In the interview, Andreas Steng, Managing Director of Steng Licht, and Professor Wulf Schneider explain the creative process of the LED lighting system Combilight and its many applications.
Emotional light of the highest quality: Optional warm color filter allow very pleasant mood lighting in the living area.
Mr. Steng, you presented the new product series Combilight at the Light&Building 2014 exhibition. The LED lamp series was designed by Professor Wulf Schneider. How did the collaboration start?
Andreas Steng: Mr. Schneider approached us or rather my father. The two have known each other for a long time. Mr. Schneider presented his first prototype of Combilight in 2012. We were immediately impressed by the design, and have, if I remember correctly, decided at the first meeting that we wanted to do that.
Professor Wulf Schneider: I have known the father of Mr. Steng for around twenty years. Our design office was previously primarily involved in furniture design. But now we also make stoves and the like. It has always appealed to me to do something with light, to design a lighting system.
From the first appointment to the finished product line – how long did it take until you perfected Combilight?
Andreas Steng: The base was conceptually designed by Mr. Schneider. I still have the draft that Mr. Schneider presented at that time on my desk. In general, it still looks the same today as when it was presented back then. Overall, we have worked a little more than a year on the product – which was a very intense time for such a comprehensive product line. Combilight is certainly the most tedious and cost expensive product in the history of Steng. Since we were convinced of the success of the system, we were happy to invest in the development.
Professor Wulf Schneider: The office of design concepts that I manage always creates a new product with people in mind. The purpose of Combilight is to give light planners and architects a tool they can use to realize their lighting design even better. The system can cover a variety of topics in a project.
Translucency and an independent form language characterize the LED lighting system Combilight from Steng Licht. In addition to the suspended version the right product variant is available for all uses.
Professor Schneider, you worked with light in the past. You were honored with the Design Award of the Federal Republic of Germany for your light furniture.
Professor Wulf Schneider: Yes, the light furniture was a sensation at the time, since something like this did not exist back then. LEDs were fairly unknown at that time and were merely used in the technical field, for example as back lights or traffic lights. We used the new medium to light furniture.
Andreas Steng: The LED technology currently goes through an immense change that has certainly not existed before. Today we have nearly 100 LED lighting fixtures in the project area. This extreme change opens many opportunities for a business, but poses many dangers as well. About five years ago LEDs did not have the quality of light – with regards to the issue of light color consistency and color reproduction – that we imagine. That is also the reason why we got involved with the topic at a relatively late time.
Meanwhile, LEDs do not only provide an excellent light output, but also a good light quality. We have presented several products for LED in 2012, which are still very successful. But with Combilight we have introduced a complete LED lighting family to the market during the trade show. Thanks to the different versions as ceiling, wall, floor, pendant and rail light, the series can accommodate a variety of applications – from the living room and office as well as hotel areas and museums.
Has the modern LED technology in the development of Combilight opened opportunities which conventional light sources would not have offered?
Professor Wulf Schneider: When I devoted myself again to the theme of light, I definitely wanted to do something in conjunction with LED. Because it is obviously a great thing using a new technology and therefore being able to implement completely new qualities: first of all the economy of the lighting device, but on the other hand the ease of use, because the bulb is so small. Thus, the basic conditions were present, to design a system that is very easy to use and can be combined with other devices. This would not have been possible with a light bulb or halogen technology.
Andreas Steng: Not in these dimensions and not with this efficiency. I think that’s the most important thing with regards to LED technology: that you can retrofit all the products, to make them more efficient. You can install a LED light source instead of a halogen lamp. But actually new products need to be designed for LED.
So Combilight was designed from the ground up specifically for the new LED technology?
Professor Wulf Schneider: Yes, it was important to us to design small, translucent, low-cost lamps with the new power-saving technology, whose light color and brightness should be adjustable. The lights should be able to be used in various application and should be esthetically approachable. Cold LED light is a thing of the past.
