Leading light

by agwelch

Piece from New Design 111 on designer Jake Dyson and the Ariel LED lighting system

It turns out that an interview with Jake Dyson isn’t merely an interview – it’s a technical demonstration and chemistry lesson to boot. We’ve only been speaking for minutes before the design-engineer, as he defines himself, is playing science master and inviting me to stir a metal rod in a beaker of hot water. Within moments my fingers are too warm for comfort; I waggle the rod in the neighbouring beaker of cold water and very quickly it cools.

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Dyson is demonstrating one of the technologies within the Ariel light, a long-life LED light fitting developed by his company Jake Dyson Products. One problem with existing LED products is that the quality and colour of the light is compromised by running the LEDs at high temperatures. The Ariel uses six heat pipes (one of which I had been testing) to move heat rapidly away from the LED chip – this allows the Ariel to last for around 40 years, many times longer than existing LED light fittings.

A host of further innovations means that the Ariel will offer unprecedented efficiency, light quality, and control over direction of light for an LED product. The Ariel takes its name from the first British satellite, which itself used heat pipe technology to deal with the temperature extremes of space, and the satellite’s influence can also be perceived in the product’s winged form. Ariel follows the success of Dyson’s CSYS task light (an LED light that used heat pipe technology) and has the objective of providing a high-power, long-lasting suspension light that emits an even source of light over a wide area.

Dyson explains that his approach to design is informed by a passion for engineering. “We are very much engineering led in thinking about improving the function, quality, and reliability of light,” he says. “We are incredibly scientific. We don’t buy an LED and stick it to something and sell it. We look at the entire system: the optics, efficiency, removal of heat, and the electronics. Everything that’s involved in improving a product and making it groundbreaking we do.”

His ambition is as uncompromising as his dedication to understanding engineering and its relationship with product development. In the downstairs workshop of the Jake Dyson Products Farringdon studio he shows me boxes of components from the dismantled products of competitors. Dyson gives them short shrift as he feels the attention to technical detail in evidence does not compare with his own work.

Thanks to its heat removal technology, the Ariel can use a single powerful point source meaning the light casts a single shadow (competitive products that use banks of LEDs cast several). Furthermore, Dyson has designed a range of bespoke lenses (one for downlighting the other for uplighting) that improve the quality and distribution of light. “With one LED light and one lens we can achieve an area of four by two metres with an even 500 lux,” he explains.

A trimming system is incorporated into the fitting allowing light to be directed exactly where it is needed, thus making Ariel ideal for application in the lighting of office desks, boardroom tables and kitchen islands.

Dyson believes that his commitment to technology and engineering has enabled him to create a unique product. “You can’t use this chip without our heat sink; and you can’t get the volume of efficient light without our lens,” he says. “It will take time to get the message across and lots of demonstration but we have a cost effective and viable product.”

Ariel encapsulates an approach to product design that is grounded in a love of engineering. “In everything I design form follows function,” continues Dyson. “That’s the big rule. Engineering is beautiful when it is visible. Take the CSYS task light for example – the entire mechanism is exposed, there‘s not one bit of ‘excess fat’ on the model. Everything you see is doing a job and it therefore becomes something beautiful, a piece of mechanical sculpture.”

With a product designed to last for 40 years it is understandable that fashion and trend did not play any significant part in the design of Ariel. In any case, Dyson is not interested in such apparent frivolities; he wants to design products that redefine standards and conventions within their sector. “Form following function allows objects to stand the test of time visually,” he states. “Our focus is to innovate and combine that with a product with a strong identity and engineering beauty. I don’t want to be playing part of a trend; I want to be setting a trend. We’re trying to set the guideline for the future of lights and maybe all lights will end up looking like this.”

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Jake Dyson completed a foundation course at Filton College, Bristol before studying industrial design at Central St Martins College of Art and Design, London. However, since the age of 13 he had been involved in the worlds of design and engineering after a family friend taught him the skills of using a mill and lathe. Following graduation Jake worked in interior design before establishing his own practice Jake Dyson Products in 2004. Under Jake’s leadership the company has developed a number of acclaimed lighting products including the CSYS task light (2011).

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