The lighting industry is meeting the phase out of general service incandescent-lamp production—which went into effect for 60W and 40W varieties earlier this month—with a handful of new LED and CFL lamps that aim to replicate the user experience of their incandescent forerunners. Among them is Philips’ SlimStyle LED 60W-replacement lamp, which is catching buzz for its thin profile and familiar A-shape form factor. Architectural Lighting spoke with Todd Manegold, the company’s director of marketing for LED lamps, about whether the product’s reinterpreted shape, minimal heat sink, and low price-point relative to previous models might help turn consumers onto the new technology.
Describe the form factor. Why is this latest version of the company’s A19 LED replacement lamps “flat”?
We positioned the LEDs in a ring and used a plastic [shell] to control the output, bending the light into an omnidirectional output. The result is a very minimalist design that manages heat effectively. We were trying to streamline the design and make it as consumer-friendly as possible.
What do you mean by “consumer friendly”?
It’s about getting away from a very technical lamp. Two years ago, our 60W-replacement lamp [which won the Department of Energy’s L Prize competition in 2011] had a gray base, a very bulky heat sink, and it was yellow because we used blue LEDs and a remote phosphor to change it to white light. It was a good technical solution. And if you’re a techy consumer or a professional user, you’re willing to accept those types of things. But [SlimStyle’s] streamlined look and Edison shape gives you a more recognizable product.
Is there an opportunity for lighting manufacturers to play with the shape of replacement lamps and their light output to create a better lighting experience?
Because LEDs are becoming increasingly efficient, the design flexibility also is increasing. We’re able to use the flexibility of LEDs’ small form factor to do something different, rather than be beholden to something that’s the shape that people have known for years. But we recognize that there is comfort in having some level of familiarity, so that’s where you see the round shape of SlimStyle.
How do you help consumers with the technology transition?
I’m not sure we [lighting] as an industry know, quite honestly, but we can challenge the paradigm of what people expect from lighting in a couple of different ways. One way would be to challenge the form factor—but changing the shape and doing things that are really creative but charging $50 per lamp may not be the right thing to do. On the other extreme, you could challenge what lighting can do for [users] completely, such as [Philip’s] Hue, which gives users the ability to create an entire experience with a [smart] phone. There are opportunities to challenge the paradigm of lighting on both fronts.
To your latter point, about altering the overall experience, what does that mean for the “light bulb”?
What you end up seeing is that an individual lamp is part of a larger system. Where a lamp was basically a disposable item in the past, it now becomes almost a durable good. What we should expect from lighting is not simply that it delivers light but that it actually allows you to do something with it, and it becomes more of an active component of people’s living.
Will the form of this next-generation lamp be different from that of the traditional Type A socket?
Maybe. As an organization we want to make things that people recognize, but what people really recognize is the light output and the experience that they get from the product and less so the shape, at the moment. So if the [new] shape is at an output that’s like what we’ve seen in the past, that’s OK.
Where is the opportunity to use LED technology to improve the lighting experience?
Every one of us knows what an incandescent feels like when we turn it on in our house. Whether we admit it, I think that’s what people are expecting. The opportunity for us to create a similar or uniform lighting effect is important. The areas for improvement are the fact that not only are we delivering a quality light effect, but we’re also doing it with something that saves users energy and lasts 25,000 hours. So lighting is not something [consumers] have to worry about.
This interview has been edited and condensed.