[This is the first of five parts of the article Lamy 2000 and the Origins of "Lamy Design" written by Brandon Hollingshead. Every Friday we'll publish the next part in the series. Skip ahead to the other parts: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5. -Dan]

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License by Brandon Hollingshead, August 2012, for The Fountain Pen Network and is reproduced here with permission of the author. This license extends to all text, images, and videos associated with this work.

Introduction

Lamy 2000 is one of the most recommended pens to new fountain pen users, in part because it is fairly common and relatively inexpensive; because it combines refined design sensibilities, an advanced piston mechanism for taking in and putting out ink, and a gold nib; and because the Lamy firm stands behind their product with an excellent guarantee. Yet, for all the praise it receives, Lamy 2000 is also a divisive pen. It is disparaged for its temperamental nib, its monochrome color scheme, and minute details of its design. This cannot and should not be ignored.

Because the Lamy 2000 was designed in the mid-1960s, and because Lamy has cultivated an image of design-focused production, there is a certain mystique around the pen and its “Bauhaus” sensibilities. Wishing to learn more about the firm, the pen, and the design tradition from which both emerged, I read widely and put my Lamy 2000 pens to great use in drafting my notes and this article. The result of my activity is before you.

Lamy 2000 family

The Lamy 2000 family, from bottom: Fountain pen, Edition 2000 Fountain Pen, 2012 Lamy 2000M fountain pen, Edition 2000 ballpoint, ballpoint, 4-in-1 ballpoint, mechanical pencil, and rollerball.

John Siracusa wrote in an essay for Ars Technica that most geeks have a hypercritical inclination “to some degree, even if it’s just nitpicking logical or scientific flaws in a favorite TV show or movie. This is actually a skill worth developing…. Maybe you’re afraid you don’t know enough about anything to trust the validity of your criticism. Putting aside the extremely small likelihood that this is actually true, it shouldn’t stop you.” The tagline for Siracusa’s podcast Hypercritical is “Nothing is so perfect that it cannot be complained about.” In this spirit of geek obsession, I present a hypercritical review of the Lamy 2000 line of pens, warts and all. I hope that others with more information, challenges, or corrections to the information presented here will step forward for a lively conversation.

Part 1 describes the history of the Lamy company, the origins of its design focus, and the design ethos from which Lamy 2000 emerged. Part 2 extends the design review by describing the pen’s construction materials and its weights and measurements. Part 3 describes the main component parts of the Lamy 2000 and some discussion on recurrent problems. Part 4 describes the steps necessary to completely take apart the Lamy 2000 fountain pen. Part 5 briefly describes each product in the Lamy 2000 line, from the ubiquitous standard fountain pen to the high-end limited edition models. The conclusion brings it all together.

Part One: Lamy company history, the origins of Lamy Design, and the ethos of Lamy 2000 style

The first member of the Lamy 2000 series, the fountain pen, was introduced in 1966, a transitional period for writing instruments in general and the Lamy firm in particular. In the mid-1960s, Lamy found itself in need of a breakout hit. Its Lamy 27 model of the mid-1950s was a success, but they sought a new product to increase sales and demonstrate to the industry that it was not a one-hit-wonder. Prior to the launch of the Lamy 2000 in 1966, Lamy was something of a forgettable pen company. Lamy’s genesis is with C. Josef Lamy, a representative in Heidelberg of the Parker Pen Company. In 1930 he launched his own company to sell pens under the Orthos and Artus brands. He struggled through World War II (producing munitions and pens in the same factory), later to relaunch the company as C. Josef Lamy GmbH in 1948. Lamy’s first notable product was the Lamy 27, which was most excellently reviewed by FPN member MYU in “The Lamy 27 – Contender to the Parker 51.”

