Lighting designer: a profession in evolution between technology and perception
I have often asked myself how to define a “lighting designer”. It is a profession that is not yet particularly well-known or recognised. Honestly, I have not been able to find a satisfactory answer: quite strange for someone who does it for a living.
The problem stems from the fact that it takes time for the newer professions to carve out a place for themselves in the market, and this is often tied into the need for a new professional to have an established client base at the beginning of his/her career. It is often said that “essentially, it is not really that difficult to put two bulbs in a house”. But the question is not about just two bulbs, it is about being able to handle this unknown energy in all its forms. Lighting is basically a new discipline, and, as such, much remains to be discovered.
Furthermore, my colleagues give different definitions to the term in relation to their aspirations or specialisations. For some, lighting is art and perception (and, therefore, linked to the theatres, or museums). For others, it is about compliance with regulations and to the logic of numbers (and, therefore, linked to engineering). And for others, it is a matter of design. Lighting certainly comprises all of these aspects, but it is not limited to them.
In fact, many do not regard the aspects of energy, functionality and chromaticity as being a single entity. Think of new technologies - LED, for example. Any ‘expert’ is able to provide authoritative opinions, leaving anyone with an interest in this technology with confusing perceptions. Alternatively, consider light pollution (everybody talks about it, few actually know what it is), energy saving (“are we completely sure that we save money by using only energy-saving bulbs?”), affordability, lighting control systems, the comfort we want in our homes (the right light for any environment, too much or little) or the integration between light and architecture. And let’s not forget the claim in recent studies that a light is not enough to affect sleep-wake rhythms, and the production of certain hormones.
We lighting designers should deal with this in a serious and responsible manner, continuously updating lighting technologies (which will become ever more complex in the future) and tying the lighting project to that of architecture. We should do everything outside of the business logic that governs companies and dealers, that which provides free - and generally good - designs, but which is still linked to supply of devices and, therefore, it does not always represent the best solution on the market, with respect to price and quality.