Every profession has a responsibility to nurture its young, to grow new talent, and to pass on knowledge. But, as editor of this publication, I have often expressed my concern that the next generation was nowhere to be found. I am happy to report, however—after attending both the IALD Annual Conference in Vancouver this past October, and more recently the IES Annual Conference in Minneapolis—that the next generation has arrived.
Young designers have started to make the transition from school to the workplace, and this has become evident with their appearance and participation in the lighting industry’s conferences and events. In particular, both the IALD and the IES should be applauded for their outreach efforts to students and emerging professionals (EPs) and for establishing programs, such as the IALD’s Emerging Lighting Design Professionals Initiative and the IES’s newly announced mentoring program, which make students and EPs not only feel welcome at these industry gatherings, but also feel as though they are part of a larger design community.
And it doesn’t stop there. At the IALD conference this year, EPs made up many of the seminar presenters, and it was extremely refreshing to hear a more diverse range of experiences represented in these sessions. This is a far cry from the first IALD conference I attended, more than 10 years ago, where students shied away, hiding in the corner of the conference venues, afraid to engage with professionals, who in turn were not sure how to engage with the students.
Before going any further, it also should be pointed out that much of this activity is supported by the generous financial contributions from lighting manufacturers whose donations make it possible for students and EPs from all over the globe to travel and attend annual conferences and industry events such as Lightfair.
But it’s not just students and EPs who get a lot out of these events, professionals do too. Many senior-level practitioners have commented on how rewarding it is to meet students and young designers. The portfolio-review sessions at both conferences are yet another example of how this interaction between the generations is beneficial to both. Young designers get direct feedback from leading design professionals, and firm leaders find potential new hires.
The interstitial conversations are some of the most rewarding. I was particularly impressed by the questions I was asked at the speed-dating-style session at the recent IES conference. I’d been asked by the society to speak to students, EPs, and section leaders during the pre-conference workshops and the Leadership Forum about the role of social media, as well as to serve as a representative of an alternate career track in design. Professionals representing all facets of the lighting industry provided a brief overview of their backgrounds, and then the young designers had 10 minutes to ask questions. The questions were thought-provoking.
There are a host of industry mechanisms out there—grants and scholarships through the IALD, the IES, and the Nuckolls Fund; student design and fixture competitions; and workshops, such as the program in Alingsås, Sweden. But I’m not sure students and EPs avail themselves of these resources as much as they should. And this doesn’t consider the new opportunities that are appearing all the time, such as the recently announced Jonathan Speirs Scholarship Trust in the U.K. for architecture students who are interested in pursuing lighting.
As I enter 2013, my 10th year with this publication, I am reassured that the next generation of lighting professionals is here and that they are uniquely talented in design, research, and their desire to expand the boundaries of architectural lighting design. You should be too. The lighting community’s best return on investment is its next generation.