Singapore, weekend 16-17th September 2017
Back from a highly exciting time in Shanghai last week, I had the time to catch up on some back-log work (at least that was what I hoped for) but as always expect the unexpected…half way the week my laptop (my life!) started to play up with a graphics card going haywire creating the strangest sceneries on my display with a cursor jumping all over the screen, making work a near impossibility. Not deterred I turned the setback into a positive action by going out to buy myself a new laptop. It was about time anyhow as I have been upgrading/ renewing my laptop every two years or thereabouts, so this was the perfect excuse 😊. I came home with the latest HP Spectre X360, a little beauty, small, light, compact but packing an unbelievable power and memory and to top it off a touch screen and pen for my beloved sketching needs!
But obviously it came with the pain of having to transfer and re-install everything. Not my favourite pass-time and of course there were some hick-ups that required some reformatting and recovery…but it is all working now and I am enjoying it writing this blog! Next the Samsung Note 8! Out this weekend in Singapore so I may get out later and try get my hand on one. I was about to upgrade my Note 5 to the Note 7 when the battery issues happened, so I have been holding back all this time…by all accounts this also is a beauty and a great tool for designers with its handy pen sketching options 😊
Otherwise nothing spectacular happened during the week other that we had several supplier updates regarding products. Suppliers are a special breed of people, each with their own way of promoting their latest products and ways of getting you to specify their products. Let’s have a look at three distinctive supplier tactics which I encountered this week:
1- The professional one to one product sell
This is the traditional approach, based on a knowledgeable sales person, one who knows his products inside out, understands what we as lighting designers are looking for and does not bullshit around. Most of all, he is capable of highlighting the key features of his products that stand out and how these would make a difference in our projects. Not fishing for projects, just let his expertise, knowledge and product quality do the talking. This is the type I love to see in our office. They are educational, they bring real value to our product knowledge and therefore the intelligence value that we bring to our projects and clients. When they leave our office you feel excited about the new opportunity for your projects. There is no need to pitch for projects because their presentation and product introduction already have us on edge and looking for opportunities to apply them.
This week we had the visit of Orluna to update us on the latest products. I came away with 3 very interesting general product features which I would like to share as I believe these are important added value features worth educating our clients about.
The first is that their products are now being designed with recycled materials and are also designed to be recycled. Why is that important? Because it is time to switch from the current waste economy to a circular economy (Light as a Service!) and having manufacturers taking the lead and showing the way is commendable. To reinforce the message Orluna is offering a residue value to their products. In other words, a client who purchased their products would still be able to “trade in” the products at the end of use. This could be an interesting value feature in the specification process!!
The second is that they guarantee their lifespan as a result of tightly managing the LED junction temperature (JT). By ensuring that all their products have a junction temperature of <65 degrees, they can assure longevity with case studies showing some of their products having only 10% lumen depreciation after no less than 70,000 hours! I understand that common market practice is a JT of <85 degrees. Again, perhaps a consideration to actually highlight the JT as a requirement in the specifications as this is a determining factor in assuring the product lifespan!
Last but not least they also offer a dimming guarantee. I mentioned this in one of my previous blogs. Dimming quality is one of the key challenges we face in practically every project, so having a product specification supported with a guaranteed 0-100% soft dimming is a great peace of mind, not only for the client but also for us!
2- The event based product introduction
In the later part of the week we attended a product launch, this time from FLOS, who introduced us in a well arranged setting their latest outdoor lighting range. To entice a good attendance and stimulate networking, the event was held at one of the beachside restaurants in Sentosa, away of the hustle and bustle of the city. A good idea anyhow as the city is in a partial lock down at the moment for this weekend’s F1 street race.
This kind of product introductions are not so much about technical discussions or “boring” presentations, it’s the relaxed setting, get to know the products at your own pace, connect with the people behind the products. These events are often an exercise in branding and reinforcing corporate identity and the companies standing in the market as a leader of innovative products. This in turns then strengthens the brand loyalty.
The award-winning Michelin rated Tanjung Beach restaurant with its outdoor space facing the beach, the sea and the sunset was a perfect setting for some Paella, a glass of Sangria (or other 😊) and chatting with colleagues in the industry while inspecting the products on their merits in the process. These events re-enforce the bonding with your local supplier and while you may not get the immediate product specifics, you create a direct bonding and know you can pick up the phone when the need arises. We need the people’s support as much as the products themselves!
