Fast growth in LEDs is causing lighting design firms to rethink their product libraries, devoting less space to printed materials while growing their digital footprints. Chicago-based lighting design firm Schuler Shook took its product-information library digital two years ago, and now its designers pull and share specs directly from manufacturer websites—and because new technology means the information changes quickly, designers often must pull fresh files for each project. “This is the modern version of standing in front of the catalog library when searching for a fixture,” says Grant Kightlinger, a project lighting designer at Schuler Shook. Similarly, at Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design (CBBLD), in New York, a product librarian collects materials sent to the firm and issues a monthly internal email detailing what’s new. The related files are saved to the firm’s server and are keyword searchable using the software NewForma.

The fewer clicks it takes to find product information online, the better, says CBBLD senior associate Nathalie Faubert. “We have limited fees, we are rushed with time, and are trying to issue [drawings and documents] very quickly,” she says. “We don’t want to spend too much time on things [like finding product information on a website].” And while the Internet may be many designers’ go-to source for product documentation, the manufacturer’s rep relationship is still vital. In Washington, D.C., the 10-person team at MCLA Architectural Lighting Design regularly meets with reps to learn about new products, as do Schuler Shook and CBBLD.

Keeping the length and frequency of the meetings to a minimum, while maintaining contact with the same rep or agency, is key to productive encounters. “When we need information, we need it quickly,” says MCLA principal Maureen Moran. While designers need to keep pace with change at the manufacturer level, those manufacturers must stay atuned to designers’ tight project deadlines and new, tech-driven workflows. Because if a company’s product information isn’t easy to find online, busy lighting designers may be inclined to take their business elsewhere. •