Much like earthly organisms need sun, a design needs good lighting to come to life. As designers, we tend to focus on how lighting affects the look of a project. However, we may not always realize how the lighting we choose can profoundly affect the inhabitants of the environments we create.
Whether it’s haute couture or luxury interiors, lighting is one of the most important design tenets. Lighting can highlight a focal point or graze a textured wall, and it can set a romantic mood or maximize sight for detailed tasks.
The most important thing? Perfect lighting at all times.Fashion designer, Oscar de la Renta
The invention of the dimmer switch was perhaps one of the greatest advancements in versatile lighting design. Interior designers know that the ability to control brightness brings with it infinite creative possibilities. A romantic mood here, a bright focal point there, and voila, layered lighting creates a dynamic interior.
What you may not know is that a light’s brightness has a direct affect on the intensity of people’s emotions.
A recent study by the Humanities Research Council of Canada found that “the way a room is lit can affect decision making, with bright light acting as a possible catalyst for more intense emotions,” towards both people and products.
For instance, participants in the study who were under brighter light wanted spicier sauce on their chicken wings. They also thought images of women were more attractive and felt more intensely about positive and negative words than those in a dimmer environment.
But it isn’t just the intensity of light that influences the end-user; it’s the color of the light as well.
But why is it important to us? More than knowing how a paint color will look under incandescent lamps or how an upholstery fabric might change under a CFL?
Scientists have proven that particular colors of light can also affect human behavior.
Researchers at the University of Liège in Belgium studied the effects of light on cognitive tasks found that light is a “powerful stimulating signal for human alertness and cognition.”
Exposing subjects to orange light one hour before engaging in a cognitive task led to better performance than those exposed to blue light. Thus, this study concluded that a thoughtful design of lighting systems could be used effectively to maximize productivity.
In response to studies such as these, the design community is partnering with lighting experts to broaden the knowledge base in this area so vital to interior design.
The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) has forged agreements with the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) and the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) to collaborate on common issues in lighting.
These groups have pledged to combine their efforts to develop cohesive lighting codes with the help of the International Code Council (ICC) and to further advancements in energy-efficient lighting.
As designers, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves about effective lighting. Only then can we use it for the best interest of our creative vision and the psychological & emotional effects on the end-user. Lighting doesn’t just affect how our designs look; it influences the way our clients experience them.
What can you do to ensure that the lighting you choose has a positive effect on your design and the space’s end-users?
What tools can you use to specify lighting that is both energy-efficient and promotes psychological and emotional wellbeing?
Having a thorough understanding of lighting topics from systems integration to the various lighting systems to calculating energy efficiency will help ensure you are prepared come exam day.