I wouldn’t be telling you anything new if I said that technology is changing at an ever-increasing rate. But in the lighting industry there is a lot more happening, which makes these times truly disruptive and perhaps even inconvenient for some people … but not for me.
Gone are the times that a manufacturer could sell lamps and luminaires with big margins, using known technologies, illuminating the world one lux at the time and repeating concepts and specifications for years and years without substantially changing anything. Gone are the times that a lighting designer could draw his plans like “ambient lighting, accent lighting, specialty lighting” and analyze them for uniformity and reflection factors on his laptop. Gone are the times that retailers install ceiling panels, 60×60 cm, with a luminaire every 2.4 meters. Things were comfortable then because there were no unknowns and everyone got his share. But those days are gone!
Can you remember when digital music was introduced? It was 1983, and my father – a musician nota bene – took me to the audio/visual tradeshow. Philips introduced the compact disk; and suddenly everything changed. Music became replicable with no loss and with the arrival of CD burners everyone could become a music label! I was thrilled. Digital technology was extremely empowering and sooner rather than later, I started to compose music, distribute it, market it and enjoy all of it on a computer – and later on I could use my phone.
Can you remember the arrival of digital photography? In1996 I bought a Philips digital camera (the ESP-2) and we were all blown away by the new possibilities it offered us as designers! I showed it off in Tom Hennes’ office in New York City. The people there couldn’t believe their eyes! We started to brainstorm what we could do with it: make affordable presentations, show images to clients on our computer, take snapshots at an extremely low cost and be much faster turning around design pilots and experiments. My camera only had VGA resolution (does that mean anything at all to millennials?) but we didn’t care: Digital technology offered opportunities to improve our work and we understood the affordability and accessibility of it. That is the real empowerment of digitization: it offers new possibilities and it is extremely democratic.
Things are the same now with lighting. Many professionals are concerned, just like many photographers and photography corporations were in the nineties. Many lighting people feel that LED is not only a new opportunity but also a threat, and many are forced to re-think their profession because with digital tech comes a new paradigm of how you do your work and what you deliver to your clients. I am excited about the new opportunities! Today, lighting doesn’t only illuminate. Sure, it still shapes and articulates the buildings, cars, spaces and objects that surround us, but now that it’s digital it can do so much more. Light is for entertainment, health, wellbeing and productivity. Light gives identity, heart and soul, color and spirit. And the beautiful thing is: everyone is a lighting designer! Across all industries, light can contribute to making better products and giving better experiences. And to be successful in doing so, one requires an understanding of digital technology, and more importantly, comprehension of the way people shape their digital world around their desires to express, create, connect, experience and transform.
Rogier van der Heide
Rogier van der Heide is not only one of the world’s best- known lighting designers, but also a recognized c-suite executive specialized in enabling sustainable business growth by design. Rogier’s current agenda of key topics includes Open Innovation, IoT, Foresighting, Branding, and the Convergence of Disciplines such as Design, Marketing and Technology. As a lighting designer, he led Arup Lighting for eight years, and has worked for over 30 years on some of the most challenging projects worldwide, often recognized with the most prestigious awards. He continues to work in lighting design, while at the same time advising corporations on design strategy, and teaching at the university. Rogier has been the curator of Trends in Lighting 2018 in Bregenz: A leading lighting design event.