“I believe everything starts with businesses,” states Simon Terry, the family’s fifth generation now leading the Anglepoise brand, as we discuss the part brands play in creating a positive future for the design world. “I believe for too long we have pushed the problem onto consumers. You cannot expect consumers to recycle when the recycling systems are not in place, or if companies don’t take direct responsibility for the products they create.”
This mindset, of accountability, purpose and passion for change, is something Terry is keen to impart. Anglepoise, which has been a part of the Terry family since the 1930s, has forged its way through decades of change, remaining relevant while exuding a timeless quality. The original task lamp, the Model 1227, was created in 1932 by automotive engineer George Carwardine, who then turned to spring maker Herbert Terry & Sons to manufacture it into a commercial product.
It has since become a design icon in its own right. “It was never designed to be iconic,” Terry affirms. “Too many designers today label items as iconic, but it’s more than that, iconicity is something you earn. It’s about the culture a piece can create, stemming from the way users engage with it.”
As we look at Anglepoise today, the brand has gone on to launch ceiling, wall and floor lamps, each with the same design principles adopted at the outset. Its latest launch, the Type 80 wall light, is designed in conjunction with Sir Kenneth Grange, with whom the brand has collaborated with for over 20 years.
“He’s a master at designing products which stand the test of time,” continues Terry, while explaining the need for others to adopt a similar design ethos. “It is important not to chase front page coverage to follow short-term trends. And, thankfully, the design world is now less about celebrity designers and celebrates more of the teams and makers behind each product.”
This celebration of craft, and the engineering behind the lamp, is the reason Anglepoise has the credibility it does within the lighting world. However, when looking at the copies and imitations which are abundant within the high street market, Terry feels that there needs to be an educational shift if a sustainable future is to be secured.
“We need new ways of doing things,” he comments, as we also touch on human-centred design topics and the need for companies to really listen to the communities around them. “We need to absorb the culture around us and evaluate what lies behind it. Design education isn’t where it should be. Why are they still offering a course on how to design a task light?
“Trying to improve the engineering of the Anglepoise mechanism has so few gains, so why not point aspiring designers towards issues which will help the planet and communities on a much bigger scale?” With change so urgently needed, to ensure we can preserve humanity and the planet going forward, Terry alludes to the opportunities there are in doing this. This is why, one year ago, the brand decided to formalise its Lifetime Guarantee.
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Although the company has been unofficially looking after lights for decades, it has now extended the offering to every retail client, with no timeline and very little legality attached, ensuring as many products as possible can be diverted from the rising landfill levels across the globe. While Anglepoise is one of the only brands offering such a guarantee, especially in the lighting sector, Terry feels this mindset is far from being the norm.
“We are actually starting to think about increasing the offer of the guarantee for a lifetime and beyond,” he explains. “Just imagine, if a lamp is passed down through generations, the guarantee will still exist. Not only is there something beautiful in knowing we will witness this journey, it also allows us to take full responsibility for every item we produce.”
The brand offers a repair first scenario and, if this isn’t possible, they will ensure the lamp is returned so that it can be recycled or repurposed responsibly. “Within five years we would love to have repair hubs across the world or work with external partners like the repair cafe movement,” Terry continues. “And, while many say this can’t be good for the company financially, it is about doing the right thing from a personal perspective.”
The brand is also looking to take its accountability one step further through the use of barcodes which can be scanned at recycling centres to help track, salvage and repair more lamps before they are disposed of. This commitment is refreshing to see, as we navigate our way out of a world plagued by mass production and over-consumption. Terry also reveals how the company has been auditing its own use of plastic with the help of Sian Sutherland at A Plastic Planet.
The audit showed that across the production line, packaging streams and within the offices and warehouse, the company was consuming the equivalent of 285 tennis courts of plastic each year. While this will have been reduced next year to 85 tennis courts of plastic per year,Terry says a lot of work still needs to be done and is alarmed how even a company of 30 employees could consume such extensive amounts.
“The industry needs to sit up and take action,” he concludes. “I am the fifth generation in this company and for me, it isn’t about profit but about purpose. I need to ensure that, as a company, we move forward with a long-term perspective so we can better serve our community, and the environment which we inhabit, for generations to come.”
The transparency that Terry offers in discussing such issues radiates optimism and, in sharing their journey, he encourages other business owners to follow suit. And, while change may not happen overnight, understanding it is the first step in adopting a long-term outlook towards a positive transformation for businesses in the future.
Images by Rob Luckins and Anglepoise
As featured in OnOffice 154, Spring 2021. Read a digital version of the issue for free here