3- The personal approach
Finally, the “personal” approach, which generally happens in a one to one setting in a bar, restaurant, nightclub or golf course or the like and has but one goal is to get you committed to use their products. The “mates” deal, I help you, you help me approach. These approaches can be helpful but are generally very sensitive as there is a fine line between “friendship” and professionalism to be walked. I had one of these this week as well where one of the suppliers I had not met for a long time asked me out for drinks “wanting to catch up”. This generally means wanting to find out what projects you are working on and see if with some wining and dining (or more…) you can be seduced to promote/ specify their products. Sometimes these are just really about friendship and just catching up. After all it is a small world and keeping friendly relationships is important. Over the years you learn to know who is really trying to create a friendship and who is pretending, with the sole aim to get business from you…when you are prepared and clear about it you can use these “mate”- meetings to get some valuable market intelligence 😊. For those who are your real friends there are never any issues as they adhere to professional ethics by treating you with trust, respect and integrity!
Have a great weekend!
Singapore, weekend 9-10th September 2017
What a week it was! On Monday I had a full day travel starting with a 6.30am flight from Perth to Singapore, followed by a short transit and then onwards to Shanghai where I reached my hotel well past midnight…Pudong Airport can be notoriously busy and slow getting through and it was no different on arrival Monday, it took me more than an hour to get out of the airport to find my driver! But as I had flown comfortably in front of the plane I got my preparations for the week’s proceedings all done and ready so I felt confident in my task to moderate our Lighting Design Agora at the Shanghai International Lighting Fair (SILF), a first for me!. I have always participated to these kind of events as speaker but moderating two days in a row was a totally new experience! Looking back I must say that just speaking for 45 mins is actually easier and more relaxed, but I think I acquitted myself well of my moderating task and really enjoyed directing the proceedings, introducing the speakers and leading the panel discussions. Having been instrumental in designing the concept, building the speaker program and preparing the event I felt really invested to make the event a success. Seeing and hearing the reactions of those who participated in the second instalment of this event I feel very satisfied and appreciative. The feedback was great, from the speakers, from our sponsors and from the event organisers. The Lighting Design Agora is the combined brainchild of the Chinese Lighting Design Association (Lear Hsieh), its International Advisory Council (James Wallace and myself) and Messe Frankfurt HK (Scarlet Mak). Ultimately it is our goal to develop this lighting fair to a high quality lighting designers fair (not a OEM/Product fair like Hong Kong or Guangzhou) much more in the spirit of Light & Build Frankfurt but then here in Asia. This year we made a huge step forward, with a much bigger stand, much bigger crowds and much higher quality speakers and content. It has strengthen our belief we are on the right way and we have already started planning for SILF 2018! Thanks to all that contributed and participated!
Below a day to day account in images of the event:
The Lighting Design Agora, the main stand:
Day 1, morning session: The Future of Smart Lighting
We started the program with a keynote presentation by Prof Horng- Ching Hsiao from the National University of Science and Technology in Taiwan, who unlighted the crowd about with his topic “New Technologies for Lighting Design”
He was followed by Portugese born, UK Based lighting designer Pedro Pinto, owner of Pinto Lighting Design, who presented his views of: “The Future of Smart Lighting in Small and Medium Projects”
IGuzzini’s Luca Tarsetti, General Manager of IGuzzini in China, then presented us the “Future of Smart Lighting” and giving us a sneak preview about IGuzzini’s latest art project (Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel in Padua) after the enormous success lighting Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper in Milano. All will be revealed coming week…
The morning speaker presentation was rounded up by Meike Goessling, an associate Director of Lightvision Design, based in Hong Kong. Her presentation was entitled “Light Smart”.
All speakers then joined me on stage for a panel discussion about the various subjects, challenges and opportunities generated by their respective presentations. It rounded up our morning session about the Future of Smart Lighting. Big thanks also to our simultaneous translators which made all presentations go smoothly!
Day 1, afternoon session: Lighting and the IoT
Not surprisingly we followed up the morning topics with a session on the Iot and Johan Moritz, a senior lighting designer with the City of Malmo in Sweden, kicked off the proceedings with his presentation about “Lighting and the IoT”.
Our second sponsor, Luci, followed with an interesting presentation by Mr Jie, Luci’s manager in China, about the impact of Iot on lighting products and their controls.
