Back in 2010 Hulger changed the way the world looks at energy efficient lightbulbs with the Plumen 001, a gorgeous product that was a pitch-perfect manifestation of Hulger’s idea that “reducing our energy consumption should feel like a positive, life enhancing choice, not a compromise.” Now some four years later they’ve followed up the multi-award winning original with the Plumen 002, launched amid much fanfare last week and surpassing its Kickstarter goal in just a few days. We caught up with Nicolas Roope to find out more about the newest member of the Plumen family…
Did you have any idea when you first launched Plumen it would be as big as it was? What moment did you realise just how popular it had become?
When I first had the idea and pondered it a bit I knew it could be very big. I remember getting quite giddy thinking that I was very privileged to have this potentially massive idea in my very own head. My main concern though was getting out there first with something really compelling and owning the “designer energy saving light bulb" story, because that would be the key to building a new brand in this new and growing category. Having been through the Hulger Retro Phones of the Future experience I certainly wasn’t counting any chickens.
The moment I really felt like things were moving is when we started shipping by the container load. I remember standing on the deck with my mum on the ferry to Denmark as a kid watching containers loading on and off at Harwich and feeling the awe of the scale of all that stuff flowing in and out of countries. I love thinking about containers stacked full of beautifully packaged Plumens getting lifted on to freighters in Shanghai and lifting off in Southampton, Los Angeles or Melbourne.
When did the idea for a redesign first come about? What were the initial inspirations?
We started pretty much straight away after the 001 was launched. The development process for us is really looking at different production techniques, technologies and design opportunities. We’re thinking about viability, economics and whether something is going to be really lovely or not. For something to work for us concepts need to tick a million boxes so discovery and development are very slow and complex, even though the product that pops out the end seems simple.
How did you come across neon sculptor Tony Greer? What did he bring to the process?
We found him on the internet! He helped with a lot of the early stage development where we were looking at the light effect of using uneven chambers. Tony would create loads of neon glass prototypes of various shapes and sizes and send them over to us in the post. We’d plug them in and observe the effects on luminosity and texture and then start to design around these observations.
You mention Barbara Hepworth in the release; why was her work so important?
We knew that with our single loop configuration we’d have a fairly simple shape to play with but wanted to resist doing something that followed the pared back, rationalised, minimal school of thought, as it would be too close to the utilitarian bulb arrangements that Plumen works so hard to reject.
We wanted more spirit and poetry in the form and suddenly the shapes we really liked that we were generating were looking a lot like Hepworth sculptures. And so we looked at them even more. They’re so basic yet so complex. But the complexity is very subtle and very choreographed which makes them really calm but also wonderfully seductive.
Why did you decide to use Kickstarter?
Plumen only really happened because of people’s enthusiasm for what we were trying to do and the design we put out there. It felt like a natural thing to do to invite those very same advocates into the process a lot earlier and help us along the way. And it’s a hell of a lot more thrilling than going cap in hand to the bank manager for a loan!
Is there a pressure after how well the first one did?
Yes and no. We obviously would love another success like the 001 but in a way it’s not the point at this stage. The important thing for us is to develop a family of products and a brand that really stands out. If all the products are massive hits, great. If one in every five is a hit that’s also fine as long as the whole is healthy and developing in the direction we want it to.