A little while ago, while discussing lighting design, a friend said to me: ‘It doesn’t matter about all these technical changes. We just carry on doing the same old thing.’ I nodded in agreement and took another bite of my bacon sandwich. But his comment has been nagging at me ever since, because I don’t think it’s true any longer.
For many years lighting design absorbed new technology and simply went about its creative business, because the changes were simply technical improvements that allowed us to do the same old thing, but a little better. This is no longer the case.
I’ve taken a look over my shoulder and had a squint at some of the design decisions I’ve taken recently.
- A colour-tunable white sculptural pendant in a client’s kitchen; not for any of that circadian malarkey, but because we decided it would be nice to have a bright, cool, light on dull days and warm light in the evenings when pals came round for supper. Solution: a combination of aluminium channels and tunable-white LED strips with wireless control. Light and art coming together.
- Colour-changing in a client’s bedroom, not for any super-tech reason, but because the client wants to enjoy a more congenial ambience while meditating. Solution: aluminium channel and colour-change LED strips built into the bedhead with wall-mounted and remote colour controllers. A no-light light.
- A super-slim lamp shade on the ceiling of an old farm cottage, just 60mm deep. Solution: a circular LED panel with a special fixing for the fabric shade, putting light where there has never been light before.
- A future-proofed lighting rig for a barn converted to family home, using minimum hard-wiring, while providing either a wired control system, a wireless control system, an IoT or a bluetooth solution. Solution: If I told you that I really would have to shoot you.
The point of these four examples is that each design process explored options far more widely than a ‘same old thing’ mindset would have taken it. The world has changed. Today, we can go much further in realising design concepts.
It takes more than a designer
It is important to remember that a designer’s musings would stay as just that if it wasn’t for manufacturers. It is here that the industry is moving so quickly. It is not just about new drivers and a more efficient heatsink. This is about entirely new ways of seeing things and understanding where these new advances might take us. For example:
- LEDs are taking lighting techniques into specialist environments where no one has ever thought about lighting in any other terms than simple illumination and certainly not as a factor in business profits.
- Technology that talks to its environment, and then listens to the answer. If we’re resigned to the idea that the lighting industry is now just another part of the electronics industry, we may as well ring the bell and join the party. What would we really like to do with our lighting? There’s a good chance that we can achieve something like it.
- Product design that just gets better and better. Now, we just need to iron those bumps and creases out of the system and head for a place where the photometrics really mean what they say. Good optics, great electronics, first class sources, all guaranteed and warrantied, please.
It is no longer good enough to wheel out the same old project tropes, while advancing technology allows us to broaden our horizons. We live in a world of potential, where we can rip up the old design guides and get stuck into some really inventive solutions.