FRED OBERKIRCHER | DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR LIGHTING EDUCATION | TEXAS CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITY What a wonderful problem to have! Across the spectrum of lighting design firms, the comment seems to be the same; we have more work than we can handle and the quality of the projects is the best it's been in a long time. Clearly, the lighting design profession has gained acceptance in the marketplace and the value of utilizing the services of a lighting designer has been recognized by clients.
There seem to be two ideas that have not been fully explored and might be effective from the cost/benefit point of view. The first is that historically, lighting initiatives have been limited by the term “architectural.” Grants, scholarships, and educational outreach have been addressed to programs based in “architectural lighting.” A bit strange considering of the number of “legendary” lighting designers that have received their education within a theatrical setting. Jill Mulholland of the IALD Education Trust recently attended a national conference of the U.S. Institute for Theatre Technology and confirmed that the organization has more than 400 educators and 100 student members. These represent significantly larger numbers than the trust's current educator list and, more importantly, represents a student population that well understands the aesthetic qualities of light. What they currently lack is an understanding of architectural lighting sources.
The second relates to a comment by Mark Lien, director of the Lighting Solutions Center for Hubbell Lighting in Greenville, South Carolina. In an article on commercial lighting education, Mark noted that manufacturer-based educational programs provide lighting education for more than 20,000 people annually. With manufacturer-based education's ability to provide intensive short-duration education, would an educational marriage with students of lighting (architectural and theatrical) provide a new and vital potential employee resource for the lighting design profession? As the lighting design profession's ability to secure cash from the industry continues to be an issue, could the opportunity to reserve manufacturer-based educational space become a viable cost/benefit alternative toward securing the future of the lighting design profession? And wouldn't it be wonderful if a dialogue, begun here, started that ball rolling?
DEREK PORTER | PROFESSOR AND DIRECTOR, MFA LIGHTING PROGRAM | PARSONS THE NEW SCHOOL FOR DESIGN Multiple factors contribute to our current struggle with the shortage of lighting design professionals. This includes the most significant reality, which is the specialty practice of architectural lighting design is not readily recognized as an independent autonomous profession that can be formally studied with a resulting practice. The assumption by most, including the general public and professionals in parallel industries, assume lighting to be a smaller integral subset of a larger trade, most likely architecture or engineering. Secondly, there are few institutions offering formal degrees or general studies in lighting design, thus yielding a limited number of recruits annually. Lastly, the lighting design profession has never forecasted toward the future. The profession's slow, steady growth over the past few decades has been adequately accommodated through the existing academic programs and on-the-job training as many practitioners transfer into lighting from other fields. Advances in technology, rising interests in more complex architectural projects with integrated lighting solutions and a heightened awareness of the positive benefit of quality lighting on human life has led to a spike in work demands that far exceed our capacity. The fix is not easy or immediate. To correct this dilemma, focus should be given to long-term planning that builds new academic programs and expands current ones, evaluates curricular content to ensure those educated are properly prepared to practice and contribute to the intellectual future of the profession and to raise awareness of architectural lighting design within academic institutions and parallel professions so that admission opportunities increase. Such an endeavor will require a unified effort between organizations (IALD, IESNA, PLDA, etc.), academies, and practitioners if the results are going to be long term and healthy.
INGRID MCMASTERS | SENIOR LIGHTING DESIGNER | KJWW ENGINEERING CONSULTANTS The lighting design community needs to launch an awareness campaign. Students in high school and college generally do not know that lighting design is a profession independent of architecture, interior design, and engineering. I find that when speaking with students about lighting design, there seems to be a lot of interest but little understanding of what a lighting designer does, earns, and foremost how to go about getting a lighting education. It seems as though most people fall into the field through incidental contact with another lighting designer. Furthermore, many adults in lighting-related careers seem to be searching for educational outlets and do not have a means of getting continuing education while maintaining their current careers.
AL REALE | LIGHTING DESIGNER | THE STUDIO GROUP It seems to me that innovation and sustainability, although important components, cannot be the primary factors in the future of lighting design. An important element has been seriously overlooked in regard to the stimulus for creativity in our working environment and everyday life—or maybe just plainly ignored. Whatever happened to “ambience,” “atmosphere,” “physical interpretation,” “participation,” “experience,” or just plain “soulfulness” of the 3-dimensional space? We don't need more lighting professionals, we need more competent ones. This also can be said about other professions as well. Creating more lighting professionals begins with education. The educational story is really very simple. Impact a child's brain to ask questions about visual spaces and the developing years will leave an indelible mark in someone's experience. And there you have the key word: “experience.”
THOMAS KOWALCZUK | LIGHTING DESIGNER | WYNN DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT Because saving energy is becoming such a big part of our lives, I believe more people are going to get involved in lighting and help fill the workplace shortage because of the “green” movement. With more stringent energy codes, the elimination of incandescent lamps, and using more CFL and LED products, it will require a lot of creativity to create spectacular lighting designs with the available pallet. The green movement will help the lighting profession and make us even more valuable to the design process.
PATRICK H. GRZYBEK | SENIOR ASSOCIATE | PERKINS+WILL Increase professional recognition and appreciation. The talents, innovation, and information the lighting design professional brings to the architectural and design workplace needs to be better respected and appreciated as an integral team member in the overall design process of a building and its environment. Create more accredited programs for lighting design education with an emphasis on professional design and aesthetic development. Become the indispensable product, aesthetic and energy conservation knowledge and creativity resource within the architectural and design community.
ANTHONY J DENAMI | LIGHTING DESIGNER | NASH LIPSET BURCH Without the mentoring process, young persons exploring the possibilities of their professional career, choose another path. Less and less people enter into the lighting design arena, so the gap continues to widen. To make strides toward increasing the field of lighting design professionals, candidates need to be encouraged to enter into this field. Perhaps seasoned lighting design professionals could visit students early while attending high school, or at colleges promoting this profession. Lighting designers should be among the top tier in compensation as well. Sometimes the lure of pure money, with expectations of a highly compensated career, might persuade someone to become a lighting designer. The rewards must out weigh the frustrations.