How do you balance the use of light as a functional tool with using light to add to the customer experience?
Sometimes, it may be hard to balance because of code requirements. But any lighting designer will tell you that we think of lighting in layers. There’s accent lighting, decorative lighting and general lighting. Artwork, the lighting of feature walls or bar details are all accent lighting, things we are trying to reveal in certain features and finishes of the interior design. The decorative fixtures are the jewelry, usually selected by the interior designer. We work with them on some of the more technical details. Then there’s general lighting, which usually provides the bulk of the functional lighting.
On most projects, we have a dimming system that we can zone to help create the balance. We may dim the general lighting so the accent and decorative lighting pop. Lesley Wheel, one of the founders of our profession, worked on hotel projects all over the world. She told me once that she often would see how little lighting she could put in a hotel or hotel lobby. She did this in an effort to create an interesting ambience with the desire to see how little she could get away with.
What are clients looking for in a lighting design partner?
They’re looking for someone with both technical knowledge and artistic or design sense. Some architects, interior designers and even landscape architects like being involved in it. But even ones that do can recognize they’re not experts at it or don’t have the time. As an independent lighting firm such as the Lighting Design Alliance company, we have always differentiated ourselves from lighting reps and others who may have motivations beyond what’s best for the client.
I also think it’s important to have a full scope of services so we can be their advocate during construction. They are hiring us for our knowledge and experience.
What barriers do you have to overcome, from concept to execution?
The biggest thing that affects us during the design process is budget. We don’t usually get a budget to start with, so sometimes you have to go to Plan B or Plan C.
How do you know when a project has gone well?
Owners and architects who are open to listening to our ideas is one key factor. When I think of the most successful projects, they have great ownership and a design team that collaborates well. Then the drawings are complete and detailed well. I have a few examples where we were able to talk to the owner at the beginning of the project and discuss lighting and the purchasing of lighting and how complex that process is. The owner was willing to do a few key things, resulting in a smoother process. Things like that can make a big difference.