What drew you to lighting design and inspired you to start your own firm?
I started at Penn State as a journalism major, but very early on, I felt compelled to switch into architectural engineering. I studied under Craig Bernecker, when he was working on his PhD and looking at the psychological and physiological effects of light on people. At the time, I found it amazing that lighting could make such an impact on people, and yet it seems so obvious in retrospect. Light impacts human needs, behaviors and emotions; it’s very compelling.
I decided to specialize in lighting design. I love that lighting design represents the intersection of art and science in a very special way. I worked for Candace Kling for eighteen years. Candy was such a generous, joyful person; she taught me everything that she could and helped me to find my own voice, and for that, I’m eternally grateful. When Candy announced her intent to retire, that was the spark that I needed to make a jump into my own firm. Thankfully I had a great support system to mentor and encourage me, and after five and a half years, the firm is strong and growing.
What do you feel are the most significant factors shaping and influencing the lighting industry?
Definitely the technology; everything is changing so fast, and fixtures and controls are getting smarter. People, in general, haven't changed, but expectations of what things can do have changed. Our expectations are not analog in any way anymore; it’s all internet and cloud-based.
We expect things at our fingertips, and I don’t know if that’s liberating or terrifying. Maybe it’s both. I do worry that the lighting industry will lag behind all the bells and whistles, and quality of light will be lost. Technology, one way or another, is pulling or pushing the lighting industry forward. It’s up to the lighting design profession to determine whether we’re doing the pushing or technology is doing the pulling.
What would you like to change about the lighting industry?
Everything that comes after the design phase. Seriously, it’s an industry-wide struggle. The high-quality products and tools are there. The deep understanding of how to apply light and design is there. Lighting design professionals work so hard to knit these elements together to create the quality experience that clients want and should have.
What’s often missing is an appreciation of the value that quality lighting and lighting design brings, especially in context of the rest of the overall construction project. That leads to value engineering, where products are substituted based solely on price and the design integrity is weakened or lost.
There’s nothing worse than seeing a really good design get chopped because of value engineering, which is neither value nor engineering.
My point is not to complain, but rather to initiate a dialogue and lay the path to a solution. Technology isn’t the only thing evolving in the lighting industry; it’s time to rethink the post-design approach. What else can we all do to elevate the need for, and value of, high-quality lighting design?