Redesigning the humble lightswitch

Posted by: Helen Walters on May 12, 2008

When I was in London recently, I popped in to see David Tonge and
Nicole Hodgkinson of the design firm, the-division, who have a small studio near Tower Bridge. I’ve known David virtually since his days at IDEO in San Francisco, but we’d never met in person, so it was good to put a face to the words.

Among the projects they showed me was this one, a conceptual project (I love this kind of stuff and those who’ve commented on the Non-Object motorcycle design reassure me that others do too) tackling the issue of the lightswitch.

I’m not sure I entirely agree with their thesis, that the switch “receives the least amount of design energy compared to other architectural hardware, lighting or electrical appliances”. But I do think it’s a realm that’s open to a lot of interesting design and experimentation beyond what’s currently available. I particularly like the idea of energy monitoring via a switch (first image below), which would help drive individual environmentally sensitive behavior and inculcate a sense of eco-responsibility within the home.

And the switch designed to be operated by an elbow when your hands are full strikes me as particularly useful (second image below). Though what happens when your hands aren’t full? Do you still have to elbow it to use it?

Once again, with the proviso that these are ideas intended to get people thinking/talking, not necessarily as market-ready designs, here (and after the jump), are five of the-division’s ideas for updating the lightswitch, with their own descriptions/comments embedded within the image files and written as captions beneath:

04.jpg

The way we interact with products has changed from wires and levers to wireless connections and microswitches. This switch combines a keypad and information display that via wireless technology shows you how much energy you have used.

01.gif

We often try to carry too much and resort to using our elbows, shoulders, noses etc. to operate our lights. This switch has a large rubber surface so you can hit it without precision.

03.gif

Computer sleep lights, remote car keys, wireless phone pagers all have characteristics that allow us to find them. This switch uses a computer sleep light to help us locate it in the dark and once found the angled surface tells us where to press it.

02.jpg

Many of us enjoy living in period houses [Ed: reminder that the author lives in the UK!], relishing traditional and decorative architectural features. These switches use color and decoration alongside spacial location as a visual clue to which light you are operating.

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Relationships with everyday objects show us how they anticipate our interaction -- for example, it's the saucer's job to guide the cup. This subtle switch uses ceramic surfaces, inviting your finger to explore.

Reader Comments

PENY

June 3, 2008 8:56 PM

THIS IS AN OLD IDEA. FOR 25 YEARS NOW, I HAVE A LIGHTSWITHCH I HAVE OPERATED WITH MY ELBOW. CLICK IN CLICK OUT.

Ray

June 12, 2008 1:18 AM

What? No mention of The Light Switch by Amron Experimental?

www.AmronExperimental.com/OFF_Light_Switch_Hook.html

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What comes next? The Bloomberg Businessweek Innovation and Design blog chronicles new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.

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