He goes on to explain that the competition had the effect of boosting the development and research into LED bulbs, but there was a fundamental problem with the brief. The standard shape of a light bulb, which was what most of the development was trying to create, was in no way suited to LED technology.
“This was one of those massive industrial mistakes, because with LED light bulbs, really the last thing you wanted to do six or seven years ago was to squeeze them into a shape where you couldn’t get the heat away. Because LEDs, even though they are only heating up 10% of the energy used, you still need to get the heat away, or you lose the efficiency of the LEDs themselves. So the first ones were ugly, heavy, they had these heat syncs on them, they looked like motorbike engineers in a way, to get the heat away, they were awful.
The whole thing started off badly, there was a lot of confusion as people got used to them. It’s settled down now, and the bulbs are really nice. They are more efficient now, so the heat is not really a problem any more, because when you have to dissipate the heat from 12 watts or 15 watts, it’s much less of a problem if you are using 6 watts or 8 watts. I got some really nice bulbs the other day, which we are using for our products. They are 1000 lumens bulbs and they are only 7 watts, so they are not going to heat up. So the whole efficiency side is getting better and better.
So I first started working with Christian on designing light bulbs, rather than on designing lights. We came up with a few nice things. We were working with a company in Italy and one in Bulgaria. We got quite far down the line designing light bulbs, and just before Covid we did some samples in Italy, and it was very similar to this.”
George holds up a new LED bulb that is shaped a bit like a flying saucer.
“It was really nice, so I said we should make a little shade for it. I didn’t want to make it in cardboard, or pressed metal, and this is where that element of coincidence comes into it, I was doing something else at the time in silicon. It’s really not expensive to make, the tooling to do samples is only a couple of hundred dollars, so we made these little shades, and I got the first ones back, and we mocked up some samples, and I switched it on, and I thought wow, look at the light diffusion. It was pure luck, it just happened to be really extraordinary.”