I-Valo’s roots are in Iittala’s famous glass factory. Iittala manufactured glass diffusers for luminaires as early as the 1920s. By the 1960s, its diffuser range consisted of almost 1,000 models. Most of these were made of coloured glass. In 1963, the Iittala glass factory hired designer Valto “Vate” Kokko (b. 26 May 1933, d. 25 May 2017) to design new proprietary luminaires for Iittala under the brand name i-VALO. Kokko also designed the I-Valo logo. Not only would this name be used as a company trademark, but also as the name of Iittala’s luminaire factory and, later on, as the name of the independent company I-Valo Oy.
Artist Valto Kokko graduated from the metal work programme of the Ateneum Academy of Fine Arts. He had also designed luminaires for his previous employer, the plastic factory Oy Plastex Ab in Lohja. Because of his work there and his outstanding achievements during his studies, his former teacher Kaj Franck recommended Kokko to Håkan Söderström, the manager of the Iittala glass factory. Kokko’s first task at Iittala was to rationalise the range of luminaires, which had become too big, but his actual work primarily involved designing glass luminaires. The first range of luminaires designed by Kokko was completed within a year of his arrival at Iittala, and within a few years, he had renewed Iittala’s entire range of luminaires. During his 30-year career, Kokko designed more than 350 luminaires and lamp shades for Iittala.
Throughout the 1960s, all activities related to the manufacturing and packaging of luminaires had been carried out in a cramped further processing hall in the glass factory. 1971 was a very important year in the history of I-Valo, as that was when a large factory and storage building for the manufacturing of luminaires was taken into use and the luminaire department became a separate company, I-Valo. The company regards this year as an important milestone. Right from the start, the idea was to design, assemble and test all luminaires in-house. Most of the parts of the luminaires were manufactured in-house, and the machines and equipment needed for this purpose were acquired. I-Valo was also the second factory in Finland to introduce epoxy powder coating.
I-Valo’s long-serving factory manager Paavo Pajanen had his own ways of training new employees. The induction began with a short course on the history of light, starting from the Big Bang. This applied to all employees, whatever their job description. Paavo Paajanen acted as I-Valo’s product manager from 1971 to 1986, when he was appointed I-Valo’s factory manager, a position he held until his retirement in 2005.
In the early 1970s, I-Valo responded to industry’s needs by developing luminaires that could withstand the challenging conditions of production plants. The luminaires had to be resistant to dust and dirt, vibration, heat and humidity. The first batch of the new luminaires left Iittala in 1975 to be installed in one of the production halls of the Varkaus mill’s machine shop. The Varkaus mill’s head of electrical engineering reported that the men in the adjacent hall had threatened strike unless they receive the same, high-quality luminaires as their neighbours. At the same time, another batch of luminaires was being shipped out to Rautaruukki’s steelworks in Raahe. The high quality of the products is attested to by the fact that some of these luminaires delivered in the 1970s are still in use.
Luminaires had become a major product group of the Iittala glass factory, and the company no longer needed to focus solely on glass. More new models were born, many of which were made of only metal or, for example, combinations of metal and plastic. For example, the aluminium cube ball luminaire is Kokko’s work. I-Valo started manufacturing industrial luminaires in 1975, and in the late 1970s, the company focused heavily on marketing these luminaires.
Today, I-Valo’s product range consists entirely of LED luminaires that utilise the latest LED technology without ever compromising on quality. In addition to long service lives, energy-efficiency and outstanding luminous efficacy, the company invests in sustainable development in its product development. Most of our products are equipped with replaceable LED technology. This separates us from most of our competitors, whose luminaires are typically single-use products for which the light source cannot be replaced. With our product range focusing on industrial luminaires, our customers include forestry, metal, chemical and building material industries and waste processing and powerplant facilities. Two thirds of our products go to export; over the years, I-Valo has delivered luminaires to more than 40 countries, with Sweden, Germany, France and Austria featuring among our main export markets.
Since 2013, I-Valo Oy has been part of large luminaire group Fagerhult Group. Fagerhult also has a long, illustrious history, which goes back 75 years. I-Valo’s product development, manufacturing, sales and marketing still take place in Iittala. As a relatively small company, we are able to respond in a flexible manner to customer needs but we also have the capacity to deliver factory projects consisting of thousands of industrial luminaires on schedule to ensure that the customer has access to products when it needs them. We employ about 40 people, and we are proud of our skills, long history as experts on challenging lighting applications and our roots in Iittala.