People + Places

Ingo Maurer: 50 Years of Artful Lighting

In 1967, Ingo Maurer designed his first lamp, simply named “Bulb.” A seemingly inauspicious beginning to what would turn out to be a very auspicious lighting career.

Over the past 50 years, Maurer has established himself as one of the most important lighting designers of our time, bringing wonder and art to his creations.

Ingo Maurer. Image via

Maurer was born May 12, 1932 on the island of Reichenau on the lake of Constance in Germany. After an apprenticeship as a typesetter, Maurer moved to Munich to study graphic design. Then in 1960, he headed for the USA, where he worked as a freelance graphic designer in New York and San Francisco.

Three years later, he returned to Germany to found Design M, a lamp company that developed and manufactured Maurer’s designs. The company was later renamed Ingo Maurer GmbH. One of his first designs was the aforementioned Bulb.

Bulb Table Lamp from Ingo Maurer

Bulb displayed the young designer’s eye for ingenuity. By treating the bulb itself as a remarkable piece of design, he showed the world a capacity for seeing what others often overlook. It showed that he saw a world of infinite possibilities before him. Today, Bulb resides in the Museum of Modern Art, proving right from the get-go that Maurer knew how to blend art and lighting together.

Zettel’z 5 Chandelier from Ingo Maurer.

This trend of finding inspiration in unlikely places has continued unabated, as evidenced by the Zettle’z Chandelier (designed in 1997). He took the look of a standard Bohemian chandelier and replaced the crystal drops with scribbled notes. These notes and letters show Maurer’s romantic side. The piece evokes images of some poet or young lover sitting at a writing desk in warm light.

YaYaHo low-voltage system (1984), by Ingo Maurer and team.

In 1984, he presented a low-voltage wire system called YaYaHo. Consisting of two horizontally fixed metal ropes and a series of adjustable lights, this design shows Maurer’s free spirit. Allowing for adjustments and unique configurations, this system makes it clear that Maurer has no interest in being beholden to rigid structures in his lighting designs.

In 1989, the Foundation Cartier pour I’Art Contemporain (Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art) organized the exhibition “Ingo Maurer: Lumiere Hasard Reflexion” (Ingo Maurer: Light Chance Reflection). Since then, his artful designs have been presented in a series of special exhibitions and installations all around the world.

But Ingo Maurer is also a playful man. He told DesignBoom earlier this year, simply: “I like to have fun.” No collection embodies this better, perhaps, than the Birds collection. The Lucellino Table Lamp, designed in 1992, possesses a whimsical design with its winged bulb. And the name itself is a play on words, coming from the Italian words luce, meaning light, and uccellino, meaning little bird.

Five Butterflies Table Lamp from Ingo Maurer

Maurer also has an eye for nature. It’s one that’s perhaps best embodied by his Five Butterflies Table Lamp, which showcases a group of butterflies dancing around a light. Or there’s the serpentine Alizz C. Cooper Pendant Light and Alizz F. Cooper Floor Lamp, which looks like a snake slithering down from a tree branch.

Alizz C. Cooper Pendant Light from Ingo Maurer

Today, at 85 years young, Maurer continues to design beautiful works of art for public and private spaces alike. He has won eight design awards and owns multiple showrooms in cities like Munich, Sao Paulo, and New York.

The selection of designs shown here is only the tip of the artistic iceberg, of course. Visit YLighting for many more examples of Maurer’s and his design team’s creativity over the past 50 years.

Rhyen Clevenger

Rhyen Clevenger

Rhyen Clevenger is a site merchandiser at YLiving. While he is new to the bath team, it does not hinder his enthusiasm for decorative plumbing. On the weekends he enjoys curling up with his wife and watching some good science fiction.

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