Jeremy Yon’s interest in lighting stems from his curiosity to understand how things work. A self-professed tinkerer, Yon is equally as interested in the process of creating as the finished outcome. “I like to break things down, see how they work—and to see how they will fail,” he says. It’s this approach to problem solving that led Yon, who is presently manager of product innovation at Massachusetts-based lighting manufacturer Litecontrol, to move from lighting design to luminaire design. After graduation, Yon worked for lighting design firm Schuler Shook in its Minneapolis office from 2000–2004. In February 2004 he made the move to Litecontrol as a product designer. Because of his background, Yon understands the creative process in both areas and now has a hand in creating a generation of products that marry technical achievement with design ingenuity.
When you were in school, were you aware of the different career avenues in lighting?
I think students are aware of lighting in terms of design or manufacturing, but I’m not sure they are aware of product design as a career path.
Best advice you’ve received about lighting?
It’s not advice but something to be mindful of when you are working: lighting is only noticed when it goes wrong. I always have that in mind.
Biggest misconception about luminaire design?
People are forced into this mindset that there are only two types of lights: commodity and custom. But there’s a middle ground where you can innovate and collaborate with people.
How do you start your design process?
It’s very nonlinear. We don’t try to design the product upfront and constrain it before we’ve even had a chance to speak with people. If you predefine what you want to solve, then you only end up doing what you set out to do.
With so much of the industry’s focus on LEDs, is there a lighting technology being overlooked?
There’s a difference between product promotion and product development. Companies focus on certain product messaging, but that doesn’t mean other things aren’t in development.
What represents innovation in lighting?
Innovation is courage. It takes courage to launch a product and to figure out how to mitigate the risk. It’s about finding the balance between creativity and business.
What advice would you give a student or designer newly entering the profession?
Challenge the lighting industry more. If you want to change the world, let’s work together.