If you could articulate your philosophy about light in one sentence, what would you say?
This continually changes. When starting LDA, I would continually repeat, “feature the features, not the fixtures.” A decade ago, I would have said, “the most efficient light is the one you turn off.” A year ago, I might have said, “light is a very powerful and predictable design element; learn how to use it, and by using it sparingly, you can create magical spaces.” With the recent events in the world over the past four months, I would go back to one of my earliest beliefs, “always do the right thing!”
What advice would you give to lighting designers starting out in the field?
Run! Seriously, the lighting community is the best. It is very supportive and you can make a successful career out of it. But, it should be your passion and you have to get involved. Your formal training was just the beginning; your education through professional practice will allow your career to flourish. You should be the first one to volunteer to go to the job site and assist with an installation, even if you aren’t getting paid for it.
My other advice is stay with your first or current job for several years. If you haven’t completed a cycle (design, bid, VE, CA services and a focus or commissioning at the end), you haven’t learned anything. You need to see your successes and your mistakes.
Finally, get involved in professional societies. It can be lighting, adjunct designs or even philanthropic organizations. Just by attending, you will learn how to work with all different kinds of people. I always say that what I have offered up to the Designers Lighting Forum, International Association of Lighting Designers and Illuminating Engineering Society has been paid back to me tenfold—either by making business connections that allow me to be more successful at my job, or even better, lifelong friends that just happen to be in the design field.
What should lighting designers be discussing today?
Any topic is great as long as they are talking. Health and well-being is great and potentially more exciting than the Internet of Things. Any discussion and even disagreement is okay and healthy. Trust me, I am married with two grown daughters—I don’t often get my way. My father spent his entire life working for one company. I will spend my entire career working in the same industry.
For the next generation, the job that they will be doing hasn’t been invented yet. So get a strong foundation and learn your trade, learn how to communicate effectively and get involved so that you will have peers to fall back on for support. That way, you will be ready for whatever you end up doing.
What should architects be discussing in terms of lighting a space today?
If they are discussing lighting, that is a great first step. Too often, we get a brief and it consists of what and where the decorative fixtures will be placed. That is not lighting. I would hope that it would start with daylighting affecting the building form and fenestration, followed by an in-depth discussion of what the lighting should be doing in the space. Finally, establish a proper budget for the lighting. Great architects might go with a slightly cheaper granite floor, so that a proper lighting budget can be achieved.
What’s the most valuable lighting tip you can share?
Work hard. These are tough times and staffing cuts could impact your employment. That’s unfortunate and I am sorry. However, those who have always worked hard will be the last ones cut and the first ones rehired. That is a fact. More importantly, by working hard, your level of knowledge and your personal career will benefit. Yes, we all want a balance of life and work and that is important. These world events may also show that folks can work remotely without affecting productivity, which will transform our work culture down the road.
Finally, when in doubt, illuminate the walls.