In 1962, Dr. Manfred Lamy, son of the company’s founder, joined the firm as marketing manager. From the start, he worked to address the problem that Lamy lacked a consistent or distinctive design. Dr. Lamy’s project was to craft a “Lamy Design” vocabulary, which took shape in development of the Lamy 2000 project (source). To do so, Lamy contracted the pen design to a leader in the industrial design space, Gerd A. Müller of the venerable Braun design powerhouse. At the time this was a risky proposition, but with the benefit of hindsight, we know that it paid off–and how. Indeed, it worked so well that a key tenet of “Lamy Design” that stands to the present is to rely on the skills and talents of key design figures, first with Müller and the Lamy 2000 (and later the CP1, ST, and Unic), then Wolfgang Fabian and the Lamy Safari/Al-Star, and up to the present with Franco Clivo and the Pico and Dialog 3 (more on Clivo in a bit). Although market research and surveys indicated the Lamy 2000 would do well with “successful, middle aged men, who were image conscious, but tended towards understatement,” Lamy was to see overwhelmingly positive responses to and demand for the new pen. The rest is history: the 2000 has been in demand since 1966, remains in continuous production, and sits as the flagship of Lamy’s lineup (source).

The Lamy 2000 represented more than just a successful product: it laid the foundation for Lamy’s long-term success as a company. The company proudly boasts, “in 1966 the distinctive style of Lamy Design was born with the LAMY 2000” (source). Lamy does not offer an explanation or guiding statement of what Lamy Design actually *is*, but they do make the following claims on its corporate information website.

Design, quality and ‘Made in Germany’ are the pillars of the Lamy corporate strategy. These are underpinned by the actively lived Lamy corporate culture.

  • Customer-oriented: We focus on the needs of the customer.
  • Creative: We are prepared to create change and have the courage to try something new every day.
  • Cooperative: We act cooperatively internally and externally. We see ourselves as a high-performance community – based on mutual trust and respect. (source)

Highest quality in technology, processing and material is self-evident in Lamy products. Lamy writing instruments make a clear statement: ‘best value for money’ (source). Our products are self-contained and succinct. By tradition they embody the Bauhaus principle of functional design: ‘form follows function’. [Note: emphasis added] This approach makes Lamy products unmistakable style icons and the name Lamy a quintessential brand (source). Lamy writing instruments embody the best German design tradition and engineering art. They stand out by virtue of innovation, reliability, restraint and status which does not relate to luxury but to intelligence (source).

Let’s unpack some of these phrases, beginning with “the tradition of the Bauhaus principle of functional design” and the “form follows function” maxim that dates to Louis Sullivan’s Chicago skyscrapers. I believe that in doing so we see that Lamy makes a genuine claim to its Bauhaus pedigree.
Lamy 2000

Bauhaus, Ulm, Braun, and Lamy

The Bauhaus Design School emerged in a broken Germany and dramatically changed world at the conclusion of World War I, an event called “a catastrophe of world history” by Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius (source). In an age of mechanical reproduction, Bauhaus teachers and students sought to unite old-world craftsmanship with new technical (and technological) advances. They took inspiration from the Arts and Crafts movement’s emphasis on function in use, minimalism in design, and especially craftsmanship in production. Bauhaus revolutionized design in favoring modernism, production, practicality, form, and function. Gropius’s founding vision for the Bauhaus is excerpted below.

“Bauhaus Manifesto and Program,” Walter Gropius, 1919 (source)

Aims of the Bauhaus
The Bauhaus strives to bring together all creative effort into one whole, to reunify all the disciplines of practical art-sculpture, painting, handicrafts, and the crafts-as inseparable components of a new architecture. The ultimate, if distant, aim of the Bauhaus is the unified work of art-the great structure-in which there is no distinction between monumental and decorative art.

The Bauhaus wants to educate architects, painters, and sculptors of all levels, according to their capabilities, to become competent craftsmen or independent creative artists and to form a working community of leading and future artist-craftsmen. These men, of kindred spirit, will know how to design buildings harmoniously in their entirety-structure, finishing, ornamentation, and furnishing.

