Where are we now?
Stefan R Graf FIALD, Principal
Illuminart
Answers…

Stefan Graf

In response to recent events raising questions around the visibility of the architectural lighting design industry, illumni + Monica Llamas asked some the world’s top lighting practitioners how they feel the industry is perceived today both by peers in the wider design community and the public and what needs to be done in future to progress the way lighting designers’ contributions to architecture, wellbeing, the environment and more can be better appreciated. The answers are very thought provoking. 

To what extent do you think architectural lighting design is understood as a profession and valued by our collaborative partner industries and the wider community today? (e.g. architects, clients, government, urban planners)?

Few projects have Professional Lighting Designers (PLD) on the team. This is partially due to the fact that the term ‘lighting design’ is used by electrical engineers, suppliers, contractors and architects to describe a lighting specification or engineering service that is provided by them, which is much different from the service a PLD would provide. Often when an architect uses a PLD for the first time, they learn of the service benefits and consequently use them again on new projects.

Here is a statistical example: In the USA, the state of NY has approximately 16,000 Architects and 120 members of the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD). Similarly, in California, approximately 20,000 Architects and 120 IALD members. Yet, the state of Michigan has close to 6000 Architects but only 15 IALD members. If the demand for professional lighting design were higher in Michigan, IALD Membership could potentially increase by a factor of 3 times. Many may never use a PLD because they believe their supplier or engineer provides the ‘same’ service.

The fee/cost of bringing in an outside specialist can be another factor in the decision to hire a PLD, even though the PLD can help the owner with lighting costs management, potentially saving enough money to pay the fee. Raising awareness of the value added by using PLD’s is a challenge for the profession. The IALD represents the largest segment of PLD’s and devotes time and resources to raise awareness of these issues.

How often do you find yourself educating new clients and design partners about the role of lighting designers and advocating the value of lighting design (e.g. scope of brief, timing of being brought into design conversations)?

Introducing the service benefits of professional lighting design services is an ongoing challenge. We are competing with suppliers that provide a ‘free’ service in many instances. The other education process, once on a new project, is clearing up misconceptions and false notions about lighting technologies like LED’s or daylighting that team members have learned that are not true. Much of this misinformation comes from suppliers that are promoting products to make a sale. We need to plan time for this in initial project meetings.

A year on from the introduction of the Certified Lighting Designer (CLD) certification, the world’s first, international, evidence-based certification in architectural lighting design, and 6 months since the UNESCO International Year of Light, during which the industry gained some spotlight, is it just a matter of time until the profession is better recognised for the specific skills we contribute to the design process?

Yes, the CLD certification will help the profession immensely! Ideally, someday only CLD’s will be required on many projects as a result of recognition of the value they bring.

What steps could we take as an industry to further raise the profile and perceived value of lighting design among our key creative partners and the wider community?

I think the IALD is doing a good job, but we need better representation and visibility at professional education conferences and in publications for Architects, building owners, municipalities and government bodies. If PLD’s are brought in to provide lighting education programs or write articles for these groups, it would benefit them, their members, their clients and help to raise awareness of the profession.

Thank you: Stefan R Graf, Illuminart

Read: Where Are We Now? By Monica Llamas + Leela Shanker.

Read: Where Are We Now?  Victor Palacio, IALD President + Director Of Ideas En Luz, Mexico, answers…

Read: Where Are We Now? Suzan Tillotson, President, Tillotson Design Associates, Answers…

Read: Where are we now? Richard Renfro, Principal, Renfro Design Group, Inc. Answers…

Read: Where are we now? Stephen D. Bernstein, Principal, Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design (CBBLD), Answers…

Read: Where are we now? Lee E. Brandt, Principal, Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design, Answers…