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Designer and glass artist Valto ”Vate” Kokko, father of I-Valo’s luminaire design, passed away on 25 May 2017

Valto Kokko passed away the day before his 84th birthday in Helsinki. Kokko played an important role in the history of the I-Valo luminaire factory.

He worked as a designer at I-Valo and the Iittala glass factory between 1963 and 1993, and apart from many luminaires, I’Valo’s trademark and logo are his work. Apart from being a designer, Kokko was also the head of Iittala’s visual department.

In the early 60s, the Iittala glass factory almost had a monopoly position when it came to the manufacturing of glass for luminaires in Finland. The glass factory served as a subcontractor for various luminaire manufacturers. This way, the idea of manufacturing luminaires in-house was born. The artist Valto Kokko, who had been educated at Ateneum’s metal department, became a designer at Iittala in 1963. Kokko had also designed luminaires for his previous employer, the plastic factory Oy Plastex Ab in Lohja, during the years 1961–1963. 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 om 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. 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.

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 70s, the company focused heavily on marketing this type of luminaires. Today, more than 90% of I-Valo’s luminaires are sold to industrial sites.

Valto Kokko retired in 1993. The last product he designed for I-Valo was the bollard luminaire Iittala.

We remember Vate with respect and gratitude.

I-Valo Oy

Source: I-Valo’s history: Paavo Paajanen, Jouko Lindh, Laila Saarhelo

Photographs: From I-Valo’s 1976 luminaire catalogue


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