Living with a GoodNightLamp

by Dries De Roeck on September 16, 2015

Ever since Alexandra announced the GoodNightLamp as something that was going to happen ‘for real’, I have been a #lampfan. Since the beginning of summer I’ve been living with an actual, functioning, GoodNightLamp and I wanted to share some insights and general thought of how I’ve been experiencing it.

Should the GoodNightLamp not ring a bell at all, I suggest you read up over here or watch the video below.

Currently I think I have gone through 3 stages of use. Starting from getting acquainted with the product, to actually using it ‘for real’.

Phase 1 : ok, this is alpha stuff

My GoodNightLamp story started rather bumpy. I won’t go into too much detail, but initially it just didn’t function in a reliable way. Luckily communication with Alex and her team is very transparent, so we managed to arrange for sending my initial set of lamps back for technical maintenance. When they came back from surgery, things were looking a lot ‘brighter’.

Phase 1 reflection

The GoodNightLamp has only one interface element, being the button on the chimney. The nice thing is that the interface is so simple, but when something goes wrong it is (as a user) almost impossible to figure out what is happening or going wrong.

Being a designer interested in technology myself, I wanted to try to understand the system – how does it work? Can I open this lamp to fix it myself? But once I got over these thoughts and behaved like a ‘regular’ user, it started to make more sense. Embrace the magic of the lamp.


Phase 2 : maybe I’ll keep it for myself

Initially, I wanted to place one lamp in my parent’s house and one lamp in my own living room. But after thinking this through together with my wife, we concluded to that we’d see how we could use it to enhance social contact within our own family. It seemed to make more sense to inform each other about presence between work and home instead of knowing if one of our parents is home or not.

Phase 2 reflection

I think the aspect of distance played a role in evaluating who would receive the lamps in the first place. Both our parents live very close, and we tend to be in touch at least a couple of times a week. Another aspect which is playing a role here is that we wanted to experience the product ‘first hand’ first, before handing it over.


Phase 3 : looking for max. meaning

So we initially started out with placing the large lamp at my office near Antwerp and have the little lamp at home. The idea was that I’d light the large lamp when I arrived at work and switch it off when I left again. After doing this for a bit over a week, it was turning out to make very little sense. No-one was looking at the little lamp at home, and I was having all the fun at work because I could at least press a button. It was nice, but became monotone very quickly.

After that first week-and-a-half, I decided to switch the lamps. At that point, I realised that my children could play a crucial role in this whole lamp experience. It made much more sense that I would know when someone is home while I am at work, especially when my children are home. Also, my children would be the perfect subjects to assign the ‘switch the lamp on’ task to (as my wife would probably forget about it most of the time).

Currently this setup is working out wonderfully. We’ve been using it for over a week like this, and compared to the previous setup – this configuration is actually enriching. I’m psyched when the little lamp pops on while I’m working, and my children love to push the button on the large lamp. My 4 year old has started to see it as her ‘duty’, and takes it serious (perhaps a little too serious). Since the time that the lamps are on and off can vary quite a bit, it arouses curiosity – triggering conversations at the dinner table about what happened during the day.

Phase 3 reflection

The journey of figuring out how to maximise the meaning of the lamps has been an interesting one. Initially, I was a little disillusioned. But after trying things out iteratively, I’m really enjoying living with the GoodNightLamp. The critical thing will still be the evaluation over time, will it become a routine, or will I keep enjoying it?

The ‘hunt for meaning’ should not be underestimated, and I can imagine that it might put people off – turning the lamp into an overpriced paperweight at some point. I wonder to what extend people should be guided in finding meaning in products, in what way(s) they can be inspired to endeavour on a journey of exploration.

To conclude, by using the goodnightlamp I’ve figured out that the aspect of ‘temporality’ in Verganti’s definition of meaning might go a lot deeper than I thought (cfr this post on connected products and meaning). The meaning of a product is temporal, initially I thought about this related to products that ‘hype’ and fade away later. But by experiencing the goodnightlamp, I realised that one product can convey a type of meaning at one moment in time and evolve during use.


Why do I post this?

Over the years I’ve been working on connected products, and how they can become less technology centerend. The goodnightlamp is one of the examples I like to use when talking about connected products and meaning, but in order to keep using it as an example I feel obliged to use it myself and (critically?) reflect on my experiences.


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