Principles of the Bauhuas

  • Art rises above all methods; in itself it cannot be taught, but the crafts certainly can be. Architects, painters, and sculptors are craftsmen in the true sense of the word; hence, a thorough training in the crafts, acquired in workshops and in experimental and practical sites, is required of all students as the indispensable basis for all artistic production. Our own workshops are to be gradually built up, and apprenticeship agreements with outside workshops will be concluded.
  • The school is the servant of the workshop, and will one day be absorbed in it. Therefore there will be no teachers or pupils in the Bauhaus but masters, journeymen, and apprentices.
  • The manner of teaching arises from the character of the workshop: Organic forms developed from manual skills.
  • Avoidance of all rigidity; priority of creativity; freedom of individuality, but strict study discipline.
  • Master and journeyman examinations, according to the Guild Statutes, held before the Council of Masters of the Bauhaus or before outside masters.
  • Collaboration by the students in the work of the masters. Securing of commissions, also for students.
  • Constant contact with the leaders of the crafts and industries of the country. Contact with public life, with the people, through exhibitions and other activities.
Gropius-Müller

Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus School, 1928; Gerd A. Müller working on the Lamy 2000 design, n.d..
Photo credits: Associated Press, Berlin Bauhaus-Archiv; Lamy Archives

Given the chronology of the establishment of Josef Lamy’s firm in Heidelberg in 1930 and the dissolution of the politically- and creatively-restricted Bauhaus in early 1932, it is unlikely that the two intersected. In light of this, I contend that the design of the Lamy 2000—-and “Lamy Design” writ large-—is more directly linked to the Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG, Ulm School of Design, or simply “Ulm”), which followed in the tradition of the Bauhaus. (In fact, a very direct link is found in the Lamy Pico and Lamy Dialog 3, designed by Ulm graduate Franco Clivo.) The first rector of HfG/Ulm was Max Bill*, a graduate of the Bauhuas, and many of the faculty and guest lecturers were former Bauhaus faculty or graduates. (*Watch fans will recognize Bill’s classic wristwatch designs for Junghans.) Active from 1953-1968, Ulm emphasized artistic creation, industrial design, and “operations science.” Further, Ulm formed design partnerships in industry, most notably at Braun and Lufthansa. Following the death of Braun founder Max Braun in late 1951, his sons Artur and Erwin were particularly interested in modernizing the company’s image and design (source). By 1954, Braun collaborated with Ulm faculty, students, and graduates under the leadership of the firm’s designer Dieter Rams.

Gerd Alfred Müller, who would go on to design the Lamy 2000, was in the first class of industrial designers hired by Artur and Erwin Braun (source). Rams and Müller were close collaborators at the height of Braun design in the late-’50s to early-’60s. Rams oversaw Braun’s audio development and left home products and appliances to Müller. Their design ethics informed principles of the “good design movement”, principles that Müller would bring to bear a few short years later in crafting the Lamy 2000 and inaugurating “LAMY Design.” These design principles are perhaps best articulated in Dieter Rams’s “Ten Principles of ‘Good Design'”. The principles most closely related to Lamy Design are quoted below.

Rams’s Ten Principles of “Good Design”

  • Good Design Is Innovative— The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.
  • Good Design Makes a Product Useful—A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product while disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.
  • Good Design Is Aesthetic—The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
  • Good Design Is Thorough Down to the Last Detail—Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer. (source)

Müller design for Braun and Lamy

Braun DL5, 1957 and Sixtant SM3, 1963, G.A. Müller

Braun DL5, 1957 and Sixtant SM3, 1963, G.A. Müller (source)

Two design cues from Müller’s work at Braun were translated into his design on the Lamy 2000: an affinity for sleek curves and the use of metal and plastic. Two examples of Müller’s work for Braun are showcased below: the KM 3 “kitchen machine” and SM 31 “shaving machine.” Why include pictures and descriptions of razors and kitchen appliances in a review about a fountain pen? I do so because Müller’s design work provides an important connection from Bauhaus (1919-1930) to Ulm (1953-1968), Ulm to Braun (mid-1950s), Braun to Müller (late 1950s), and Müller to Lamy (1966 for Lamy 2000, 1974 for Lamy CP1, and 1984 for Lamy Unic).

