1st September 2016
The Lamy cp1, for me, is a very special piece of design.
My emotional attachment to the object immediately gives it a deeper meaning than pure material appreciation and the fact that I have now owned it for almost three years, I feel very compelled to write about it.
The other particular reason behind me choosing to write about this object is it’s ability to facilitate the discussion regarding our current generations attitude towards disposable design and what this pen represents to contradict this ideology.
So in the nature of a teardown I shall analyse the physical attributes to hopefully uncover what they represent and then use this as a platform to support my point.
The Lamy cp1 was designed, firstly as a fountain pen, in 1974 by Gerd A. Müller - designer at Braun from 1955 to 1960 - and has since been re-imagined in ballpoint, rollerball and mechanical pencil form.
Arguably overshadowed by the fame of the Lamy 2000, also designed by Müller, it was recognised in 1988 as the winner of the iF design award: accredited for it’s embodiment of pure function.
Firstly the name, cp1, allegedly standing for cylindrical pen: very Braun-esque and also raises my first point which is the primary reason why I feel this pen is deserved of it’s “great design” tag. The main body of the pen is a perfect cylinder so there is no need to find a name that suggests anything more. We will soon see that this is reflected throughout the pen as it pushes all aspects to their functional limit: just before they transition into becoming “for show”.
The clip has a strong architectural appearance, with a polished steel finish, allowing it to contrast the brushed cylindrical body but still look perfectly at home, sitting proud.
Instead of purely depending upon the flex of the material, Lamy has incorporated a spring loaded mechanism with a very engineered feel. A nice touch to give the user a sense that the designer really has taken consideration throughout the process, which I feel is key to the user experiencing the pen in more than just just the physical sense.
The only branding is displayed as a light engraving on the clip which I feel again reflects the modesty of the design as it is only the user who is exposed to the branding, while they are writing.
The only break in form occurs solely where it is necessary; to afford the depression of the retraction mechanism.
One of my favourite portions of the pen lies at the top, with the subtle chamfer and radial reflection used to identify the piece. This to me demonstrates care during the manufacturing process and provides the product with that premium feel while maintaining a modest expression of form.
All these physical features embody a mix of industrial structure with the delicate attention to detail of craftsmanship, which I feel results in a object of pure beauty.
Now lets look at what the physical attributes of the product represent in the wider scheme.
As mentioned above, I feel a definite emotional attachment to my Lamy and a sense of ownership that leads me to have pride in hopefully keeping it with me for life.
When the topic of pens arises I often hear people replying with the response “I’m not going to buy a pen because I always lose them.” When I first considered buying a refillable pen myself, these words definitely crossed my lips as well, but I took the leap and here I am three years later with exactly the same pen… It quickly became apparent to me that I didn’t lose pens I just didn’t try to find them.
The conclusion which I and many others have come to is that this is rooted in the fact that we live in a world where products are so readily available to us that we have fallen into the habit of being part of a throw-away society.
I focus this post towards the idea that ‘disposable’ pens such as BIC’s or Staedtler’s do not offer the user any emotional attachment or sense of pride in owning one.
If we look at the differences between the Lamy and say a BIC we quickly see why we find ourselves in this throw-away society.
1. Lamy first makes a point of recognising all the designers that have played prominent roles in their products over the years, which promotes each pen’s individuality as opposed to BIC who often advertise the fact that they are able to churn out thousands of identical pens a day on their production line, leaving us with the message “lose them and we will simply make more”.
2. Lamy only sells their pens in individual packaging, supporting the idea that this is the only pen the user requires. BIC on the other hand sell in multipacks, practically telling the user before they have even bought the pen that they are going to require another.
3. The packaging in which a Lamy is contained lends itself to a reveal that leaves it’s mark upon the user, allowing them to cast their mind back to the first day they used the pen. In contrast to the BIC packaging which is only kept because the user now needs somewhere to keep the other 9 nine pens in the pack.
Aware of the fact that I am just putting my personal opinion forward I decided to see what other discussions on the web surrounded the topic.
Surprisingly this proved my point even further. When searching for more evidence I was bombarded with articles regarding “how to use all those pens you have lying around”, not, “how to prevent hundreds of pens cluttering your life”.
Even in a post dedicated to reducing pen waste, the last suggested solution - of five - is “Reduce the number of pens you buy”.
We are simply under the impression that pens are an item not to be taken care of and simply thrown away and replaced.
Now that we know that it is what the user experiences that gives them the sense of ownership over a product, we can look into the Lamy further to see how this experience is delivered.
What is most apparent to me is the way in which the Lamy finds the balance of being a pen which displays enough physical presence to initiate an attachment to the user, whilst at the same time doing a brilliant job of disappearing and simply acting as a tool.
I believe that what Müller has achieved is a pen that addresses all its attributes in a functional manner without adding supposed value through decoration or styling: which represents a certain beauty in itself.
I mention the value of experience as this has become one of the few products in my life - regarding my current financial situation as a student -where the fear over losing it is not determined by it’s monetary value. Being something so tactile, that facilitates the creation of numerous things, for me it has truly become an investment into the way I experience the world.
Obviously, what really sets a refillable pen apart is the refilling experience itself. The relationship that you develop with a pen after you have changed the first refill is completely different. It begins it’s cycle and has the power to make the pen feel new again which revitalise the users desire to care for it.
When you consider that a pen is an immediate connection to your hand which facilitates the raw, unfiltered expression of the mind. Does it not deserve to be an object in our life that we care for?
Hopefully this post has highlighted why I feel the Lamy cp1 is great design and exhibited my feelings towards the disposable nature of pens. Although I tend to get carried away, I am not enforcing the idea that everyone should run out and buy a reasonably priced, well designed, refillable pen but simply for people to stop and consider the content displayed here the next time they are offered a free pen or consider buying a 20 pack of disposable pens.