From modern day lanterns to daylight simulating wall lamps, a quick survey of recent lighting trends highlights how LED technology has transformed the industry with creative new applications and adventurous new forms.
1. New Nomads: Catering to a new young generation of globe trotters, the past year has seen the launch of a plethora of portable lighting designs that can move with us from place to place. One such design is the cordless ‘M’ Lamp by British designer for Brooklyn-based . Untethered by a power source, the ‘M’ Lamp is powered by a lithium battery that provides 18 hours of light on a single charge. It’s made from lightweight aluminum and Irwin explains that the compact cordless design is a modern interpretation of the archetypal 19th century miner’s lamps that were used in Northeast England. Hang it from the ceiling or rest it next to the bed, the flexible ‘M’ lamp is designed to adapt to an array of environments and situations.
2. Super Minimal: As well as fuelling the creation of lightweight portable designs, LEDs have provided an opportunity for designers to experiment with increasingly slim forms with impossibly precise and delicate fixtures. Like fine pencil lines drawn in thin air, the wires of Calder-esque ‘String’ chandeliers support a series of spherical or cone-shaped LED light sources. “Every time I take the train, I sit by the window and watch the series of perfectly parallel strings connecting the pylons, as we move at high speed,” says the London-based Cypriot designer of his inspiration. “I love the way they divide the landscape and how spheres are occasionally beaded through the wires at random intervals.” Having launched in Milan last year, the design made its North American debut at in May.
3. Healing: LEDs are changing not only the shape of lighting but also the quality of light created. While early LEDs were only able to throw out a cold blue-ish glare, the latest incarnations are able to create any color and temperature of light. Harnessing this technology in a particularly creative way is ‘Tomorrow is Another Day’ lamp which was originally designed for a palliative care unit in a French hospital. Conceived as a way of enhancing the patients’ mood and encouraging them to think positively about the future, the lamp uses LEDs and information gathered from the Internet to project a representation of tomorrow’s sky onto a screen. The design is perfect for windowless rooms, allowing them to be filled with even, consistent light instead of the glare from fluorescent strip lighting.
4. Creative Composites: As predicted in our 2014 trend forecast, this year has presented a number of adventurous new lampshades made from some unexpected materials – particularly those made from pressed fibres and reused waste products. Perhaps the most unusual is ‘MYX’ lamp, where the shade is actually ‘grown’ out of mushrooms. Made out of an organic textile material developed by the inventive Danish designer, the lamp is made by growing Oyster mushroom mycelium gathered from commercial mushroom farms around hemp fibres. The thread-like mushroom-mycelium functions like glue, forming a flexible and soft living textile. After two weeks of growth the healthy Oyster mushrooms are harvested leaving behind a structure of waste material, which is then dried and molded into shape. The end result is a tactile, lightweight and decomposable lampshade.
5. Immersive: This deeper understanding of our emotional connection to light is also evident in new kinetic designs, like OP-light, that turn using a lamp into an immersive experience. Three circular panels of textured acrylic that capture and refract the light are layered and then rotated by a motor to create hypnotic, constantly changing patterns. The result is a soothing play of light and shadow on the walls.