Winning the top 2004 New Product Showcase Award at Lightfair for Line, Ann Reo and her company io Lighting are among those in the industry to watch.

» Ann Reo, founder and president of the Chicago-based io Lighting, which focuses solely on creating LED-based luminaires, got her start studying architecture. She thrived in an architectural lighting course at the University of Illinois, and never turned back. Beginning her career as a lighting consultant, she found that, 'the product development process associated with building a fixture is much like the process of building a building.'

After four years as vice president of product development at Focal Point, in Chicago, where she developed fluorescent-based luminaires, Reo sought inspiration in a new technology: Studying LEDs, she says, 'I realized that there was the opportunity to change the architecture of the light fixture altogether, because the 'light bulb' now is flat.'

Reo's mission currently is to create affordable LED-based lighting that can compete in the mainstream market, and she believes this can be achieved by designing products intelligently from the ground up. Her 15-person company, launched in 1992, develops modular luminaires that 'really harness all of the lumens' by placing them where they are needed most and creating intensely focused light beams. The result is a great amount of illumination at a low cost and minimal wattage.

Reo's newest product, a wall washer called Line, garnered the 2004 Best New Product of the Year at Lightfair International. Originally designed as a low-profile luminaire that would sit on a 4- to 6-inch-wide building sill, the fixture was then modified to include wider beam patterns for wall washing and signage. Drawing only 10 watts, it projects light up to 40 feet, with a highly focused beam that emits minimal stray light-making the product suitable for projects where light trespass and light pollution are concerns.

Summing up her devotion to her craft, Reo gushes, 'I just love lighting. It's creative; it's an art and a science.' Anna Holtzman