by Joe Colombo placed emphasis on function, offering convenient out-of-the-way lighting that didn’t necessarily hang from the ceiling. Now, 50 years later, you can see the influence it had on pieces like the Archer Floor Lamp by Robert Abbey or Tam Tam Floor Lamp by Marset.
Componibili by Kartell
Yet another 50th birthday is at hand for the Componibili by Kartell, a modular storage unit developed in 1967 by Anna Castelli Ferrieri. This piece was specifically designed to take on the clutter of common household settings, such as living rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms. And it is this functionality, combined with a sleek rounded silhouette, that has made this piece a mainstay in households and museum collections.
Tolomeo by Artemide
The Tolomeo Table Lamp was first created in 1987 by designer Michele De Lucchi and Artemide R&D department head Giancarlo Fassina, emulating a lengthy fisherman’s rod used to hold fishing nets. This piece, like the Coupé by Oluce, puts its own spin on functional, out-of-the-way design with a far reaching shade at the end of a jointed anodized aluminum arm.
Thirty years later, there are dozens of Tolomeo design variations now available, including table lamps in multiple sizes and with different shades, wall lights, floor lamps and suspensions.
CH33T by Carl Hansen
The elder statesman of our group of design icons. The CH33T Chair was designed in 1957 by Hans J. Wegner (for Carl Hansen). Influenced by his background as a cabinet maker, Wegner made the piece entirely out of wood, creating a sturdy organic structure that was both pleasant to look at and sit in. While taken out of production in 1967, this chair was reintroduced in 2012, bringing the same iconic form and function into the 21st century.
It’s awe-inspiring to consider that these designs have lived longer than some people, but that’s what it means to be iconic. There something about these pieces, some black magic regarding their design or function that keeps people satisfied throughout the decades. It’s hard to say what that is exactly, otherwise everyone would be famous, filthy-rich designers.
But it’s that mystery that makes them all the more special. Like good novels, songs, or movies, we feel something with these design icons, something we don’t fully understand, but something we can’t live without. And so, I say “Happy Birthday!” with a profound appreciation and, perhaps, an open checkbook.