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A Bright Idea by K8 2014-11-26
Studio Isidor;Samples from Bright Products

About four years ago, industrial design agency K8 in Oslo got creative with a lighting project. Several thousand working hours later, they have designed a multi-purpose solar lamp and mobile charger in one, won an Alex Bogusky Common Pitch award and started a social entrepreneur project.

K8 has for many years been one of the leading innovative Scandinavian design studios, introducing products such as the Stokke Xplory baby stroller. Over the past two years, the design studio has been aiming at giving the poorest people in the world a better life through smart designs with integrated, affordable technology.

It all started in 2008, when some of the K8 designers participated in a group project at the Risør International Design Biennial. The task was to create attractive solar powered lighting. Starting out, it was a solution for people in the western countries to have in their cabins, boats and so on, and not a project for developing countries.

«However, our studio was planning to go greener and as we developed this concept further, we knew that this was our chance to make a difference», says Marius Andersen , founder of K8 and product developer/co-founder of Bright, the company that was started later to focus on developing the lighting project.

Why is it that there exists functional and attractive solar lighting for rich people to have in their cabins when they choose to go off the powergrid, but only simple and less functional ones for poor people who are off-grid all the time? The designers at K8 asked themselves this and several more questions. Over the following years they researched third world power prices and shortages and other off-grid related issues. They found that the products that were on the market often were designed in a way that would not show off your home in the best light, so to speak. By travelling and talking to people from many parts of the world, the designerssoon realised that both rich and poorhave similar needs when it comes to lighting.

«Good lighting is important to all people. We didn´t want to design lighting for poor people and not take the same needs into consideration, as we would do designing for people who areKristian Bye;Hung around her neck the lamp allows her to have both hands free better off. So we set out to design a solar powered lamp that would be equally functional and attractive to people all over the world, no matter if they are connected to a powergrid or not», says Andersen. He adds that a mind-boggling 1.4 billion people who are among the poorest in the world, currently have weak, polluting and expensive kerosene lamps as their only light source. Kerosene is much more expensive than using electricity from a power grid, but where there is no grid, there is no choice. This means the people using kerosene actually spend more money on their limited power supply than what people do in western countries.

Over the past two years, K8 have tested tenfolds of design prototypes in both the Norwegian woods as well as small villages in Kenya, Tanzania and Bangladesh. They have found many different ways to use the lamp design that they eventually ended up with, such as for reading, ceiling-mounted lighting in the house, and much more. Hung around a midwife´s neck, like a necklace, the lamp will give her enough light to see what she´s doing and have both hands free at the same time. The lamp can even work as a smartphone speaker for playing music, without requiring power to do so.

During the design process, it was also important to Andersen that they gave good thought to what happens after the product has been in use for a while.

«It´s so easy to get enthusiastic about new design. But what happens is that new problems can arise, like if you use batteries, can they be recharged or can you recycle them? And what about when wires are lost or broken? Can you get parts or do you need to buy a whole new lamp? Do you need a lot of paper and plastic in the packaging of the product, or can you solve it differently», he says.

In 2011, Andersen got his friend Kristian Bye onboard founding the company Bright Products together. Bright Products was set up to develop, produce and sell the Bright lamp and other environmentally friendly energy solutions to the off-grid market in the future. Bye is a marketing and communications specialist with 18 years of experience from ad agencies such as Bates, D´Arcy and DDB.  As an entrepreneur by heart, Bye signed up to be CEO and co-founder of Bright Products, and left his nice big office and well-paid job as CEO of Apt, a digital agency with 50 highly qualified employees within concept development, design and production of websites and digital campaigns. He admits to having had some sleepless nights and a little panic in the beginning, but Bye wanted to dedicate time to develop the potential of both the lamp and the company that had come from it.

«In Bright Products I am selling new ideas, just like I did before. But here, there´s a chance to make an idea manifest into a company and that is an adventure that I would not want to miss out on,» he says.

During the summer of 2011, Bright Products participated in the Common Pitch. Common is a concept initiated by Alex Bogusky , previous advertising «rock star» from the ad agency Crispin Porter & Bogusky, and presently a social entrepreneur in Colorado - getting just as much attention for doing that as he did before. The Common Pitches are three to four days of bootcamp workshops, speakers, food, music, provocative thinking and an onstage competition where 8 to 10 finalists pitch their best ideas in front of expert judges, a live audience and an online voting community. The winner takes home cash, prizes, strategic support, fame and glory.

«We went there, presented and won the whole shebang», Andersen says.

And by winning the Common Pitch, the Bright lamp really got off to a flying start getting lots of attention. The product was also awarded with the International Design Award in Los Angeles.

Kristian Bye;Makes reading so much easier

Now, the next step is to get the Bright lamp into production and distributed to people. In close cooperation with the Norwegian charity organisation Care, Bye and Andersen developed a crowdfunding campaign to address the first orders and financing tools for production. Consultants from Innovation Norway have also contributed with advice on how to move the project forward.

«We have been researching and dealing with partners on distribution and production, as well as chasing investors so that we can go into production phase. Time is a challenge, we really just need to get things up and running, while looking at how we are going to present the product to different markets at the same time», Bye says.

In the western countries, the lamp will probably be distributed through selected stores and online shopping by October or November 2013. Bye is also looking at different possibilities, for example to do a «shop one - give one free» activity through online stores. That way, people who buy a Bright lamp will be supporting someone having the same lamp for free in a developing country.

Bye also wants to get in touch with business partners who can contribute to the funding models in areas where light is needed the most.

«We want to engage women in remote rural communities, through microfinancing, downpayment plans and similar. Collaborating with partners that already have established trust and infrastructure to do this, is something we would really like to do.» 

Anna Karolin Langhammer

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