75 light years
1934: The beginning
On the 1st of July 1934, Reininghaus & Co. was entered into the Commercial Register, laying the foundations for the lasting success of the ERCO Light Factory. Arnold Reininghaus, together with Paul Buschhaus and Karl Reeber, founded the company in economically difficult times that were characterised by recession and unemployment. After only a few short years, the humble 6-man operation had developed into a successful mid-sized company that industrially produced luminaires for the home and sold through wholesalers and retailers. With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, production was shifted to the war effort, but just before the end of hostilities, the factory was destroyed in an air raid.
The founder: Arnold Reininghaus
The 1950s: Reconstruction and economic miracle
In 1946, twelve years after its foundation, the company had to start again from scratch. Co-founder Paul Buschhaus had fallen in the war, his heirs opting to be paid out, leaving Arnold Reininghaus and Karl Reeber to continue to run the business on their own. At the Hanover trade fair in 1947, which was held in tents, ERCO presented its pre-war catalogue pages. The company endeavoured to reconnect with former customers who had been scattered to the four corners of the earth. The reconstruction of Germany and the country's "economic miracle" brought a change of fortune: ERCO became the largest manufacturer of spring-balance luminaires in Europe.
Production facilities in the 1950's
Industrial mass production - the credo of Arnold Reininghaus
Around 1950 and facing the economic miracle with optimism: Arnold Reininghaus with staff.
1963: Beginning of the Maack era
In the mid 1960s, Reininghaus appoints his son-in-law Klaus Jürgen Maack to the ranks of management and puts him in charge of market research, product development and communication. At Lüdenscheid's northern city limits, on a site measuring around 30000m², the new production facilities and administration building take shape.
1968: Light not luminaires
Maack's analysis of the luminaire market led him to be rather sceptical about ERCO's future prospects. He reasoned that the changing lifestyle habits of the Germans and their European neighbours, combined with rising income and the resultant increase in prosperity pointed to a more discerning luminaire market. His resultant strategy focused on five points: light should become the central orientation of the company, product systems should take the place of individual products, findings from lighting technology should be channelled into the development stage and the design should have a longevity of at least ten years and be the work of renowned designers.
The new philosophy takes shape: the focus at the trade fair stand in 1968 is on the interplay of light, architecture and object shapes, with the lighting tools remaining discreetly in the background.
Discussion at top level in the late 1960s
Dieter Witte designed the TM spotlight, which is still produced to this day.
1974: Cooperation with Otl Aicher
With the "Light not luminaires" concept in mind, Klaus J. Maack met up with one of the most distinguished designers of his time: Otl Aicher (1922-1991). The initial meeting was only to negotiate the licensing of Aicher's pictogram system for a series of directive sign luminaires, but mutual respect and appreciation led to a cooperation and long-term partnership resulting in a new logo, printed media, a company brochure and catalogues. Further developed until the present day, this material ultimately led to ERCO's much-awarded corporate image.
A design icon of the '70s: the spotlight series from Roger Tallon with the characteristic basket protector.
The square stele with sphere is a reminiscent of the "Stone of Good Fortune" in Goethe's garden in Weimar and becomes a demonstration object and a key image for ERCO.
Downlight with glare-free Darklight reflector: ERCO uses a computer program to calculate the reflector contour for the first time ever.
The '80s and '90s: A global brand is born
Winning the German marketing award in 1980 gave the "Light not Luminaires" concept official recognition and acclaim. At the same time, the company was also expanding; sales and exports boomed and ERCO was developing into a global brand for light - with top international projects such as the Glass Pyramid of the Louvre in Paris and the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank in Hong Kong. Cooperation with outstanding personalities in the field of design inspired the company, spurring it onto new heights - documented by countless awards for product design, graphic design and corporate identity.
Lighting expertise as the deciding factor: ERCO technicians test the ceiling washlight for London's Stansted airport, a design by Norman Foster.
The Technical Centre in Lüdenscheid is completed in 1988. The design by Prof. Uwe Kiessler caused a stir among architects. The project's design brief was only one sentence: the building was to be like an "overall for engineers".
Oseris low-voltage spotlights with system accessories: the aesthetics of this advertising motif arose from the collaboration with the photographer Hans Hansen and the advertising expert Thomas Rempen.
The digital age
In the course of the Internet boom, the ERCO website was launched in 1996 at www.erco.com online. Following the accidental death of Otl Aicher in 1991, however, the development of a presence in digital media became the first design challenge the company had to tackle on its own. Since the reconstruction of the Reichstag in Berlin by Norman Foster in 1999, ERCO lighting tools have illuminated the new parliament. Digital electronics are not only starting to be used in communication and logistics but also in the lighting tools themselves.
tune the light: with this internationally understandable slogan, ERCO hopes to inspire lighting designers to fully exploit the creative options of modern, progressive lighting tools.
Digital electronics enter luminaire construction: not only in the control gear but also in the form of the LED as a light source.
Lighting systems with an increasing range of options require appropriately convenient user interfaces such as Light Studio for the configuration of Light System DALI.
What does the future hold?
In 2003, Tim Henrik Maack took over from his father as spokesman for the four-strong management team. He has set new priorities in ERCO's product policy without abandoning the old principles, because ERCO's claim of "Light not Luminaires" continues to apply. The key innovation of recent years is the introduction of the digital lighting control system Light System DALI under the motto "tune the light", standing for scenographic lighting and efficient visual comfort. The company focuses on new technologies such as LEDs as a maintenance-free and energy-saving alternative to conventional lamps and invests in the appropriate new developments.
The four managing directors of ERCO (from left to right): Marcus Schramm, Kay Pawlik, Mark Oliver Schreiter, Tim H. Maack.
A detailed account of ERCO's company history can be found in the Lichtbericht 88, which is also available for downloading in PDF format at:
ERCO's website, the Light Scout, has become the hub of information logistics: all information is available anywhere at any time.
ERCO has been using LEDs in orientation luminaires since as early as the year 2000. Today, experts agree that LEDs are the light source of the future.