“The application of IoT on Lighting in Segmented Fields” was presented by Prof. Yandan Lin from Shanghai’s Fudan University’s Department of Illuminating Engineering and Light Sources.
I then rounded up the day moderating a lively panel discussion involving all presenters of the afternoon session. The IoT is obviously on people’s minds!
Day 2, morning session: Hospitality Lighting
Day 2 was purposely aimed at trendy applications in lighting. In China specifically and Asia in general a big majority of projects are in the hospitality so it made sense to us to dedicate some time to it.
Our keynote speaker starting the day was the founding partner of InSitu Asia, Mr Arjan de Boer, based in Singapore. As a previous hotelier with Alila and Regent Hotels and now developer and investor with many interests in Asia, we were blessed to have a non-lighting designer giving us insights of how good lighting design makes sense from a financial and value added perspective. His presentation “Hotel Value Creation through Lighting Design” was highly educational for everyone.
Having subsequently one of the top hospitality lighting designers, Nathan Thompson, principal of the Flaming Beacon from Melbourne Australia, speaking about “Arranging Brightness for Fine Hotels” was a perfect choice and follow up. The imagery was a delight to watch for all.
While perhaps an odd one out the following presentation by our third sponsor by Mr Frost Chou from Asensetek did make “sense”. Asensetek produces very high quality spectrometers and many lighting designers use the tool and software to verify manufacturer claims about lighting performances. I have been an enthusiastic user for the past few years.
Dr Acharawan Chutarat (“Acha”), a lecturer at Bangkok’s King Mongkut’s University of Technology ThonBurri (KMUTT), completed the morning speakers with her engaging presentation” Hospitality Lighting design; its Potential and Way Forward”
The morning speakers then joined me on stage for the panel discussions and questions from the audience.
Day 2, Afternoon session: Commercial and Retail Lighting
Like hospitality lighting, this session also touches on one of the most popular applications in this part of the world and we were grateful to see the afternoon session kicked off by Paul Traynor, Principal and Owner of Light Bureau form the UK. His presentation entitled simply “The Future of Commercial Lighting” in reality touched upon everything that is relevant in today’s lighting world, smart lighting, circadian lighting and lighting as a service. Specifically this last topic is one that we need to keep an eye on and one that I personally have also included in many of my presentation as kay subject of the future.
Mr Leo, Lutron’s sales manager in China then gave an engaging presentation about the opportunities and challenges of lighting controls in the new world reality of smart lighting and the IoT. Having paired up with Apple, it seems that Lutron is geared up for the future…Lutron was the proud sponsor of the Lutron Coffee Bar, a place where many of us made stops for a coffee shot!
No other then Warren Julian, emeritus professor Architecture Design and Planning at the University of Sydney had the honours of closing out the event with a master class presentation entitled “Commercial Office and Retail Lighting; Opportunities and Challenges”. Whoever had planned to leave, changed their minds and we ended the day with a spellbound full house audience!
It was not surprising that the ensuing panel discussion had many tongues wagging with Warren at one point leaving the stage to give the audience direct pointers showing lighting principles and effects applied in parts of the Lighting Design Agora stand, great stuff.
Day 2, Evening Gala Dinner
The international part of the event was concluded with a Gala dinner in the evening sponsored by Osram. It was a moment to thank all participating speakers, acknowledge all the sponsors and give thanks to the CLDA, the IAC and Guangyia / Messe Frankfurt for their untiring support to the event. Thank you so much for making this such a success!
See you next time at SILF in 2018!
Perth, weekend 2-3rd September 2017
I am in Perth this week for a very special reason…my son Ingmar, who re-joined the company recently and now looks after our business development, officially graduates from Curtin University as an urban and regional architectural planner. While he finished the study a while ago, the official graduation ceremony is only once a year, so glad to be able to be there! These are milestones in your kid’s life and being there is important…I have missed too many of them over the years due to my business and travel commitments…
This week I am in Perth to work with Ingmar and the rest of the team to further develop our business in Australia which, with the apparent (slowly) growing economy, can use an extra impulse. At the same time we are working on revamping company introductions and our company profile to follow in the footsteps of the launch of our renewed website and corporate video. While the majority of our new projects comes through word of mouth and existing business relationships, we can never take things for granted. There are many new and innovative lighting design companies emerging and obviously the market is getting more crowded offering our potential clients more choice! Specifically the culture in Western Australia is hard to break through. People understandingly use people they know but also follow ways they have been used to and particularly in WA we find that either our potential clients work with lighting engineers rather than professional lighting designers or for some reason pay much more for overseas or interstate designers, who then at a later stage have practically no involvement in the implementation because of restricted travel budgets, leaving the local contractors to figure out how to install aim and program the lighting. We are aware of several “disasters” in and around Perth as a result of that situation. Your design is as good as the final implementation so being able to go to site frequently and supervise and assist the contractors in the final installation have always been one of the keys to a successful project. But we can see that the culture is gradually changing, which is an encouraging sign!
