Where are we now?
Uno Lai, Principal
Uno Lai Design
Answers…

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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)

In my professional experience, the reality tends to fall at either extreme: a client or designer will be either completely unaware or absolutely convinced of the expertise and experience a qualified lighting designer can bring to the table. This awareness isn’t clearly divided across professional lines. Whether client, interior designer, or architect – those who have had exposure to our field recognize how crucial it is to get a good lighting designer on board.

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)?

Very frequently – though I would define it as information exchange rather than “education”. The terrain is changing so quickly that architects, for instance, benefit greatly from being kept up-to-date on technological and regulatory developments by a partner in lighting design. For instance, an architect might not be aware that they can come to a lighting professional not only for design work, but also assistance on keeping to code and finding solutions to reduce energy consumption.

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?

The purpose of the CLD is twofold: for those outside the industry to have a measure of professional standards, and to prove within the industry that a designer is staying abreast of industry developments and actively growing their level of industry knowledge.

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?

It is difficult to broadcast or commercialize – the best tactic, I believe, is for a designer to dedicate themselves to high professional standards, to do their best on every front on their projects, and thereby gradually influence the thinking of all architects, clients, contractors, and fellow designers they work with. As with any profession, respect does not arise from merely declaring one’s value, but from meeting challenges and proving worth through evidence. It has to be an organic development.

Thank you: Uno Lai, Uno Lai Design

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