Looking good at 80, the Anglepoise 1227 is still a perfectly balanced piece of design, rare for having entered the public consciousness
Great innovative leaps often come about by accident. The scientists behind Viagra were actually trying to treat high blood pressure. Post-it notes were developed by a man searching for a superglue formula, and the Slinky spring owes its creation to a naval engineer trying to stabilise instruments in rough seas. Anglepoise’s classic 1227 lamp has similarly incidental beginnings. In the 1930s, car designer George Carwardine, a specialist in suspension systems, invented a spring that held its position if moved. He found that when the springs were applied to pivoting arms, the resulting structure aped the mechanics of human limbs.
In 1932, the Anglepoise 1209 was launched, which evolved into the 1227 two years later following a softening of its industrial aesthetic for the domestic market. The lamp set new industry standards in terms of flexibility and balance. In the first half of the century, writing lamps were characterised by ball-and-socket, height-adjustable or counterbalanced designs.
At the time there was nothing with quite the athleticism of Carwardine’s invention. Although it was tweaked over the following decades, the 1227 became the company’s defining product. Indeed, it wasn’t until 2003 that Anglepoise deemed it necessary to overhaul it, drafting in legendary industrial designer Kenneth Grange, who created a new series: Type3, Type75, Type1228 and the Type C LED.
The 1227 is one of those rare products to have entered popular consciousness, a version appearing, for example, in the opening credits of every new Pixar release. Carwardine’s design was perhaps paid the ultimate accolade when it appeared on a set of Royal Mail stamps, alongside the London Tube map, the telephone box and the Mini.