A/D/O by MINI | Tala: A Beacon of Sustainable Light

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Tala: A Beacon of Sustainable Light

Finding a niche in the market, British company Tala tasked itself with creating low-energy lighting that still feels cozy, warm and well-designed.

For many years, low-energy lighting was synonymous with ugly lighting – who can forget the original energy saving bulb: long, white, tripartite, like a badly crafted balloon sculpture with an austere glow? But the past decade has seen leaps forward in lighting technology, and one of the most exciting pioneers of low-energy illumination to emerge is Tala, an award-winning British lighting brand dedicated to “conservation through beauty.”

Tala's various collections of LED bulbs achieve a warm, attractive glow, while using up to 90 percent less energy than equivalent incandescent bulbs and lasting 10 to 15 times longer. But beyond that, each Tala bulb serves as a covetable design object in its own right, embodying the company’s founding premise – that good design can help mitigate climate change.

Among Tala's low-energy lighting is the Voronoi range, influenced by naturally occurring patterns.

Tala was founded in 2013 by Joshua Ward, Maxwell Wood and William Symington, who met as students at the University of Edinburgh and bonded over their shared interest in sustainability, technology and design.

“At the beginning our goal was very broad – we asked ourselves what the low-carbon economy needed to look like for our generation,” Ward told The Journal, speaking from Tala’s office in a former East London textile warehouse. “We had a trepidation of joining large companies where we’d have to fight to put our values on the agenda so, after graduating, we thought we’d try to start something ourselves.”

The brand's Porcelain range is based on four shapes with distinct geometries, including Enno.

Tala actually began as a solar-panelling project, Ward explained, but soon the founders stumbled upon a gaping niche in the design market. “We were working on a lot of heritage buildings and the architects we met kept asking about lighting. These huge estates, like wineries or restaurant and hotel chains, knew that they could dramatically reduce their carbon footprint by switching to low-energy lighting but the aesthetic problem that posed was major. Lighting is an emotional thing, and creating a pleasant environment for their customers usually trumped these businesses’ desire to reduce their carbon emissions.”

And that was when the proverbial lightbulb came on: after a fruitless, worldwide search for aesthetically pleasing, low-energy bulbs, Ward and co. realized that this trail was theirs to blaze. “We began by developing a series of basic LED candelabra bulbs for chandeliers, which we thought were very beautiful, and taking them to really high-end lighting showrooms, as we knew they’d be the harshest critics,” he said. The reaction exceeded all of their expectations, with retailers putting in orders then and there – and Tala, the lighting company, was born. 

Lights in Tala's Feature range, like Gaia, use more filaments to create "a nostalgic incandescence."

Launching officially in March 2015, Tala first produced its Classic range, “focussed on functional form factors, like candles and glow bulbs, designed to retrofit most standard fittings but lasting up to 30,000 hours,” Ward said. Then the team decided to tap into the burgeoning trend for exposed bulbs – “that minimalist industrial look that broke out of Brooklyn loft spaces in the 1990s and spread like wildfire.''

They noticed that most existing designs produced a harsh glow, so set out to rectify this with their hugely popular Feature range. “It’s a playful collection with larger shapes,” Ward explained. “And uses more filaments, arranged in geometric patterns, to spread the intensity of the light and create a nostalgic incandescence.”

Oval is another shape from the Porcelain range, influenced by Art Deco shapes.

Since then, Tala has continued to push at the boundaries of bulb design in creative new ways. Its Porcelain range is inspired by the elegantly streamlined shapes of the Art Deco movement, its bulbs boasting a matte, opal finish that recalls porcelain, while its Voronoi collection draws on biomimicry to stunning effect. Available in three sizes – the largest of which currently holds the title for the biggest sculptural bulb in existence –Voronoi is inspired by two naturally occurring patterns: the Voronoi diagram (a tessellation found in overlapping forest canopies) which informed the organically shaped, mouth-blown exterior; and the Fibonacci sequence, which determined the spacing of the single filament that winds its way around the bulb’s central column.

“Our main goal is thoughtful design,” said Ward. “We want our lights to have a long life-cycle and to remain relevant. We also have a tight material palette – we try to avoid plastic and reduce components where possible so that the afterlife is minimal.” Tala also works with reforestation programs around the globe in an effort to offset its carbon emissions. This enlightened approach has seen the company go from strength to strength in recent years – Tala now employs almost 40 people, boasts a large clientele across Europe and North America and operates a successful partnership channel to help leading lighting designers transition to LED technology. 

Tala co-founder Josh Ward.

But what does the future hold? “We’ve recently been investigating the concept of wellness indoors and what constitutes ‘healthy light’,” Ward divulged. “Looking at how lighting levels and colors can affect your melatonin and serotonin levels, for instance. Our new Sphere range, which is launching this spring, consists of perfectly spherical orbs that go from a really warm 2,000 kelvins – a cozy, candlelit warmth – all the way up to 2,800 kelvins, a colder light to stimulate focus.” 

Tala will also release the Light Engine, he revealed: “a range that’s designed to go behind thick materials like marble and blown-glass, which are used a lot in classic lighting design but which normal LED lights don’t illuminate properly – so they become more decorative than functional. It’s literally an engine of light, which we hope will give new life to those existing designs, while opening up interesting possibilities in terms of working with new upcycled materials.” This dual dedication to problem solving and conscious innovation is exactly what the lighting industry needs to carry it forward in the climate crisis era, and Tala is undoubtedly one of its brightest beacons.

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