Lighting Designer "Secret Sauce" – Part Three of Four

a guest post by Lisa J. Reed, Lighting Designer

Lighting Blog 3D

Part three in this series is all about 3D. Lighting designers need to think about a space three dimensionally. In an existing space, this is pretty easy to do…go stand in the existing space and experience it in three dimensions. With new construction or just a set of plans, this takes a little more practice.

In a tall space, light the walls. I like to put light on the walls because these vertical surfaces are what we experience in 3D. Where do you look when you are in a room?

  • You look at the walls. You look out the windows. You look at art on the wall or furniture next to the walls. In almost any space the walls are what a person will see and experience. That’s where we want to focus the light.
  • You don’t typically look at the floor; so don’t be overly concerned with the light level or number of footcandles on the floor.
  • Unless you are a lighting designer (or some other professional who puts equipment overhead) you probably don’t spend time looking at the ceiling, either. So don’t worry about creating a symmetrical pattern of lights in your ceiling. It is more important to locate lights based on the layout of the furniture. Place a light over tasks such as desks or manufacturing equipment. Illuminate retail displays, casework, or the top of a conference table. Highlight a plant or sculpture.

Conversely, the most prominent surface in a large room with low ceilings is the ceiling. In a space like this you may want to highlight the ceiling surface since it is such an important visual element.

Lighting can play an important role in wayfinding for people who are experiencing a space for the first time. The human eye is immediately attracted to the brightest spot in a space. Imagine what the space feels like to a first-time visitor, and provide light to guide that person’s eye to signage, elevator lobbies, or reception desks. Think about vantage points and views in the space. Is there a long hallway? Put a light at the end of the hallway to help draw visitors through the space.

We are three-dimensional people occupying three-dimensional spaces. If we envision the space in 3D when designing lighting plans, a better overall experience will come to light.


Lisa J Reed photo - Lighting Blog

Lisa J. Reed has been attracted to lighting (like a moth to a flame) for 20+ years. She is the Founding Principal at Envision Lighting Design, LLC in St. Louis, where she designs, teaches, and writes about architectural lighting.


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