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Design Collaborative: Honoring an Original

Stephan Copeland’s design for Ovelo, a new desk lamp from Luxo, honors the company’s L-1 lamp that he used as a child.


Stephan Copeland’s design for Ovelo, a new desk lamp from Luxo, honors the company’s L-1 lamp that he used as a child.

Designing a new desk lamp based on a 75-year-old design might be a risky proposition for some companies and individuals. In the case of Luxo, and designer Stephan Copeland, the desire to introduce a new product to the market provided an opportunity to honor the past while looking to the future. The result of this collaboration is Ovelo, a sleek new desk lamp that is certain to have a rich history of its own.

Sam Gumins, president and chief executive officer of Luxo Corp., North America, says that company officials saw several opportunities when they began considering a new product offering.

"There are many LED desk lamps for customers to consider, but we believe that a large number of these do not provide light in the optimum way," he says. "Many provide only a bright, small spot of light and the mechanisms often make it difficult to reposition the arm. It can be difficult for the user to easily achieve the desired light coverage. For us, the question was whether or not we could take the proven qualities of the L-1 lamp and use that foundation for a new product."

According to Gumins, the company invested extensively in customer-focused research throughout the development process. "We asked our current and potential customers in the U.S. and abroad what they wanted in an LED task light, and what they believed was missing in current products. Our continual internal testing helped us to achieve the optimum design."

Luxo officials established three key goals they believed they needed to achieve in order to make the lamp appealing to a broad group of stakeholders. First, the lamp's energy consumption needed to be reasonable and include a mechanism for automatic shutoff. Ergonomic design was the focus of the second goal, and the lamp's illumination the was third piece of the puzzle. Defined qualities in each area guided the work of the Luxo and Copeland team.

"Stephan understands design and the mechanics of task lighting," notes Gumins. "He believes, like we do, that a lamp's inner workings and its ease of use are as important as its aesthetics."

Ovelo's design harkens to the L-1 lamp that has served Luxo well for so many years. The lamp's asymmetric distribution and state-of-the-art lens technology cast light horizontally across a worksurface to provide optimal and ergonomic lighting for computer or general work. The four, high-power and dimmable LEDs provide 100 footcandles of illumination at a height of 16 inches above the worksurface. Ovelo features a manual dimming switch and an internal clock timer that automatically turns the lamp off after nine hours of use to prevent unnecessary energy consumption. The product comes with a five-year warranty and is rated for 45,000 hours of continuous use.

Copeland's connection to the company goes back to his childhood when his parents purchased a red Luxo light for his workshop. "I have been building things since I was four," he says. "Little did I know that I would have the opportunity as an adult to design a new lamp for a company whose product illuminated my childhood work area."

Copeland maintains that the design process is first about performance. "The mechanics in Ovelo had to be just right. The parallelogram feature in the L-1's design proved over time that it was an extremely efficient spring-assisted mechanism."

Ovelo's mechanism is encased within an all-metal skin that is available with a black, silver gray or white finish. The adjustable arm measures 28 inches and the distinctive circular head and circular table/desk base combine to create a sleek, sophisticated appearance.

"The lamp has a visually calm expression with a modern flare," adds Copeland. "Ovelo's design had to be memorable to make it stand out among the hundreds of lamps that are available for purchase."

Copeland further addresses the design by likening it to a person. The arm is like a person's body and the head akin to a person's face. As a person's head helps to define their personality, so must the lamp's face. "You have to pick a personality for a product and hope that it connects with enough people," he says. "We wanted a product that would not become quickly outdated visually and that would be easy to use. The design, we believe, encourages use while also acting as a refined piece in any space."

While Copeland is rightly proud of the overall product, his connection with Ovelo's design and its relationship to mathematics would make a good lesson for teachers trying to take concepts beyond the classroom and into everyday life. "A lamp has many postures and covers lots of geometry," concludes Copeland. "Ovelo's craftsmanship and the postures that can be achieved make it as very special product. To me, it has the best movement geometry known in a desk lamp and honors a design that was developed over 75 years ago."

Janet Wiens is a freelance writer based in Memphis, TN. She was formerly a marketing manager for HNTB and now works with industry clients to address their marketing and public relations needs. She can be reached at