OLD World Creativity & Innovation Week

OLD World Creativity & Innovation Week

The Age of Innovation: Timeless

Words by The Coolicon Team

Photo by Victor Albrow

Yesterday’s Innovation is Today’s Aesthetic

The 21st of April has been designated as World Creativity and Innovation Day by the United Nations. Although creativity can sometimes be hard to define, here at Coolicon® we are pretty confident that we understand a thing or two about innovation.  

Innovation doesn’t end with a product or a designer. Yes, they may be the innovator (the first person to come up with the brand-new concept or idea) but from their genius new ideas will develop, even in the minds of others. The legacy of the innovation lives on. Products, concepts, and ideas created many years, even decades, ago are as relevant today as they were when they came to fruition. 

Sir Donald C. Bailey, 1940’s


Sir Donald Coleman Bailey, pictured, was the civil engineer and designer behind the ground-breaking Bailey Bridge. Although he is no longer with us, he gifted a legacy that changed civil engineering projects and innovation across the globe. His efficient use of materials through space frames has gone on to inspire many projects across all boards of design. Here he sits under the light of a Coolicon® shade as he ponders over designs for his iconic Bailey Bridge.

Photo by Coolicon Lighting

An Innovation That Changed the Industry 

The Coolicon® brand has a rich heritage rooted deep within British culture. Many British greats including Winston Churchill, the NHS and the BBC have used Coolicon® shades in one way or another; from Churchill lighting his war bunker kitchen during WW2 to the BBC TV soundtracks featuring the shade as an eerie musical instrument. Chosen as the lighting brand to provide quality lighting and coherent design in parts of the London Underground network, the Coolicon® brand became synonymous with British industrial design and culture. But how did the Coolicon® lampshade become such a hit?  

In a short answer: Innovation. 

“Celebrating 90 years of lighting innovation and engineering.” 

Celebrating 90 years of excellence in lighting innovation and engineering, the legendary Coolicon® lampshades transformed the British lighting and industry with its original bi-directional light. Incorporating two large vents in the gallery allowed heat from the light bulb to escape upwards. This resulted in a 40% reduction (a lot of heat when using an old 150W light bulb) in heat, increasing the longevity of the bulb and saving companies the expense of rewiring frazzled electrics!   

The vented gallery also provided ambient light into the space, making it safer and healthier to work, increasing productivity with an added bonus of much less eye strain. There were no blue-light glasses in those days, but Coolicon® shades came to the rescue.  

Much greater than a fashion statement, Coolicon lighting products were designed with functionality in mind, an innovating product 90 years ago that is just as beneficial for today’s LED technology.

Photo from Ken Garland, courtesy of London Transport

Harry Beck’s Modern Design 

Coolicon® isn’t the only innovative British Design Classic from the 1930’s, far from it. In 1933, the same year as the Coolicon® was patented, another world-changing design came to life. Harry Beck, an English technical draughtsman, created the simple yet beautifully iconic design of the London Underground map. An ingenious realisation of a somewhat confusing underground system curated so eloquently that its modernised version is still in use today. Trained as an engineering draughtsman, Beck used his experience to map the complex tube route in the same colour co-ordinated format found in electrical diagrams.  

Did you know that Coolicon Lighting is the only company in the world with a license to use the original first edition Harry Beck map on a product in the way that we do? Our Underground Collection shades incorporate Beck’s map hand enamelled onto every shade, utilising the same minerals and oxides used by the people making the London Underground signs. 

“The only company in the world with a license to use the original first edition Harry Beck map on a product this way." 

You can read more about the evolution of the London Underground map on the Londonist website here.

Photo by Victor Albrow

The Timeless Denim Jeans 

A wardrobe staple and an all-time classic. Chances are the majority of you reading this article own, or are maybe even wearing your favourite pair of, jeans right now. Well, if that’s the case then you’ll be delighted to know that you’re sporting a classic design innovation of nearly 150 years old! 

Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis patented the first men’s riveted work pants in the US in 1873. Made from denim and designed for durability, this was the birth of the denim jean as we know it today. It is worth a mention that it wasn’t until 1960’s the term “jeans” was introduced - much more trendy than “waist overalls” we’d say. 

In the late 19th Century, denim jean, a mix of cotton, linen and wool became the material of choice for miners, farmers, and cowboys in the US. It only started becoming more popular in the UK in the mid-1940s. People started seeing the advantage of these stylish denim jeans for both hard-wearing and leisure activities.  

Jeans sold in the 1950s were only stocked in one length, so the buyers would roll up the cuffs of the jeans, revealing the inside of the fabric known as the selvedge. A lighter coloured denim than its counterpart, we drew on this familiar piece of clothing and its utilitarian heritage as inspiration for our Selvedge shade. 

In more recent years, the young British brand Hiut Denim Co. has been focusing on one thing and one thing only: “We make jeans. That’s all folks.”  

Reopening a disused jeans factory that was once a hub of activity, Hiut have brought back traditional manufacturing and craft skills to the small English town of Cardigan. A no-funny-business business, these guys have continued the legacy of the jean innovation while focusing on the quality and craftmanship of their products. They are also advocates of the “No Wash Club”, encouraging people to go as long as they can without washing their jeans. “What?!” you’re thinking. I know, but it’s not as crazy as it sounds. They are encouraging people to see the authenticity and individuality in their jeans which comes through general wear. “Made by us, but shaped by you”.

Photo by Moulton Bicycles

The Moulton Bicycle 

Another world first from Blighty? Well, we think this fine piece of bicycle engineering from engineer Alex Moulton deserves the crown.  

Utilising an ingenious space frame inspired structure, the folding bike is ultra-lightweight and compact while having a patented suspension system built in. Designed in 1962 (hopefully under the light of a Coolicon® shade) this rugged speed demon of a bike took commuters out of their car and off to work in style.  

Here at Coolicon Lighting the Design Studio is full of avid bike enthusiasts that can be seen whizzing through town on their way to work - rain or shine! With this zeal for two wheels the Moulton bike has a special place in our studio “items of admiration” list. 

There are many fine folding bikes out there, some better known, but none quite the Moulton.

Photo by Jonathan Manasco

Modern Innovation 

Innovation is something that has been installed in human nature. We have evolved through innovation and certainly wouldn’t be where we are today without it. Consider technology; the mobile phones that have become essential to our day-to-day and working lives weren’t even invented until 1973 when Motorola made the first successful call on the DynaTAC 8000X portable cell phone. The world moves fast, but innovation moves faster.  

Nevertheless, many modern innovations look back to the successes of the past to design for the present and future. A not-so-distant example is the 2012 Olympic Torch design. Created by British designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerb, the gold and aluminium body is perforated with 8,000 holes. This design feature not only reduces the weight but ensures that the heat coming from the flame is dissipated before reaching the handle. Talk about adding perforations in metal to disperse heat! When iconic designs meet innovation magnificent timeless things can happen. 


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