When discussing lighting design, much attention is paid to how projects are realized--the aesthetic components and technical requirements that contribute to the design. But how does a client or owner go about hiring the individual or group of individuals who will conceive, develop, and execute that design? And how do they determine if a lighting designer is in fact needed for the project?

There are number of variables that come into play when deciding whether or not to hire a lighting consultant: project type and size, budget, and scope of work. On large-scale commercial projects, the lighting designer is usually hired by the architect, who is responsible for assembling the team of building specialists who will lend their professional expertise to the project, and who can coordinate the necessary information among the entire team. Some projects, perhaps due to a smaller scale or limited budget, do not have the resources to involve a lighting designer, and so the architect and/or electrical engineer oversee the lighting design.

Selection Criteria

Selecting a lighting designer is similar to the selection process involved in finding any qualified design professional. Hiring can occur via many avenues: referrals from professional colleagues, project request for proposals, even design competitions.

Items for a client and/or owner to consider in evaluating a lighting designer's qualifications are:

  • Credentials
    What is the lighting designer's educational background?
    Does the lighting designer have a professional degree?
    How many years has the lighting designer practiced?
    Has the lighting designer always worked for others, or do they have their own firm?
    What type of professional work experience and project familiarity does the lighting designer have?
    Does the lighting designer belong to professional organizations?
    Is the lighting designer licensed (if required) or have the necessary certification(s) to practice?
    Does the lighting designer have any particular area(s) of lighting expertise either in terms of project type, technique, or research investigations?

  • Project Familiarity
    A perspective client should, when possible visit some of the lighting designer's completed work. Evaluating design work via photographs only tells part of the story, particularly when it comes to lighting. Experiencing the actual place and the quality of light is far more informative.
    Speak with the people that use/inhabit the space. Do they find it a pleasant place to live/work? Or are there design, technical, or maintenance problems associated with the lighting design?

  • Design Approach
    What is the lighting designer's working methodology?
    When do he/she enter the design process?
    What is the scope of work the lighting designer will perform?
    Will the lighting designer interact strictly with the architect or the entire design team?
    Will the lighting designer be called on to provide consultation regarding energy codes and lighting specifications?
    Will the project actively incorporate sustainable design features? Is the project seeking LEED certification?
    What are the lighting designer's expectations of the architect and other team members?