The biography of Ingo Maurer by Bianca Killmann for TAGWERC

Biography of Ingo Maurer

“The quality of light is more important to me than the form and so I have concentrated on that,” is how Ingo Maurer describes his work as one of the most important lighting designers of the 20th century. His luminaire designs are preceded by the iconic “Bulb” luminaire, which came into being in 1966 by a twist of fate and which has accompanied Ingo Maurer throughout his life: “The light bulb has always been my leitmotif, right from the start.” Maurer’s designs are manifold and are sometimes created in symbiotic cooperation with other designers, as in 2012 with Moritz Waldemeyer for the LED lamp with the significant name “My New Flame”.

Ingo Maurer was born on 12 May 1932 as the son of a fisherman and inventor on the German island of Reichenau in Lake Constance. Together with four siblings, he grew up here free and close to nature before Mauerer trained as a typographer in nearby Constance. From 1954 to 1958, Mauerer studied graphic design in Munich. Two years later he took the opportunity to gain professional experience as a graphic designer in the United States – in New York and San Francisco – until 1963. Back in Germany, Maurer founded “Design M” in 1966, a company for industrial design under which his own luminaire designs were developed, manufactured and marketed until they were ready for production. “Bulb”, an oversized light bulb, was one of his first designs in 1966 and was immediately included in the permanent design collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York in 1969.

Love at first sight

The genesis of the “Bulb” table and floor lamp is as simple as it is ingenious. Maurer says he was working in Venice and returned to his simple hostel after a wonderful meal with a bottle of red wine. There, a ‘naked’ light bulb illuminated his room. “It was like a ‘coup de foudre’ (‘love at first sight’)!” recalls Maurer. Still tipsy, he sketches a lamp and the next day looks for a manufactory on Murano that produces a first draft for the glass within a day and a half. Back in Munich, a base of pressed metal is added to the glass. “The Bulb was born!”

Tears of the fisherman

But it doesn’t always go from the first idea to the finished object as quickly as with “Bulb”. “With some ideas I go ‘pregnant’ for a long time.” For example, the “Lacrime del Pescatore”. The charismatic light object, which consists of three nylon nets, hundreds of crystals and a spotlight, is probably his most protracted design. “I carried this idea around with me for decades before I realised it,” Maurer says. Certainly also because the story behind this light object is linked to Maurer’s childhood. Lacrime del Pescatore” – the “Tears of the Fisherman” – pays homage to the fishing village on Lake Constance where Ingo Maurer grew up.

Rebranding and fan lamps

Around the same time that the “Design M” company ceases to exist and “Ingo Maurer Lighting GmbH” begins in Munich, it is 1973, Maurer’s “Uchiwa” fan-shaped luminaires come into fashion. The fans for the luminaires are made by Shigeki-San, a great master of fan making, in a traditional fan manufactory using traditional production methods in Japan.

Pioneering lighting system

In 1984, the “YaYaHo” low-voltage lighting system follows. It consists of two horizontal metal wires and freely movable light elements with halogen lamps that can be individually arranged and aligned. This idea, too, takes several years to mature until it is ready for series production. It was conceived during Maurer’s New Year’s Eve stay in Haiti. On New Year’s morning, the lighting designer is said to have spotted an oversized light bulb soldered directly to the wiring in a small square. Maurer takes the idea back to his New York studio. For a first visualization, Maurer and his team begin to stretch strings. The groundbreaking “YaYaHo” lighting system becomes the model for many imitators.

One from the Heart

In 1989 Ingo Maurer designs the “One From The Hearttable lamp as a wedding gift for friends. The light object is so well received that it is eventually developed to series production readiness and is still an integral part of the Ingo Maurer collection today. Other prominent designs by Ingo Maurer are: the “Bibibi” stork legs (1982) made of red plastic, the pair of “Lucellino” wings (1992), the pendant lamps “Porca Miseria!“ (1994) and “Zettel’z 5” (1997) as well as Alizz T. Cooper (2008). Since the early 1980s, Maurer has cooperated with a group of developers who support him in the realization of his ideas.

Light should float!

In the year before the turn of the millennium, Maurer opens his first showroom in New York, followed in 2009 by a second, larger showroom in Munich, which is also used for exhibitions. In addition to his own showrooms, Ingo Maurer’s exhibition stands, which can rather be described as installations, at the ‘Euroluce’ in Milan, Italy or, for example, the ‘Light and Building’ in Frankfurt, Germany, are legendary. In addition to a strong formal language of his light objects, Maurer works with their special (light) effect on people. Yet most people have luminaires in their own four walls that are mounted directly on the ceiling or just below it. Not for Ingo Maurer. His conviction: Light should float!

International light installations

In 1990, Ingo Maurer begins to develop not only luminaires but also lighting installations for public and private clients. In this context, his arched light objects in the Westfriedhof underground station in Munich from 1998 are worthy of mention. A year later, Maurer designs a light installation for the fashion designer Issey Miyake for his fashion show in Paris and develops a light object for the showroom in London. Light installations and light objects for the interior of the Atomium in Brussels are on Maurer’s design agenda in 2006. For Bodegas Vega Sicilia in the wine region of Ribera del Duero / Spain, Maurer develops in 2013, among other things, an approximately eight-meter high and six-meter wide tree made of Corten steel, “The Tree” as Maurer calls it, enthrones above the vines like a protector and can already be made out from a distance. Ingo Maurer also works internationally in the hotel sector: “Flying Discs” for the hotel lobby and hotel bar of the Unique Hotel in Sao Paulo / Brazil in 2016, the so-called “Golden Ribbon” for the lobby of the Seamarq Hotel in Gangneung, South Korea in 2015 and “Pendulum”, an almost two-metre-long, highly polished pendulum for the luxury hotel “The London Edition” in London, England.

Subwayround lighting and colour concepts

His subwayround lighting concept meets with enthusiasm and much approval in Munich, so that Maurer develops another lighting and colour concept for the Münchner Freiheit underground station from 2008 to 2009. Lighting solutions for the following stations follow: Moosfeld (1999), Marienplatz (2015), Sendlinger Tor (2022), all in Munich, as well as seven stations of the Karlsruhe city railway in 2021. His other projects in Munich: Light installation within the shop design for Sporthaus Schuster (2018) and light concept for the Munich Residenztheater with Silver Cloud light installation in the winter garden and red LED signs (2019). The list of custom designs and one-offs for private clients and public buildings – nationally and internationally – is long. It starts with lighting solutions for the Radisson Collection Hotel in Tsinandali, Georgia and does not end with the “Flying to Peace Pendulum” for the Frankfurt Trade Fair, Germany (both in 2018).

International exhibitions

Ingo Maurer’s designs and objects are shown in many exhibitions, including solo exhibitions: “Ingo Maurer: Working with Light” at Villa Stuck, Munich (1992), “Licht licht” at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1993), “Ephemeral visionary “Ingo Maurer.Light” at the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt, the touring exhibition “Ingo Maurer: Light – Reaching the Moon” organised by the Vitra Design Museum in Europe and Japan (2002). The Neue Sammlung – Museum für Gestaltung will open a mono exhibition with more than 80 objects by the lighting designer on 15 November 2019. Ingo Maurer is no longer able to open the exhibition himself. He passes away before the exhibition opens on 21 October 2019 in Munich.

“Curiosity and joy in new things do not depend on age” is Ingo Maurer’s credo, which can also be felt in his designs. Probably precisely for this reason, his design objects are so unique and absolutely timeless.

At TAGWERC you find the entire Ingo Mauer collection. Online, in the TAGWERC Design STORE, you experience a curated selection of Ingo Maurer design objects. For all Ingo Maurer objects from the Ingo Maurer collection that are not listed here, we are happy to make you an individual offer.

Author of the biography: Bianca KILLMANN
The biography is protected by copyright.


  • 1966
    Table lamp „Bulb“
  • 1970
    Light Structure
  • 1984
    Rope system „YaYaHo” ( Ingo Maurer and Team )
  • 1989
    Table lamp „One from the heart“
  • 1993
    Pendant light „Oh Mei Ma“
  • 1994
    Pendant light „Porca Miseria!“
  • 1997
    Pendant light „Zettel’z 5“
  • 1998
    Pendant light „Zettel’z 6“
  • 1998
    Bookend light „Oskar“
  • 2010
    Pendant light „Comic Explosion“
  • 2014
    Table lamp „I Ricchi Poveri – Bzzzz“
  • 2014
    Table lamp „I Ricchi Poveri – Toto“
  • 2016
    Design object „Mickey’s Manifesto“ für The Walt Disney Company
  • 2018
    Pendant light „Butterflies dreaming“
  • 2018
    Lamp series „Luzy Take Five“


    • 2004
      Spazio Krizia
    • 2006
      „One Thousand and One Lights“ Spazio Krizia
    • 2009
      „Lacrime del Pescatore“ Spazio Krizia
    • 2010
      „Spirits Flying High!“ Ingo Maurer und Team
    • 2012
      „A Dozen Red Things“ Spazio Krizia
    • 2013
      „​Flying Flames“ Spazio Krizia
    • 2013
    • 2014
      „Il Laboratorio – Das Atelier“ Spazio Krizia
    • 2016
      „Installation for the Salone del Mobile“ San Paolo Converso


  • 1998
    A&W-Designer of the Year
  • 1999
    Design Award of the City of Munich
  • 2000
    Lucky Strike Designer Prize of the Raymond Loewy Foundation
  • 2002
    Collab’s Design Excellence Award, Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • 2003
    Georg Jensen Prize, Kopenhagen
  • 2003
    Oribe Award, Japan
  • 2005
    Royal Designer of Industry (Ehrentitel) by the Royal Society of Arts, London
  • 2006
    Honorary doctorate, Royal College of Art, London
  • 2009
    Cologne knocker, by the students of the Cologne International School of Design
  • 2010
    Design Award of the Federal Republic of Germany, for Lifetime Achievement
  • 2011
    Compasso d’Oro of the Italian Association for Industrial Design ADI, Career category
  • 2019
    Schwabing Art Award

Ingo Maurer Design, Manufactured by Ingo Maurer.

Table lamp Bulb

Table lamp One from the Heart