Issue 12

A new culture
of light

 

Axel Meise

Photos by Matthias Ziegler Words by Oliver Herwig

Occhio founder and designer Axel Meise on the fine art of customer-whispering, technological breakthroughs, holistic brands and the future of light.

My main job
is basically

to keep saying

no till

everyting’s

perfect

Have you ever walked out of a hotel because of bad lighting?

 

A

M

No; once you’ve booked in, you just grit your teeth and get on with it. But I certainly didn’t stay there twice. Hotels, restaurants and shops live from the experience they offer, the quality of time spent there, the colours of the materials and the products. If you save on the lighting and on expert advice, you’ll end up with no customers at all. That’s pinching pennies in the wrong place. We always ensure we use the very best LEDs. That’s the Occhio philosophy: no compromise. It’s always been about realising a concept—the idea of using light as a medium for holistic design in private spaces and large-scale projects alike.

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It’s quite a popular slogan. What’s your take on it?

 

A

M

I see holistic as the opposite of the way it’s normally done, where a few items are picked out of a hotchpotch of diverse products. Our aim is to create a streamlined concept, not just slap together a mishmash of different materials, designs and light sources. Occhio supplies a lighting system in which the design, surfaces, light quality and control systems are streamlined and consistent throughout. The aim is to create the right lighting for every situation, but creating a consistent overall effect. That makes an enormous difference. Customers get that experience from a single Occhio lamp and then develop an appetite for more, enabling us to build up a loyal base of repeat customers. Like Apple.

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That emphasis on technology, user convenience and design quality certainly does have a certain Apple ring to it.

 

A

M

I hear that comparison a lot, and there is actually a lot of common ground between us. We feel we only partly belong to the lighting industry. I like to take brands like Apple for guidance and check out what they’re doing—but only so that I can do it all quite differently in our own industry.

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Could you explain what you mean by that? Making light into a cultural good and a luxury product?

 

A

M

Light has always been a cultural good, right from the Stone Age, when people would cluster around a fire that gave heat and light. It’s always been a cultural good in the form of artificial light, too—candles and gaslight. Then electric light came along, and some time or other the first LEDs appeared, and then energy-saving lightbulbs. And that was the moment when Ingo Maurer, for one, announced that he feared for the culture of light. Once people have experienced quality light, they no longer want to give it up. We adopted LEDs relatively late because we always sought to supply the very best quality that was the closest to halogen. In fact, there was a risk involved in the move from halogen and incandescent to LED, and many people suffered because of it.

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Occhio seems in many respects to be a thoroughly German phenomenon, consistently updating and advancing the system-based design from the 1960s.

 

A

M

But that’s the way the Swiss do it too! And the Danes. It’s such a sensible idea. An ecosystem doesn’t fall within a specific nationality, as our name shows; we deliberately ­decided not to use a German name for the product or the brand.

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Occhio

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