The following images from design website www.dasprogramm.org:

Braun KM 3, 1957, G.A. Müller

Braun KM 3, 1957, G.A. Müller (source)

Braun KM 3, 1957, G.A. Müller

Braun KM 3, 1957, G.A. Müller (source)

The curve on the back of the mixer is referenced in the body curve of the Lamy 2000 barrel. Additionally, the pen and mixer share similar internal proportions: the top third of the KM3 is in proportion to the nib and metal section of the Lamy 2000; the middle third of the mixer is in proportion to the pen’s barrel from section to body curve; and the bottom third of the mixer is in proportion to the remaining body of the pen. To again quote Rams’ Ten Principles of ‘Good Design’, “The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being…. Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained.” The aesthetic qualities of curve and internal proportion are illustrated below.

Lamy 2000 proportions vs KM 3

Design consistencies in Müller’s work for the Braun KM3 and the Lamy 2000.

Another design cue Müller carried forward from Braun to Lamy is the similar portion of metal to plastic in the razor and the pen. The similarity is striking and the implication is clear: in each product, the “business” end is constructed of metal (shaving foil, nib and grip section) and the plastic body conceals the inner workings (electronics and power supply; ink chamber and filling mechanism). To directly quote Rams’ “good design” principles, this design choice concentrates on essential aspects that “emphasize the usefulness of [the] product while disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.”

Lamy 2000 proportions vs SM 3

Comparing the stainless steel and plastic of the SM31 razor to the Lamy 2000. Pen and razor sizes not to scale.

Lamy 2000 and the Museum of Modern Art

I would be remiss if I did not address the Lamy/MoMA connection. Lamy claims that, “The Lamy 2000 is so revered that it is on permanent display at the Museum of Modern Art and has won countless design awards” (source). This MoMA connection has become part of the Lamy 2000 narrative. While three of Müller’s pieces appear in the Museum of Modern Art’s Design and Architecture collection, none are on permanent display, and none is the Lamy 2000. In fact, there is no reference to Lamy 2000 in the extensive online collection database. Only three pens appear to be in the MoMA archive only and not on display: the Aurora Hastil (the only fountain pen), the infamous Bic Cristal ballpoint pen, and a Platinum Z ballpoint and mechanical pencil set. Perhaps it is possible that Lamy 2000 appeared in a MoMA showcase of writing instruments and the story became conflated over time. I want to believe, but without further support I cannot confirm the veracity of Lamy’s claim. At the time of writing, the MoMA Archive is closed to the public and inquiries for the month of August.

Closing thoughts on Lamy Design

MoMA display or no, it is clear that in Müller’s “good design” sensibilities and Manfred Lamy’s vision for the future of the firm were realized in the Lamy 2000. The success of the pen transformed Lamy from a stagnant, middling pen company to a powerhouse, design-focused firm that stays strong today. Today Lamy produces 97% of its parts and assembles all of its pens in-house at their campus in Heidelberg. Of the “big three” German firms–Lamy, Montblanc, and Pelikan–Lamy alone remains family- and German-owned. Time and profit have shown that Lamy’s and Müller’s collaborative experiment paid off. The firm credits Müller for “[providing] the company with the initial impetus for its new design style,” an “inspiring exchange of view between independent creative spirits and in-house employees who work in the area of design” that has grown to encompass “other product designers and design studios” (source). This commitment is seen in the work of internationally-renowned designers across the range of Lamy products. Manfred Lamy’s vision for Lamy Design took root in 1966 and continues to thrive to the present day.

Continue on to Part 2


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License by Brandon Hollingshead, August 2012, for The Fountain Pen Network and is reproduced here with permission of the author. This license extends to all text, images, and videos associated with this work.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/will.platt.39 Will Platt

    this is really an excellent article. Really well researched, interesting and well written. Its interesting to se how Muller’s design ideas transferred.

  • Maja

    Awesome work, Brandon! I am reading the articles bit-by-bit so I can digest all the data. Thanks for taking the time to share your research with us. Well done! :)

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