London-based design studio Hulger is back with a new CFL lamp more than three years after launching its award-winning Plumen 001, which is now a part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York. The latest in the up-and-coming manufacturer’s portfolio, Plumen 002 is a respectful “nod” to the Edison-shaped lamp, says Hulger’s co-founder Nicolas Roope, but the 30W CFL replacement aims to push the envelope with a slightly larger and more sculptural body. Architectural Lighting spoke with Roope about how new mandates and consumer awareness for energy-efficient lamps are spurring a renaissance in light-source design.
Describe the inspiration for this lamp.
It’s an object. When it’s off, it’s an object and it inhabits a space. When it’s on, it’s visually a different object because it’s contributing to the atmosphere. We became interested in trying to reconcile those aspects into something that really works; something that is visually interesting and sculptural and resonates in space when it’s both off and on.
What is Hulger’s value proposition with the Plumen line relative to that of other lighting manufacturers?
The change in lighting is enormous—billions of lamps are going to be changed in the next 10 years to energy-efficient technologies. That’s not just about a subtle product preference. It’s a great moment because there’s so much conversation. It’s the moment when brands are made. There are two philosophies. You can assume that consumers don’t want change and will be driven by wanting to replace, more or less, what they have at the moment at affordable costs. Or, you can say that change is upon us. It’s more than just lamps; it’s the accessories, it’s the whole [lighting experience]. We’re in the second camp. Let’s not pretend that there’s not change. Instead, let’s embrace the change.
How do you help consumers navigate changing technology?
We appeal to a design-savvy audience. We are creating a platform and a brand. We don’t want to be a niche player for the sake of it. In volume terms, we’re tiny little minnows but we punch well above our weight in terms of presence. There are a million lampshade designers but only a few light-bulb designers, which is how we like it. [Some manufacturers] are trying to create the least amount of disruption to make the adoption [of LED and CFL technology] seamless. But with the electronic housing and the heat sinks, even when there’s a really elegant solution, it doesn’t feel satisfying. It’s an amazing opportunity to do something radical and try to embrace the quality and nature of these new technologies and work around their constraints. We’re going to launch a glass shade with an integrated drop cap in a couple of months, which is [designed to] work with the proportions of the bulb. The next two designs in our pipeline are LEDs.
Why did you choose to launch this product on Kickstarter?
We could have gone to the bank, but that’s a really boring and tedious approach. Kickstarter gives [consumers] a meaningful role in the journey of these products. And everybody knows the gig; everyone knows how it works. We’re not a big business, so getting to a reasonable threshold on the first order is really useful. Otherwise, it’s all guesswork and focus groups and you end up dropping product on the shelves that you have to go out and get everybody excited about rather than saying, look, this is coming with your help. It completely changes the dynamic.
Has the crowd-funded approach generated feedback that has impacted the lamp’s design?
The moment when we’ll really start learning [about the product] is when it’s out in the field. At that point, I’ll start keeping an eye on everybody’s Instagram accounts. You get a really good feeling of how people are using it, what problems they’re having with it, and then you work that back into your development.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of Nicolas Roope. We regret the error.