The Leaf Lamp by Yves Behar: Fabulous or Flimsy?

Leaf Lamp by Yves Behar produced by Herman Miller: Modern LED lighting design

ID Magazine has recently come out with their 53rd Annual Design Review where they award a number of products and project top honors for design. They have named top honors in the consumer products division to the Leaf lamp by Yves Behar. I’ve been tempted to write about this product for a while now, but this just feels like the right time. For the designers who have been living in a cave, the Leaf lamp is a paradigm shifting one-of-a-kind task lamp. The design is (or was)unlike any task lamp because it uses extremely efficient and long lasting LED lights to illuminate the desk of the user.

I have experimented with LEDs myself, and there are several problems that this lamp has solved: First, LED color rendering is awful. The light produced gives a deathly blue glow. This light has pushed LED makers to create a warmer, whiter light which Mr. Behar took advantage of. Second, the new LED bulbs produced a heat problem and it looked like LED would lose its efficiency and minimal energy consumption characteristics because a fan would have to be used to cool the lights. This was unacceptable, so Yves Behar came up with a thin aluminum form that naturally dissipates the heat from the lights. Third, this may seem obvious now but it was not 5 years ago, Yves Behar wanted to create something beautiful with LED lamps. Up until the Leaf lamp, no one had really designed a high production consumer product with LEDs that didn’t either look robot-like or clunky. The leaf lamp, I feel, succeeds in getting away from the icon of LED clunkiness and brings it to a new level that anyone can really appreciate.

Leaf Lamp by Yves Behar produced by Herman Miller: Modern LED lighting design

I feel the Leaf lamp does have some drawbacks, though. I’ve handled one and felt that although the base feels solid, the thin leaves still look and feel a bit flimsy. For instance, the joint where the two aluminum leaves come together is so thin, it feels like some cheap pressed tin fabrication that could so easily bend. Of course, the piece is rock solid. Maybe this was the idea behind the design: to create something that looked incredibly flimsy but was tough as nails to fool the user. This is somewhat of a trend used by bridge designers, ect. to go thin because the computer analysis has told you where exactly to make it thick without anyone noticing. This has been successful in the past, but it falls flat with this lamp, I feel.

As flimsy as I think it is, it’s still a bold, and seductive lamp, and it may prove to be a classic of early 21st century design, so I would consider buying it at the price of $499. I think a challenger to the leaf lamp might be another LED lamp that just won the top prize at NeoCon 2007 this year called the Brazo lamp by Pablo. This beat out the likes of the leaf lamp, and maybe there is good reason.

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