At the moment Little Greene is running a bloggers’ competition to celebrate 20th century design. The company’s recent research into authentic paint colours from the 1950s, 60s and 70s lead Little Greene to think about the huge impact of changing materials, technology and manufacturing techniques on the shape of modern design. So they launched a competition asking bloggers to reveal the products or objects that they feel are 20th century design icons and are just as relevant today as when they were first conceived.
I had to think long and hard about this as there are so many great designs that came to my mind and I had a pretty tough time trying to narrow it down to just one design. But in the end, the one that stood out for me was the Anglepoise lamp. Back in February this year, I interviewed Simon Terry, Innovation Director at Anglepoise, for an article I wrote for World Interiors News. Terry is actually the great great grandson of Herbert Terry of Herbert Terry & Sons, the company who licensed the design from mechanical engineer George Cawardine and went on to manufacture what has become one of the most iconic lighting designs in Britain.
In speaking to Terry I found out the story behind the Anglepoise lamp and the traumatic struggle that he faced in trying to safeguard the future of a company that had come under increasing pressure from low-cost, low-price operations which were eating into its market share and squeezing its margins. Terry explained to me that as the fifth generation of the Terry family to work at Anglepoise, he felt a massive responsibility to ensure the survival of the company and even when the company accountants were telling him that the business was losing money, had no value, and he should liquidate it immediately, he refused to give up.
But his quest to save the family business meant he had to take some very tough decisions which involved not only rebranding, but reinventing and relocating the business. Terry scaled the work force right back – laying off his entire team, some of whom had been with the company for over 30 years – and moved production from Redditch to Portsmouth. Once relocated Terry had to practically start from scratch in order to rebuild the company he so dearly loved. Once the future of the company had been secured he turned his attention to the product line bringing in new design talent that would enable him to overhaul the product offering and expand into new markets developing higher-end products for higher-end customers.
I was really inspired by Terry’s story and it gave me a far greater appreciation of the pressure that companies are under today and exactly how changing materials, technology and manufacturing techniques can impact on the shape of modern design. In many cases, producing a design icon is simply not enough to ensure the survival of your business. Whilst the Anglepoise lamp is, in the words of Kenneth Granger “a miracle of balance”, Terry had to perform his own miracle of balance to ensure that production of Britain’s most iconic lighting design would remain under his auspices.
So there you have it. This is my entry into Little Greene’s 20th Century Design competition. Find out more at: http://www.littlegreene.com/retro