Have you ever noticed the little light that appears in the opening credits of Pixar animated films? This is the desk lamp L-1 made by Luxo that stood on the desk of director and producer John Lasseter in 1986 and is the foundation of the success of Pixar. John Lasseter produced the computer animated short film “Luxo Jr.” for Pixar Animations Studios, which was promptly nominated for an Oscar in 1986. The cheerfully jumping lamp therefore became the company symbol of Pixar.
A design icon is being created…
The workplace lamp Luxo L-1 was designed by the Norwegian industrialist and designer Jac Jacobsen, founder of Luxo, in 1937 and celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. As part of a shipment of sewing machines from England Jacobsen received two spring balanced lights that looked like cranes back then. He was always interested in art and was fascinated by the strange looking luminaires with their high functionality and timeless beauty.
Although the technical invention was ingenious, Jacobsen soon realized the simple design behind it. The L-1 became well known quickly. It increased productivity in offices, educational and health facilities and industrial plants. It became a style icon among architects and designers from around the world.
The production of the Luxo L-1 lamp began in 1937 under the name Luxo. The word comes from Latin and means “I give light”. The secret was the spring-balanced arm: The mobility of the light and the ability to direct the light exactly where it is needed changed our working environment forever. That was the beginning of a large range of lighting products that were ergonomically correct, could be customized and prevented glare and other health related problems.
New color edition by Le Corbusier
To celebrate its 75th anniversary a limited edition of the L-1 is being sold, for which the Finnish architect Vesa Honkonen designed a number of colors. “When I was looking for new colors for the L-1, I found that the industrial colors that we use today do not fit properly. I was of the opinion that the new L-1 colors should have the same depth as the L-1. So I went back to the 1930s and to the color palette which was developed by Le Corbusier in 1931: the polychrome architectural. As an architect, painter and artist, he created his own palette for use in architecture.”
The limited edition appears in a range of colors from the unique color keyboard of Le Corbusier (les claviers de couleurs), which first appeared in 1931. The L-1 colors for the limited edition have been selected from the keyboard color velvet (velour), which Le Corbusier found particularly suitable for office environments. The new edition will appear in shades of rouge rubia 32101, ombre naturelle 3132140 and vert anglais pale 32042. “The L-1 now has a new skin from the 1930s, creating harmony based on a color system by combining matching colors,”says Vesa Honkonen.
For another 75 years …
Luxo is also thinking about the future, because the 75th anniversary of the L-1 is celebrated by the introduction of a LED version. The “L-1 LED” is fitted with a 6-watt module with dimmable LEDs that produce a bright, warm light. It also has a timer function: the light turns off automatically after four or nine hours to save power. The “L-1 LED” has exactly the same arm structure and shape as the original lamp from 1937. Modern push button technology in a characteristic casing from the 1930s allows dimming and energy-saving timer functions. Due to the high durability of a LED you can be sure that the “L-1 LED” will last at least another 75 years. And it is really due to the high quality and workmanship, the simplicity and the timeless design that the L-1 has survived 75 years without any problems and will live on.
The L-1 and its inventor Jac Jacobsen
The Norwegian designer Jac Jacobsen (1901-1996) was in his mid 30 when he invented the L-1.
As part of a shipment of sewing machines from England, he received two spring balanced lights. He was enthusiastic about the strange looking luminaires with their functionality.
1937 Jacobsen designed the L-1 along the lines of the spring balanced lights and their sophisticated, but simple design.
Already in 1945, the Illinois Institute of Technology Fortune placed the workplace lamp L-1 on the list of the 100 best products ever to be manufactured.
Jacobsen’s views with regards to competition were decidedly modern: “Competition is good for us. It makes the products better – and who really looks for quality selects the L-1.”
As of today, many museums exhibit the L-1 as an example of classic luminaire design.
The demand for the light is still very high. To date, it has sold more than 25 million times.