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Small but mighty - the miniaturisation of lighting

Long gone are the days where bigger meant better, and now in many industries, the trend is all about miniaturisation. Everything around us is becoming smaller and more streamlined – mechanical, medical, electronic, with lighting no exception. Thanks to the technological evolution of the LED (Light-Emitting Diode), it is now possible to have more discreet designs without sacrificing functionality or quality of light.

Smaller but more powerful

Firstly the technical bit - lighting fittings that during the filament era had to comply with the size of the light bulb, can now be reduced to a tenth of the size. This is done using the technology of the LED, a semiconductor diode which glows when a voltage is applied. Improvement and more efficiency of LEDs mean less heat and smaller heatsinks, allow the fitting to be much smaller than before, while providing a much higher lighting output.

I still remember looking at the photo of the NULLA by Davide Groppi during the launch of the lamp in 2010 and asking myself: ‘where is the lamp’?! It seemed that there was no lamp. But it was there, in an 18 mm hole in the ceiling. NULLA (which in English translates as ‘nothing’) is the best example of one of the first miniature lamps of the ‘digital’ age, and it still remains one of the smallest and most powerful down-lights today.

NULLA. It is only a tiny hole of 18 mm in the ceiling. Pure light.

The beauty of NULLA comes from the way light illuminates an object, rather than the lamp itself. This is the reason why it received the prestigious Compasso d’Oro ADI award in 2014 - for being the light without the lamp.

In the words of Davide Groppi - ‘Nulla is an extreme work on subtraction. The light is investigated and presented in its pure physical aspect. The research into a “light without a source” drove me to consider the realization of a project which is invisible, magic and illusive. A very simple idea: a hole in the ceiling’.

The evolution of optics in lighting

‘A special optical system and the LED technology make a wonderful light on the surface. Deep and sensual light’ - Davide Groppi

Another contributor to the miniaturisation of lighting is the evolution of optics in lighting and the development of a lens to magnify the output of an LED.

An example of this is the Cometa Q4 by Italian company DGA. Specialising in small luminaires for jewellery shops, DGA design and manufacture a slim profile of 4.5 mm with an output of 14W – 550 lm per metre (pictured below).

Linking to Davide Groppi's comments on the beauty of the light highlighting its subject, not its own fixture, the slim profile of the DGA strip becomes part of the structure of the furniture, revealed only by the light itself.

A changing focus – what does miniaturisation in lighting lead to?

An appreciation for the surfaces and in particular ceilings - With the constant challenge to make the fittings smaller we are appreciating more and more the ceiling surfaces. The more we like a clean and simple ceiling, the more we carefully think about positioning a new spotlight in the ceiling, resulting in putting them only where necessary, without overloading the ceiling with fixtures.

The art of disguise - We can now also look at vertical walls as an opportunity to provide light into the space without having a visible lighting product. Miniaturisation of the light source has also developed the approach of disguising the presence of the light fitting behind surfaces. The slimness of the LED has allowed the industry to create illuminated walls or partitions, with the beauty of revealing light when night begins.

A great example of this is the Panèo Basic by Flexlite - used behind sheets of marble to create works of art on the walls.

A focus on the object or space to be illuminated rather than the fitting - here we consider the creation of theatrical atmosphere using lighting. The more discreet the light fitting is, the more magical and theatrical the lighting effect can be. Small LED uplights can be easily positioned within window reveals for dramatic effect or within the depth of a shelf to highlight an object. As well as being small the lighting is hidden, preventing direct line of site to source itself, reducing glare and distraction.

Less is more, but chose the best.

Lighting is one of the most competitive markets within interiors, but not all are the same. Refrain from companies offering a multitude of brands - they just want to sell you something. Here the game is about specifying what is right for your project. The curation of lighting brands I work with is crucial to providing the right tools to create unique solutions. I consider myself lucky as I can decide to work with companies which inspire me, and I am always on the search of eclectic brands to bring innovative solutions to architects and clients. Bringing together functionality and beauty, my aim is to transform a space and inspire emotion.

If you are ready to think outside the box and would like to create something special I would be delighted to help. Please use the form below to contact me.


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