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The Tobias Grau Story

A brand retrospective from 1987 to today.

You know Tobias Grau – the brand that stands for the utmost light quality in artistic forms and repeatedly sets inspiring new trends. But: how did the story of Tobias Grau begin?  

Tobias Grau founded his eponymous brand in Hamburg in 1986, after working as a freelance designer specialized in interior design. With his keen sense for light, he wanted to enable a vital experience of spaces through luminaires. 

In the mid-1980s, halogen light sources first came onto the market and Grau quickly saw the possibility for new lighting design. He seized the opportunity and from then on focused on the design of luminaires.  

The Icons  

The first official Tobias Grau luminaire system was LUJA. Streamlined and elegant, LUJA quickly established the brand’s reputation.  

In 1991, the brand launched its second lighting collection — TAI, TWIST, OH, KALLISTO and IO. The collection combined sculptural shapes and classic materials with a pioneering use of halogen technology. It established key features of Tobias Grau’s design: dynamic shapes, smooth surfaces and cutting-edge technology. The TAI and OH pendant lamps have since become icons, while classic TWIST became Steve Jobs’ desk lamp of choice. 

 Steve Jobs in his home office with our table lamp TWIST (Image by Diana Walker, Getty Images)

In 1992 Franziska Grau became a central leadership figure in the company. As Managing Director, she initiated the brand’s holistic direction and, in collaboration with Tobias pioneered the brand positioning and collection. Franziska’s empathetic management style shaped the human and values-based collaboration within the company, laying the foundation for the company’s successful development.  

A portrait of Franziska and Tobias Grau

In 1996, Tobias Grau presented the GEORGE line, a defining addition to his collection, in which form and function found an exemplary synergy. For the designer himself, GEORGE is the luminaire with which he gains a new freedom towards cultural references and discovers a fresh dynamic in design. 

With the next leap in technical innovation, the introduction of LEDs, Tobias Grau launched FALLING and  FALLING IN LOVE. These lights mark another step towards radical minimalism. For Tobias Grau, it is natural to develop design that “lasts” and can truly claim a timeless beauty. FALLING became a popular Tobias Grau icon, and remains one of the brand’s best-selling lights. 

 

The introduction of LEDs not only opened up new aesthetic directions. The new light source enabled a much slimmer design and a previously unknown energy efficiency. With these new possibilities, the brand also opened up its collection to the working world. In 2012, desk lamp JOHN is introduced. It remains one of the leading desk lights on the market today. 

Tobias Grau launched its first office collection, Go XT. It deployed LED technology to create both an elegant design and a fresh, luminous work situation. In 2013, Tobias Grau patented its OSA technology, a pioneering technical innovation which ensures optimal efficiency and glare-free lighting in the office, representing a significant leap for workplace lighting.  

In 2015 Tobias Grau implements CHOICE. A configurator that enables the individual design of luminaires in terms of materials, colors and customized combinations. Here PALLA, GLOBE and NICEONE can be customized to your personal preferences. A contemporary step towards individuality and flexibility.

The following years see the creation of the FLYING and SALT & PEPPER luminaires. These entirely new luminaires pick up on an important new social aspects, like physical mobility and mental flexibility. These influences are combined with new haptic surfaces and interactive features, paving the way for yet more innovations.

The Campus   

With the construction of the company HQ in Rellingen, near Hamburg, Tobias Grau manifested its holistic mission in architectural terms. The building was conceived in 1997, with the goal to create a site that symbolizes independence and mobility and invites presence. Designed in collaboration with the architect Hadi Teherani, the innovative cylindrical structure of glass and aluminium is equipped with over 200m² of integrated solar panels. In 1998, all 140 employees from design, production and sales moved into the new building.  

 The first office table at the Campus, 1998 (Copyrights Tobias Grau)

All Tobias Grau luminaires are designed and produced at the headquarters near Hamburg. The campus provides a spatial platform for the dynamic emergence of the brand’s innovation and sustainability. The lively studio atmosphere and close communication between technical and creative teams are the foundation of the brand’s inclusive and interdisciplinary approach.   

To this day, Tobias Grau stands for high end quality lighting in an artistic design language and continues to provide luminous inspiration. In 2021, Tobias and Franziska Grau retired from management and handed over the reins of the company to Timon and Melchior Grau. The two brothers, who studied art together, will lead the brand into the future with a clear vision for digital light. 

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