Serendipity has played a great role in Francesca Bettridge's career. When Bettridge was a graduate student at the Open Atelier of Design in New York City, legendary lighting designer Carroll Cline sat in on her end-of-year review. Impressed with her work, Carroll asked her to join his firm. It was a fantastic hands-on opportunity to learn everything and write her own script in the nascent years of the lighting profession. Early evolutions brought Jim Nuckolls and Stephen Bernstein into the office, and in 1985, Cline, Bettridge, and Bernstein established their own practice. The rest as they say is history. With a prolific career that has spanned more than 25 years, Bettridge has worked with the best in the design world and put her own sophisticated and elegant stamp on the lighting profession.
You worked with one of lighting's greats, Carroll Cline; what do you take away from the experience?
A collaborative design process and a shorthand form of communication. I have a similar working style with Stephen [Bernstein].
How does your art background translate to your work?
I'm interested in understanding composition and light, and how that can convey an emotion through narrative.
What advice would you give a young lighting designer?
Work for a firm whose work you respect, a place where you'll be able to ask questions. Initiative will help gain experience, but you have to be patient, it will take a few years until you are really valuable to a firm.
Is there a way to expedite an accumulation of knowledge?
There's no easy route, but it does help to be a good listener.
How do you work with high-profile architects but still have your lighting knowledge recognized?
It's the way you communicate. You have to know when to jump in and offer ideas, and other times you have to accept that the design parameters have already been established before you've even arrived.
What's one of the challenges practitioners face today?
Keeping up with all the information and technological changes.
Where do you see lighting heading in the next decade?
Lighting designers will become even more involved in the fine-tuning of codes. Saving energy is our moral imperative, but I hope we can still save design, and maintain a sense of fun in our profession.