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Anglepoise – A Modern British Icon
This week we get to know Simon Terry from legendary British design company, Anglepoise, a little bit better.
Simon, the company’s brand and innovation director, answered our questions on everything from what a ‘design classic’ means to him, to what the future holds for the quintessentially British brand.
Anglepoise recently underwent a large-scale transformation. The headquarters were moved from Redditch to Portsmouth and the expertise of Kenneth Grange were called upon to help revive the brand. Can you tell us a bit more about what this redevelopment involved, and what this meant for the company in the long term?
This meant developing a completely new company really, moving from a production-and-assembly based business, towards a brand-driven business focusing on the quality of design and manufacture of products. As well as changing much of the product range, this also meant selling to many higher-end retailers, by leveraging the Anglepoise brand. We physically moved down south due to the new requirements for the business.
Part of the development process was actually to return to our roots and rediscover our historic innovations – what made us great in the 1930’s. Kenneth Grange was brought on board as design director due to his proven ability of updating and improving products across a broad range of archetypes. We didn’t want a lighting designer, but someone who knew what fundamentally defines an Anglepoise, and how to bring the right design elements forward, making it a timeless product for today.
You have collaborated with some of the most iconic designers throughout your history. Who are you favourite current designers out there at the moment?
We have long admired the work of Jasper Morrison, a great updater of product types who has a natural understanding of materials and how they perform visually and work in mass production. More recently, it would have to be Thomas Heatherwick due to his true ability to genuinely innovate with materials, whilst keeping an artistic and crafted integrity to his work.
In 2009 the original Anglepoise 1227 was placed on a Royal Mail stamp celebrating British design classics – a series that also included the Mini and Concorde. What, in your opinion, makes an item a ‘design classic’?
The whole idea of an item being a ‘design classic’ or ‘iconic’ is something that has been greatly pushed by advertisers and product promoters. But, in our mind, you have to truly earn a badge like this. It cannot be bought or forced. It has to be accepted by the masses at large, often over time. In many ways it has to become part of the landscape, there, but always looking fresh and timeless.
Our favourite item, the Anglepoise Giant, was created at the request of the Roald Dahl Museum – how did this project come about?
Roald Dahl always had an Anglepoise lamp in his writing den in Great Missenden. (Interestingly, it never balanced as he had changed the lamp holder to a lighter one, so it always had a cloth over the top arm to keep the correct balance). The new Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre was going to create a set for the children to play in, with oversized books etc, and they wanted to recreate the Giant Anglepoise to complete the look.
We actually made three products originally. One for the Museum and Story Centre, one was shown at 100% Design in London and one was auctioned at Christies and bought by film director Tim Burton. The Giant received such a positive response at 100% Design that we had to go into production – the rest is history…
What does innovation mean for you?
For us, innovation is often incremental, and looking closely at what products gave us, and continue to give us an ‘iconic’ status, and how we can grow the right elements, that will keep our products ‘fresh’ and ultimately our customers engaged in our product offering. Our brand is so interwoven into the fabric of our product and if you move too far away from this formula, you could potentially alienate customers moving forwards. It’s a careful balancing act.
How important is colour in Anglepoise designs?
Colour is essential to us. We have to carefully track the trends in interiors, fashion and design sectors to see what is around the corner. We have to ensure our products are relevant and fresh in the market, and colour is a great way of changing or modifying a product range.
What’s next for Anglepoise? Do you see the company branching out to other products other than lighting? If so, what should we look out for?
We have always had aspirations to grow beyond lighting, and plenty of ideas on the drawing board. However, like everyone, we have to accept the current economic situation. The right option at the moment is definitely to keep your feet on the ground and concentrate on ‘renovating’ your core product offering, and giving your customers exactly what they need in a product, quality of design and manufacture at a fair price.
A big thanks goes to Simon at Anglepoise for chatting with us today.