Why is the topic of credentialing one of the most debated issues in the lighting community? Because at its very core, credentialing alters processes and procedures that have been in place for more than 40 years. For many lighting designers, many of whom have been in practice for a very long time, this will be a difficult adjustment. In addition, credentialing potentially impacts how one pursues lighting education and it might even require a re-evaluation of how lighting degrees are offered at the various university-level programs around the world.

But credentialing is not a new issue. It has been part of the conversation about lighting design since the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) was formed in 1969. The ebbs and flows of contemporary design practice has seen the issue surface and then retreat a number of times over the past four decades, but the catalyst that most recently propelled the issue on its current trajectory centers around Texas House Bill 2649.

In May 2009, legislation was proposed in the state of Texas that, in essence, would have made it illegal for a lighting designer to practice their craft in the state if they were not licensed. A grassroots, 11th-hour mobilization of the lighting design community worked to make sure that the damaging language was omitted from the final version of the bill. But that experience was enough to make lighting designers seriously examine whether they need to create a credentialing system, and what the ramifications of this system might be, so that the community would not find itself revisiting similar situations in the future.

In 2010, the IALD started the process by establishing an international task force headed by committee chair David Becker, who at the time was director of lighting design at Sydney-based lighting firm Point of View, to examine the feasibility of such a certification program. The committee was made up of IALD members and participants from other lighting organizations and manufacturers, including the Professional Lighting Designers’ Association (PLDA), the National Council on Qualifications for the Lighting Professions (NCQLP), and the Lighting Industry Resource Council (LIRC), which is the arm of the IALD that represents manufacturers. (One note: The PLDA is no longer a functioning professional organization; it disbanded in 2014.) While the IALD, as the principal professional organization representing lighting designers, has taken the lead on this initiative, the association has made it clear from the start that this program was not solely for its members, but for all professional lighting designers.

The credentialing task force’s initial work involved gathering feedback from the various constituents and clarifying the definitions and differences of key terms that commonly are interchanged in such discussions. The most commonly mistakenly interchanged terms are the difference between licensure and credentialing, and the distinction is a very important one to make. A license allows someone to practice a profession in a particular state and is governed by health and safety issues. Credentialing, on the other hand, is a “method for maintaining quality standards of knowledge and performance, and in some cases, for stimulating continued self improvement. Credentialing confers occupational identity.”

During this initial fact-finding phase, the IALD introduced a series of webinars to inform its members about the issues and gather feedback. It also distributed a survey to get the opinions of those involved, and received more than 6o0 responses to this initial questionnaire. Armed with all of this information, the organization decided to proceed with the development of a certification program over the next 12 to 18 months. Throughout this process, the credentialing task force enlisted the help of Judith Hale, a certification expert and psychometric consultant and principal of Hale Associates in Downers Grove, Ill.

One of the goals for pursuing the credentialing program has been to avoid legislative bodies establishing restrictions in the future, as Texas threatened to do. Another, equally as critical, purpose has been the validation of lighting design as a profession. As a field that functions in a consultancy capacity to architecture, lighting designers have often felt that they don’t necessarily receive the same level of respect that they offer their architecture and engineering colleagues, whose professions do have a licensure system. A credential would serve the purpose of defining, not just for the lighting community but for the larger architecture and engineering community, the specific skills and qualifications that a lighting designer brings to the mix.

“The task force studying the viability of a global credential has observed that if the architectural lighting design community doesn’t define the areas in which we practice and measure competency against a validated standard, there is the very real danger that others will force regulations on us or determine our destiny without our control,” says Becker on the credentialing program info page on the IALD’s website. (Becker is now the chair of the Certified Lighting Designer Commission.) “The alternative is that we make a proactive, unified effort as a global profession to define ourselves by determining the domains of practice and core competencies in which highly sophisticated lighting designers must excel in order to be eligible for certification.”

In pursuing this certified lighting designer (CLD) program, a tremendous amount of work has taken place. Here’s a breakdown:

2010–2011: Job Task Analysis
The IALD credentialing task force commenced a fact-finding initiative examining best practices in the certification industry. They also started a task analysis to define what it is that a lighting designer does. This analysis looked at international standards for a professional certification program and looked in depth at core competencies of the lighting professional to best ensure that the full scope of a lighting designer’s work was taken into account.

2011: Domains of Practice
From the task analysis emerged a list of core competencies (see “Certified Lighting Designer Domains of Practice” below), organized into seven domains. Designers seeking certification would need to meet requirements in all seven.

2012: Global Certification Survey
To test the validity and defensibility of all this preliminary work, the IALD conducted a global survey to evaluate whether or not the seven domains of practice accurately represent the scope of a lighting designer’s work. Responding were 637 building-design industry professionals from more than 36 countries who confirmed that the seven domain were on target.

2013–2014: Alpha and Beta Studies
With the global certification survey complete, the credentialing task force initiated an alpha study. This limited-member test evaluated the CLD certification to examine whether the application process was clear and workable.

Participants provided feedback and the task force made further modification to the application process. A second-round beta test was started midway through 2013 and completed at the end of 2014. This test was opened up to a wider sampling of lighting design professionals to ensure geographic diversity, gender, length of time working, and size of practice.

The CLD Commission has adopted the work of the certification task force and the aim is to launch the program in early 2015. Learn more at the program’s online portal—cld.global.

Professional members of approved lighting design associations will be able to participate—to date, this includes members of the IALD and the Asociación Profesional de Diseñadores de Iluminación, and an approval process is set up to review other design associations. The application fee is $625, but professional members of approved lighting design associations will receive a discounted price of $525. Recertification is required every five years.

Like any new program, the CLD is sure to go through growing pains after it is introduced. And while many in the lighting community might still be unaware of what’s in store if they chose this certification route, they can be assured that a rigorous process has set it in motion for the program to succeed.

Certified Lighting Designer Domains of Practice

1. Goals and Outcomes
Demonstrated skill at designing lighting solutions that satisfy project requirements and design intent so the solutions perform as expected.

2. Collaboration
Skill at interacting with other disciplines by serving as an integral member of the team so that lighting relates to its context and adds value to a project.

3. Ingenuity
A record of contributing ideas that demonstrate innovation, creativity, originality, or resourcefulness to foster the goals of the project.

4. Synthesis
Demonstrated ability to integrate the technical and aesthetic elements of lighting with space and form.

5. Science
Showing how light interacts with people, materials, and building systems by applying the principles of light to meet relevant technical criteria.

6. Stewardship
Responding to known and potential social and environmental impact by designing solutions that avoid or minimize harm, discomfort, or waste.

7. Human Experience
Demonstrated ability to design lighting solutions that positively affect people.

Source: iald.org/about/IALDCertificationNews.asp