Lighting Designer "Secret Sauce" – Part Four of Four

a guest post by Lisa J. Reed, Lighting Designer

Lighting Blog Art

The final step in making a "secret sauce" is to taste it. See if it tastes good. If no one likes it, then it isn’t a good sauce. You see, lighting is ultimately for people. When designing, we must remember that our first obligation is not to a number or a code or a budget. Remembering that lighting is for people is one of the key ingredients in lighting designer "secret sauce."

Lighting is Science


Human factors such as payroll, training costs, and employee productivity are the largest expenses in almost any company’s bottom line. If the people aren’t happy, these costs increase. Isn’t it worth just a few extra dollars in first cost to create a space that improves the human factors? In fact, lighting costs become miniscule by comparison.


If you focus 100% on a particular light level, you may miss an opportunity to add nuance to a space. Knowing what to leave dark so that other important parts of a design can "pop" is critical to good lighting design. It is also important to understand the specific needs of the people who will be using the space. Older eyes need more light than younger ones, so the light level requirements in an elementary school lobby might be lower than the light level required in a senior living facility lobby.


It is important to design to codes, but again, we must remember to provide for the people in the space. It is possible to meet code required egress lighting requirements with a solution that is glary and utterly uncomfortable to the occupants of a space! Instead, maybe the best solution is to locate the emergency lighting close to the ground where it won’t be obscured in a smoke-filled room, or try integrating the emergency lights into the ambient fixtures already in the space.

Lighting is Art

Although lighting designers enjoy the aesthetic side of design, a visually interesting space without regard for the occupants can be gaudy, glaring, or otherwise overwhelming. We like sparkle, but too much sparkle is just plain glare. Keep designs interesting, but not overwhelming.

Lighting is People

Designing for people means keeping end-users front of mind while also balancing the art and science of lighting design. What are you doing to remember that lighting is for people?


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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