The Interview: Tala Lighting

We caught up with Tala Co-Founder, Max Wood to find out more about Britain's most stylish and sustainable lighting brand

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The Interview

Specialising in energy-efficient LED light bulbs, Tala was founded just four years ago by friends Max Wood, William Symington and Joshua Ward and the trio has been lighting up the design world ever since. After studying together at the University of Edinburgh, the friends and co-founders set out to create a stylish, successful and environmentally friendly brand.

With style and sustainability at the core of the brand’s ethos, Tala not only illuminate commercial and residential spaces across the globe but inspire consumers to have a positive impact on sustainability. We catch up with co-founder, Max Wood to find out more…

Tala focuses on the idea that good design can help mitigate climate change, can you tell us more about how this idea evolved?

We started Tala because we wanted to build a commercial business that took its responsibility as a manufacturer seriously. Balancing economic growth and the use of natural resources is a challenge and should be a concern for everyone, but ultimately the three of us decided that the only way we were happy to do business, was to address the impact that human consumption has on the environment.

This is why Tala’s reforestation programme was created the moment we established the business. When we first started in 2015, we onboarded the Heart of England Forest who work to build and protect native broadleaf trees in England. Fast forward to 2019, we now collaborate with the National Forest Foundation in the US, and Weforest, who we are working with on a regeneration project in the Khasi Hills of India.

The main advantage of being a commercial company with philanthropic commitments is that as the business grows, we can upscale our efforts with it. This means that we can have a greater impact and do more on an international level in the longer term.

Tala Lighting

Where does the inspiration for each collection come from?

Products within our Design Collection are always influenced by nature, such as our Voronoi range which is inspired by the Voronoi pattern found in the natural world, in everything from pine cones to zebra skins. Our other collections have a greater focus on functionality and being the best possible product of its kind, due to the advanced technology and components that they utilise.

Our in-house design and engineering teams work together extensively to ensure that the aesthetics of our products are not compromised by technological needs, and vice versa. The result of this is design-led products that are not only beautiful, but efficient and technologically superior as well.

How has Tala managed to achieve such commercial success whilst remaining environmentally friendly?

‘Conservation through beauty’, Tala’s founding promise, reminds us that the core of our brand is concerned with creating beautiful products that have a positive impact on the environment. We research heavily into the technology that we use so that our products are as efficient as possible, in terms of energy consumption and overall performance. However, our commercial success is due to not compromising on the business’ values, and remaining committed to creating products that are beautiful, but also meet the needs of the consumer.

Can you tell us a bit about the design process at Tala?

The process for designing each product is different and depends on what our motives are for creating it. We always ask questions like ‘Is this unique and something our customers would like?’, ‘Are these initial concepts in line with our brand ethos?’…from there, our Design team build out the research and development process to test and consider as many different forms, shapes and materials as possible, before confirming the final design.

Tala Exclusive

You met your co-founders whilst studying at university, what did you learn there that has influenced you today?

Aside from the art of mischief, we all studied sustainability through a variety of lenses. This coupled with an intrigue for business led us to our most valuable lesson - that we wanted to set up a profit-making company of our own that could help solve the problems on energy security.

In 2017, Tala presented the world’s largest sculptural bulb at London Design Festival. What kind of techniques where used to achieve such an accomplished design?

Our Design team created a 3D model of the Voronoi pattern and smoothed its edges to simulate natural erosion over time. We then introduced the singular spiral LED filament to mimic the Fibonacci sequence (also known as the golden ratio). Each Voronoi is individually made from mouth-blown glass in a cast iron mould and then subsequently finished by hand, so that no two are the same.

The research and development process took about 18 months, however Voronoi I and Voronoi II, the Voronoi III’s younger siblings, were launched the year before, so most of the research and tooling had already been done. The challenge was to work out how to make it bigger, without compromising any of the specifications of the initial design. Suffice to say there were highs and lows, however, the collection has become central to the Tala brand.

Tala Lighting Production

What’s the best part about working at Tala?

No day is the same, we overcome complex problems, the team is great and we’re doing our best to accelerate the low carbon economy.

As a young company with a focus on sustainability, do you feel like you have a responsibility to continually inform and inspire your audience?

If we didn’t we wouldn’t be doing our job properly! A lot of fans of the brand tend to already be advocates of sustainability and buy into us because of our ethos. However, we strongly believe that sitting inside an echo chamber is never productive for anyone, which is why it’s so important for us to reach new audiences. This allows us to inspire people who are less aware of environmental issues about the small changes they can make to their purchasing habits and lifestyle, that can make a difference in the long run.

What’s on the horizon for Tala in 2019?

Milan Design Week is right around the corner for us, and we’re excited to display our brand on the biggest stand we’ve ever taken on at a trade fair! Euroluce, Salone del Mobile’s lighting fair only happens once every two years and is arguably the biggest international trade fair in the world dedicated to lighting, so it’s a huge opportunity to show the design community who we are and what we’re working on. We’re also looking forward to taking part in NYCxDesign and London Design Festival later in the year. Watch this space for more info!

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