Illuminating the Way Ahead — Nightlights from Vessel and Demotech


Sitting at opposite ends of the sustainable product design spectrum are two objects which have similar functions, but totally different aesthetics. They originate from very different briefs, but are both sustainable products designed to aide daily life. One is specifically designed to be homemade and the other is clearly a functional object of desire. One costs almost nothing, the other is retailed at $70. We are talking about the Companion Light by Vessel and the NightReader by Demotech. I am sure you can tell from the photos above which product sits at which end of the market! Both Vessel and Demotech have been featured on Treehugger before and it is interesting to compare how different their approaches are to sustainable design.Vessel is a pioneering design company that has been developing their rechargeable lamp range for several years. The Companion Light is a small light which can stand alone or be hung around the neck for hands free use. It has the added benefit of an LCD alarm clock. It is already available to buy in the States and Australia and is soon to be available in Europe. All Vessel lamps are designed with a minimalist aesthetic using innovative technology to provide beautiful, portable, rechargeable and in the end recyclable lamps. They are specifically designed so that the bulbs and the rechargeable batteries can be replaced during its life and it can easily be disassembled so that all parts can be recycled at the end of its life. However their hope is that that end won’t be anytime soon. Vessel say they specifically keep their designs simple so that they won’t go out of fashion. Their ambition is that their products will be being sold at garage sales in 30 years time – such is the longevity of their function and appeal! So when you are next exasperated at the price of things it might be worth thinking how long that investment might last you. In the long run it might turn out to be more economical than you thought.

Demotech’s NightReader probably doesn’t have the potential lifespan of Vessel’s Companion Light, but it is powered by ‘dead’ batteries! The idea of The NightReader is to make use every last drop of energy that batteries can supply. Once batteries are ‘dead’ i.e. they can no longer power an electrical appliance they do still have some power left. Demotech realised that with several batteries put together they could provide enough energy to power two LED bulbs, therefore creating a small lamp. The NightReader was originally designed for communities who have very little or no electricity, so that people can read after the sun goes down. This was inspired by tales of students standing under lampposts and studying by street light. The NightReader is designed specifically to be made from locally available materials, batteries that can be collected from the rubbish, tin that can be recycled from cooking oil cans. It should cost almost nothing to make and can be made by anyone without the need for specials tools or skills. When the NightReader was given to a community in Africa the potential for this night light was immediately seen as people not only used it to read, but also to cook with and find their way. So in the same way that Vessel have developed their nightlight systems for various functions, so there is possibility for Demotech’s NightReader to evolve.

There have in the past there have been critical comments posted on Treehugger about only featuring very expensive sustainable product design, asking what’s point if not everyone can afford to buy them. The general answer from Treehugger has been that we try to feature a wide variety of design products, some more or less expensive than others. The Companion Light and the NightReader show us just how wide that range is. The Companion Light shows top end design embracing new sustainable technologies while the NightReader is as low tech as it gets, showing how it is possible to design something from almost nothing. The price of the object is not always the most important thing. The inspiring thing is that there are designers out there working to improve and develop the sustainability of products at both ends of the spectrum.
::Companion Light by Vessel
::NightReader by Demotech
::Interview with Stefane Barbeau from Vessel
[Leonora & Petz]