Well-considered lighting design is human-centric at its core. Pared-down or dramatic, LED or otherwise, lighting ultimately functions to benefit whoever it exists for. As award-winning lighting designer Michael Grubb says, “Architectural lighting is soulless without people.” 

The rise of smart lighting, innovations in LED technologies and the increased development of energy-efficient products have broadened the realm of possibility for design professionals seeking to create human-centric spaces. 

On the surface this seems wholly positive for the design sector, yet the opportunities brought about by these shifts cannot be adequately utilised without the lighting literacy commonly possessed by a lighting designer. 

The inaugural Light·Space·Design 2019 summit has been created to help design professionals, through a combination of keynote, panel and 1-minute presentations, further develop their own lighting literacy while simultaneously gaining access to the lighting professionals who can elevate their projects. 

Adele Locke, director of residential lighting design practice Mint Lighting is one such talent well-equipped with the knowledge needed to not only select the right lighting needed for any given space, but to ensure it remains practical in the long term. 

“This is the value of working with a lighting design professional - it's not just that we know how to apply light to create a beautiful environment, we also know how to evaluate the fittings to ensure the project is simple to install, does not go out of fashion and provides beautiful, sustainable light.” 

Locke will be presenting at the summit on how wider industry shifts reflect best-practice solutions for residential lighting design.

While some industries have been utilising lighting designers for years, others have yet to catch up. Grubb, who will be joining Locke as a speaker at Light·Space·Design 2019 says that for museums and galleries, “lighting design requirements are written into their briefs with most projects requesting an independent lighting consultant.”

Other industries “still see lighting design as a luxury rather than a necessity – but this is starting to change.” 

An increased awareness of design professionals’ skill in applying their combined creative and technical knowledge highlights the importance of the oft-forgotten lighting designer – who by nature, must blend the artistic, natural, and technical in order to realise a design brief.

Some experts suggest that designers are failing to embrace natural light within their architectural concepts, such Arup’s Global Lighting Design Leader and Light·Space·Design 2019 keynote speaker Florence Lam.

Lam says that up until the 80s, architecture students were encouraged to embrace daylight qualities within their work – yet today, this part of their education has been neglected. 

“The complex and crammed curricula of modern architectural education leave students lacking the opportunity to observe, imagine and embrace daylight at the beginning of every design.”

The daylight element is often left to the project engineers, who tend to approach daylight mainly from an energy perspective rather than from one that considers the bigger, more human-centric picture. 

Students will spend most of their degrees learning what is provided to them – this is reality. Without a broader industry shift, they will continue to be unaware of the benefits of light in transforming spaces. The industry at large must develop a broader lighting literacy in order to create more cohesive, well-lit and exceptionally designed spaces. 

Expanding one’s understanding of the crucial role that light, artificial or natural, plays in creating such a space requires a deep understanding of how a lighting designer can successfully elevate a project.

Designers understand that each space is different. Depending on the client, brief, and a range of regulatory and social factors, the way an architect and interior designer designs a space will differ, sometimes drastically, from project to project. 

Lighting design follows this same path. Adele Locke explains that whether new or renovated, at each residence she works on “the style of the lighting we design is driven by the needs of the client, by what they want to see.” 

“The world outside goes away when you close that front door, and you enter into your private world, where only the things that matter to you are important.” 

Locke adds that while “we may use the same types of lights in many of our projects, no two homes will ever look the same.” Even cultural context can come into play, as the backgrounds of clients strongly influences what they value and as a result what they want to see. 

Commercial spaces are perhaps not as deeply personal to us as our homes, yet the type of care taken by design professionals requires just as much complexity as a residential design project. 

Such venues may play host to a number of people at any given time, their ultimate aim to raise revenue through the enjoyment of visitors. And yet enjoying one’s stay at a nice hotel or relaxing with friends over food and drink is for many of us, an important part of winding down after a hectic day, or even a hectic year. 

As DJCoalition Director David Skelley explains, lighting within these spaces must showcase the unique characteristics of the space and the products(s) on display, mainly by facilitating an environment that attracts people and helps elevate their experience. 

Skelley, who has lit venues from Marina Bay Sands Singapore to Amman’s Four Seasons hotel, says that lighting design today must consider solo diners as much as it considers larger groups of people. 

“I believe more thought needs to be given to solo dining. From my perspective lighting design needs to generate places in bars and restaurants where solo diners can feel comfortable, able to meet other diners or just be by themselves.” 

Whether a designer is working on a family home or a bar, an office setting or a hotel, the lighting within any space must have a beneficial effect on the human tenant. 

Today, says Adele Locke, “we’re seeing an explosion of new technology in the lighting space, enabling designers to create dramatically different illuminated experiences.” Lighting and its developing technologies have the power to calm people, to fascinate them, to uplift and to set a mood.

Without acknowledging how a lighting designer can cut through the intricacies of their art to connect people to a space through light, the power of human-centric lighting design will only ever be realised half-heartedly.

Light·Space·Design 2019 will be held on the 27th of March at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre.