Affective Lighting Design Goals

Affective Lighting Design is a term that has not been pursued in this field of study. I believe it is because very few consider “feeling” and “experience” within this process. In other words, it’s relatively a new consideration. No industry or professional goals have been established for the lighting design community. It is ELLI’s intent to do so, as there are four key areas of development within this learning. These goals are encouraged to allow those interested to excel in implementing emotional states within their lighting designs.

There are 4 primary goals associated to this learning:

1. Observation:

As lighting designers, it’s extremely important that we “Observe” everything we do. We must have a deep understanding of this in order to effectively develop natural spaces, which emotionally stimulate viewers. It is highly suggested that notes be taken, so that this observation can be better understood.

  • Observe the Types of Human Emotions. This includes the psychological & physiological responses in humans towards stimuli from the environments which surround them.
  • Observe Nature and Varying Types of Natural Spaces. Place emphasis on plant materials—their forms, textures, and growth habits. Learn how they fit together and develop a setting.
  • Observe Light and Shadow. How does it work in consideration of various living and non-living materials? Does the light reflect or absorb with these materials? Is there any shadow play?
  • Observe the Colors of Light. Concentrate on the color of light you see. How do these colors make you feel? How are others affected by this light? If it is ‘white’ light, then what color temperature are you observing and present to?
  • Observe the Theatrical Applications of Light. What lighting techniques or applications are used to create this scene? What mood do you feel when presented with a specific application of light, as well as color? One should consider their level of arousal with each of these states and conditions.

2. Experience:

To be considered an effective lighting designer, one must possess “Experience.” Experience is only gained through actual application and over time. It’s very important that we continue to grow and add to our experiences. The best form of experience is that which is, first-hand. Reading or hearing about it never compares to what is experienced.

  • Experience Nature and Natural Settings. This is usually done during the day time hours and it should provide enough time to encounter these natural changes. These changes include color of light, shadow patterns, as well as changes in mood.
  • Experience Light and Shadow Applications. As mentioned previously, this play is another perspective of feeling. One should consider these differences as light interacts with varying materials. Does it reflect, absorb or refract off of these materials? Again, how do these varying experiences make you feel? The lighting designer should also explore the similarities and differences between natural light and man-made light.
  • Experience Working with Lighting Equipment. Not only does this provide the technical learning necessary to provide these systems, but it provides the insight to understanding light distribution. How does beam spread impact the subject? What wattage is suitable for the lighting application? How much glare is present with varying positions? These questions are all challenging to explain outside of experiencing them first-hand.Lighting designers need to perform ‘Aiming’ adjustments, as this process is very valuable in understanding light placement. New designers should spend quality time working with equipment in this way, and they should start with just one light fixture. Take the time to practice and play with varying positions with this single source—enough until fully versed in how best to apply one light.

    As experience develops, the new lighting designer should incorporate two or more light fixtures, and repeat this practice. Notes should be taken once again, so that a deeper learning experience can be obtained.They should include what they see and how they feel by these changes. One might even draw sketches of these illumination patterns, so that further thought can occur.

    This type of experience is the best means to advance one’s self in this art-form. Most lighting designers fall short in this effort, as they limit their learning to only a few techniques and sessions. One can only gain, grow and realize when they employ effective time into this practice.

  • Experience Working with Other People. The point to this is that greater learning comes from spending time with other colleagues or people. Not only do you experience different ideas, but you observe natural and emotional impacts. Remember, everyone is different, and they can all provide valuable feedback and learning.

3. Communication:

Lighting designers must be able to communicate their thoughts, visualizations and questions in order to gain understanding from the consumer. Good communication can only exist when the designer has proven experience to extract crucial information.

The lighting designer must act accordingly, like that of a doctor or counselor in order to determine root Desires. This will also include the understanding of one’s Fears and Concerns. Although much of this questioning is geared towards the ‘Sales Process,’ it does provide an excellent measure towards design and the evoking of emotions.

  • Communicate effectively to Gain Information. Although this sounds easy to do, many fail to gain understanding in the “Why” and “What” of the communication process. The designer needs to ask enough questions to understand the consumer’s daily life, including activities.What is their work environment like? How is their health—are they sick a lot, headaches, stress? How do they relax and what do they find pleasing? Do they have children or aged parents that live with them? Do they sleep well?

    Each of these questions is very important. The goal is to provide the type of space that most impacts a positive and healthy experience. In many cases, they require a restorative and peaceful setting. In other cases, they require a happy and joyous setting. Every person has different needs and sometimes one might require multiple settings depending on the need.

Our ability to effectively communicate identifies that we are considerate of their needs and ailments in life. It provides an understood credibility and ‘perceived value.’ And value is in the eyes of the beholder—communication equates to ‘connection,’ which is a shared venture.

4. Application:

Every landscaped scene must utilize the proper application of light to arouse emotion. This is the final goal which proves the ‘Affect’ of a setting. Our goal in Application is to understand how to employ lighting to evoke varying emotional states.

As ‘effective’ lighting designers, this is where our value is measured—in the response of those stimulated by our designs. We must have the skill set and knowledge to arouse individual states of emotion. The following emotions are most desired in this art-form:

  • Application of Happiness, which includes the descriptive nature of Joy, Delight, Elation, and Desire.
  • Application of Intrigue, which includes the descriptive nature with Curiosity, Interest, and Fascination.
  • Application of Awe, which includes the descriptive elements of Inspiration, Wonderment, Mystery, and reverential Respect.
  • Application of Contentment, which includes the descriptive nature with Calm, Peace, Tranquility, and Serenity.
  • Application of Fear, which includes the descriptive elements of Apprehension, Tension, and Mystery.