Lighting Design and the Human Experience

Spaces that we spend time in impact us as we go about our lives. Our actions, energy and thoughts, as well as our physical well-being, are all profoundly influenced by our surroundings. The design, color scheme, textures, furnishings, accessories and lighting in our interiors, stimulate our senses and shape how we feel about ourselves and others.

Light can cheer us up, create a relaxed mood, stress us out, intensify our experience, give us an eerie feeling, focus our attention, create a romantic environment and more. Light also influences our circadian rhythms. Most life forms on our planet have circadian rhythms-even plants. It is a repetitious pattern based on the natural cycles of day turning to night, night to day. In most cases, our ability to sleep or stay awake is determined by our exposure to light. We are the only species that deliberately ignores innate biological rhythms for the sake of lifestyle. Whether it is a night shift at a job, travel, socializing until daybreak or even typing away on our devices into the night, we are obliterating our natural biological clocks. During the day, not only are we processing information on what we see, but our eyes are also gathering information about how much blue is in the light. A Harvard Medical School study revealed that blue light made people feel sharp and attentive, improved memory and reduced sleepiness. Basically, blue light kept people awake and intensified their emotions. A 2013 Journal of Neuroscience report showed that red in lighting had no effect on circadian rhythms at all which makes it a great choice for environments frequented during nighttime hours.

When designers look at a space, the first question they ask is, “What is the space being used for?” Next, they will create the desired lighting experience by analyzing the degree of brightness that would be appropriate, colors preferred, type of lighting (often a variety) and the plan and placement of the fixtures. Designers do all of this while considering inhabitants, guests and employees. They contemplate the needs, safety, security, mood, performance and experience for all of those who spend time in the space. The way a space feels can be shaped by how the lighting is intentionally installed. Up-lighting, down-lighting, task-lighting, layered-lighting all create unique atmospheres.

Before lighting up your space like Yankee Stadium, your design professional should also be thinking about the eco-friendly options that save energy and save you money over time. LED is the current lighting of choice as it offers a variety of temperatures and opportunities to create mood. The initial investment is often a deterrent, but it saves money over time because bulbs last approximately 50,000 hours. It is still the only energy-efficient bulb that does not rely on mercury vapor. Eco-friendly, halogen bulbs emit heat, so they are best used as accent lighting. There are fixtures specifically created to withstand the extreme heat of halogen bulbs. The advantage of using this type of bulb is that it produces a cleaner, whiter, brighter light than other bulbs. This offers a great opportunity to highlight specific design features in a space. Avoid too much radiant heat, by using halogen bulbs sparingly in your lighting design plan.

In the near future, we will see more modern Eco-friendly fluorescent lighting fixtures, that will be available in a variety of cool and warm temperatures. These will be thin tubes that are easy for artists to work with, so expect to see a new generation of unique tubular lighting designs.

What an exciting moment in time. Scientists and designers are creating the next chapter in Eco-friendly lighting, artisan lighting and lighting design that impacts the human experience!

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