Design that you can build on
Bernd-Axel Kluge has been working as a product designer for the light and luminaires industry for over 30 years. Not only does he find it important for form and function to work in harmony, it has to be possible to produce the result of a design. This makes his designs such cherished objects. His latest project is an innovative pendant luminaire for Ludwig Leuchten.
Interview with Bernd-Axel Kluge - product designer for the light and luminaires industry
Mr Kluge, you studied industrial design in Berlin and then worked for eight years with Ingo Maurer and his design team in Munich. While you were there, you developed lights and lighting systems. You then went on to set up your own lighting design company and developed special lights and produced them yourself.
What do you find so fascinating about lighting?
Designing a lamp is an extremely demanding area of design. You just have to imagine the complexity of the technology that can go into a luminaire. You have to think about how to manage the heat that can build up, reduce everything to a minimum, make sure the product is easy to assemble, and then of course it still has to provide the right illumination. More often than not, it’s a good-looking box with technology inside it. The interesting part is when a luminaire isn’t just a shell, but a technology that takes on a form of its own. Getting that bit right has always fascinated me, right from the start.
Earlier this year you were asked by Ludwig Leuchten to develop a pendant office luminaire. What do you concentrate on first?
Being quick! [laughing] and working with the experts at Ludwig Leuchten has been great. Sometimes it can really focus the mind when you’re under time pressure, but as far as the design’s concerned, it had to fit in with the company portfolio. Then it had to have a good, fresh look about it and not look dated. Also, it had to be innovative and point the way forward.
And which way would that be?
Well Ludwig Leuchten is known for being an SME that produces well thought-through, premium quality lighting. So in that respect, it’s typically German.
That can sound a bit boring…
I’m not sure if I agree. It’s a shame that people often play up something like Italian or Spanish design – and German gets seen as boring. At the end of the day, those are just clichés. I think you should just see design as a profession that’s supposed to make people think.
For me, form and function have to enter into a happy marriage. A product has to be good in terms of handling, function properly and have appeal in terms of technical form. And that’s where I see so much potential for Ludwig Leuchten.
Were there any special requests you had to take into consideration with the design of the new pendant luminaire?
The brief was to come up with a sophisticated, single pendant luminaire with LEDs. One important prerequisite was the positioning of the electronic driver. Ludwig Leuchten wanted it to be integrated completely into the lamp itself. This offers certain advantages when you’re assembling the lamp in the room and you don’t thwart the elegance of a flat lamp by having a ‘lump’ somewhere on it or on the ceiling, which is what you see with most of the other producers. They also wanted one of the strengths of the company to be taken into account: sheet metal engineering. It had to play to their strong experience in this area. At first glance, sheet metal seems like such a mundane material but when you work with it, it’s totally fascinating. Ludwig Leuchten has a whole arsenal of sheet metal processing units – when they start up, it takes your breath away. But otherwise there were the standard technical requirements for a pendant office luminaire.
But being given lots of freedom is also a huge responsibility – what was the biggest challenge for you?
To work out a design that works by itself, has never been seen that way before, yet can still be understood. So the design couldn’t be too outlandish. It should grab you, but on the other hand it should play to known paradigms. Even now, it’s no longer enough for places where people work to just be bright. An office luminaire has to have aesthetic appeal, it has to look good and be pleasing to the eye.
And what did that entail for your pendant luminaire?
Apart from finding a design that’s interesting as well as pleasant, working out a way to construct a lamp to provide what an office light should do in technical and illumination terms, an effective combination of indirect and direct illumination elements. Often just one type of luminaire performs this role – a pendant luminaire. For this pendant luminaire I developed an innovative illumination technique that uses reflected light inside the lamp for the indirect elements. Not only does that provide the pleasant lighting atmosphere I mentioned, it’s also good in terms of energy use. I’m certain the experts at Ludwig Leuchten have the know-how to translate this lighting challenge into a reality.