The A-Z of Design: A is for Anglepoise

In our A-Z of Design, A is for Anglepoise. These iconic Anglepoise lamps can be spotted everywhere from the opening credits of Pixar films and the Roald Dahl Museum to every self-respecting design aficionado’s desk.

The most famous design, the 1227 (pictured above) was launched in 1935 as a three-spring domestic version of the original four-spring lamp, which was designed for industrial use by automotive designer George Carwardine between 1931 and 1934. Anglepoise lamps were mounted on table bases, trolleys, clamps, wall brackets and even onto ceilings. They were used in photography studios, dentist surgeries, hospital operating theatres and garages, and during the war.

Various models were introduced in the 60s, 70s and 80s, but in 1992, the 1227 was voted “the favourite light of all time” by the top 25 designers as part of an interview with Jeremy Myerson. In response, a limited edition was produced, examples of which now trade hands for vast sums of money.

In 2003, looking for a way to reinvigorate the brand in the face of competition, the Anglepoise directors looked through their archives and found an interview with Kenneth Grange, the designer behind classics like the Kenwood Mixer, the Intercity 125 and the Kodak Instamatic, in which he cited the Anglepoise as his favourite product of all time. He said “It’s a minor miracle of balance" and became the brand’s new Design Director, and was responsible for instant classics; the Type 3, the Type 75 (pictured above) and the Type 1228.

The 1227 was reissued in 2009 and immediately made it onto a stamp, as part of a Royal Mail “British design classics” collection.

It is now available as a ‘giant’ with a reach of 2.8 metres, and the Type 75 is available as a ‘mini.’

Anglepoise is still a family company and still works closely with Kenneth Grange.

Top five facts about Anglepoise Lamps:

  1. The original idea for a name was “Equipoise”, but it was already being used.

  2. The Anglepoise lamp in the Pixar films is called Luxo Jnr after the American trade name and was inspired by the lamp on founder John Lasseter’s desk. It appeared in the very first Pixar film, a short made in 1986.

  3. The giant Anglepoise lamp that now graces Costa Coffee shops across the UK was originally designed for the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre. A second one sold at a charity auction to Tim Burton.

  4. In 1949, BBC employees were forbidden from working under the light of an Anglepoise unless the ceiling light was also on – the belief was that such confined space and low level lighting would encourage degenerate programme making.

  5. In 1979 Anglepoise made its musical debut when “I want to be an Anglepoise lamp” by “The Soft Boys” an influential punk / new wave entered the pop charts.

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Katie Treggiden, Guest Editor

View all posts by Katie Treggiden, Guest Editor