Andreas Steng: Technically Combilight is characterized by its particularly high unit efficiency: The 19-W Downlight for example has a mounting depth of only 42 mm. Something like this is hardly available on the market. I am not aware of any other product like that. This performance is achieved by the patented structural design of the LED individual modules. Through the use of warm white and extra warm white filters Combilight can be used in all housing situations and can be customized. The system is extremely flexible and offers an almost infinite number of combinations and applications.
Looking at it from the outside, the lighting system is particularly light, almost weightless.
Andreas Steng: For this reason we were working for the first time with acrylic, a material with which we had no previous experience. After we had tried a few things, it was clear that not only the cylinder should be made out of acrylic, but the whole package. We wanted to avoid a mix of materials. It was a process, and we had manufactured many prototypes until we found the perfect solution. It was about the smallest details, which are giving Combilight today’s value. The result is a translucent LED module that is completely new and unique.
Professor Wulf Schneider: Autonomy – that’s it, what distinguishes good design and architecture. A retirement home, a kindergarten, an office building and an industrial plant are basically being built in the same style these days in Germany. And that can not be right. When designing, it is important to reach an independently certificate of things. Combilight is the result of such an attitude.
As individually as the selectable options are as individually are the people Combilight has been designed for. In your book “Sense and Non-sense” you have explained your theory of “Human Design”. Is it this design standard by which one achieves human design?
Professor Wulf Schneider: If we make a new product, we constantly ask ourselves how the communication between the product and the user is being created. Factors such as the color effect, the lighting mood and the material play together and influence the human senses, so he decides within fractions of a second: “I like this”, or “I find that ugly.”
At the Light&Building exhibition you have not only presented the new product series Combilight. You have also used the exhibition to showcase the company Steng Licht in a new light. Why the new corporate identity?
Andreas Steng: Because it was the right time for us – everything was perfect. Many things have developed in the right direction in 2013, and how it sometimes happens, one thing added on to another. Moreover, my father retired from the company in the late summer of this year. All in all, it was the optimal time for a new beginning.
The downlight is ideally suited for homogeneous illumination of private and public spaces. In addition to the 9 version the downlight is available with 2×3 or 1×3 LEDs. The LED modules can be tilted to any angle.
You have collaborated with designer Michael Raasch for the new corporate design.
Andreas Steng: He is mainly responsible for the new logo concept and will continue to give advice related to market branding. With regards to the trade fair, it was important for us to emphasize the new brand identity with a precisely adjusted booth to communicate the changes directly and to be able to make it visible at the fair. The booth design benefited us do to the fact that it was done with Michael Raasch, Professor Wulf Schneider and me as an experienced team. Each contributed his expertise, which ultimately led to success.
Besides Combilight Steng has expanded its portfolio last summer to include the collection Michael Raasch. The assortment of Steng combines various lighting solutions.
Andreas Steng: We already started the development of Combilight in 2012 and have taken over the collection by Michael Raasch in the summer of 2013. Both are extensive, independent product lines that could not be easily integrated into our main catalog. That would not have done justice to the products. Therefore we also developed a new logo concept. In addition to the red logo for our main line, “Light by Steng“, we developed differently colored product line logos for “Michael Raasch by Steng” and “HeringBerlin by Steng”. In addition we have a new product line, “Hotel-Light by Steng”, under which we will present a collection especially for hotel projects in the future.
Going back to Combilight. There are already some planned additions, such as a bed reading light with an adjustable head, whose light is focused on the book and does not bother your sleeping companion. Sure, there are other ideas on how to adapt Combilight to specific needs ….
Professor Wulf Schneider: We are currently working on many program enhancements.
Andreas Steng: We are not running out of ideas!
Professor Wulf Schneider studied interior architecture and design, exhibition and assembly contractions at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart. He founded the “Office for design concepts” in 1976 in Stuttgart. In 1987 he published the book “Sense and Non-sense”. From 1991 to 2003 Wulf Schneider was professor of Industrial Design at the Technical College in Munich in the Department of Design. He received more than 30 design awards to date.
Andreas Steng took over the General Management of the family company Steng in Stuttgart in the summer of 2014. He manages the company, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in the summer of 2011, now in its fourth generation. Along with his father, Peter Steng, he already worked in business administration since 1997.