Registered Lighting Practitioner
As most of you know I am passionate about sharing my knowledge to further and improve the quality of our industry and therefore whenever I can will participate and support events that aim to create a better awareness of the benefits of good quality lighting and lighting design. This week the local IES chapter organised a talk about the lighting language for dark skies an interesting talk by one of the ERCO representatives as part of a general IES meeting and awarding of lighting certificates to those who successfully attended and completed the IES lighting programs. The event also saw WA’s first Registered Lighting Practitioner (RLP) certificate being issued to Mervyn vd Linden, well done. It made me think that while I am an IALD member, I probably should engage in obtaining the same. The RLP certification is something that you need to maintain to show that you are actively involved in the industry. On top of that we will see more and more requirements for projects to have RLP registered lighting designers to better ensure the quality of lighting design and protect the industry against “rogue” lighting designers. It was a well-attended event and offered a great opportunity to network. I had invited the president of the Chinese Lighting Designer’s Association, Lear Hsieh, who happened to be in Perth, to the event and he had the opportunity to meet Trent Dutton, the current president of the IESANZ, who had made the effort to come to Perth for this event. After all we all have the same goals with the various associations so exchange of ideas and cooperation can only further help the industry!
Finally I want to share a bit of fun…after all we need to enjoy our job and taking the time for a little bit of fun is important. While I was in Xitang, a historic little water town near Shanghai, China a couple of weeks ago, we had a few hours free between our morning meetings and the night time lighting inspections we were due to do. Xitang is famous for a scene in the Tom Cruise, Mission Impossible 3 movie, where he runs over roofs, over bridges and along the canals guided by his side kick Simon Pegg back at HQ, who tracks and leads him via his computer GPS satellite system to the designated location. We decide to use our free time to re-enact parts of the run with the end destination being our project site. I took on the role of Tom Cruise and Grace, my project manager the role of Simon…It was great fun and Kyra, who already did a great job with our corporate video, managed to edit it in a very funny video…for good measure we added in the Chinese translation…
Have a great weekend!
Singapore, weekend 26-27th August 2017
This week was a mixed bag with a trip to Jakarta midweek and our second company personal skills improvement workshop. With project activities steady but slow collections, chasing our clients this week was also one of our priorities. Though when I heard of the unpaid amounts being chased by one of our projects lead architects of more than 10 million dollars for the month, I realised I was luckily not to be in that situation…In this case the grass looked definitely greener on my side J. It does seem though like business is slowing down a bit in the region as we can clearly see that collections are slowing down, taking more time and new projects also seem to take longer to confirm. Some projects have also gone quiet…but then it could be also due to the seasonal effect…it is always slow in the first few month of the year and then there is a second wave of relative calmness mid-year before the action goes into an end sprint towards the end of the year. We have a few big and nice proposals out, so fingers crossed…
Sometimes we get a call out for a site visit that seems a bit over the top. In this case the client had asked me together with the architect’s boss to come to Jakarta just to review a lift cab lighting. So basically an expensive flight, day trip to Jakarta for just a half hour site review…of course with the aim to make on the spot decisions on how to proceed. We did and can now move forward but it seemed something that could have been decided in a simple conference call as both me and the architect have our local team on site for the day to day support. They had already more or less recommended the way forward, but I guess the decision had to be “”formalised” (as so often in Asia) by the bosses.
Anyhow it gave me the opportunity to use my day in Jakarta to visit my team and officiate with a little ceremony our spacious new office to which we moved recently with a celebration meal called Tumpengan, which comes with yellow rice shaped like a mountain for good luck and prosperity! Galih is doing a tremendous job with his team in Indonesia and I have full confidence they will succeed! I do not have often the time nor need to visit them so this was a nice moment to mark the occasion . I know how stimulating it is to move to a new and bigger office so it was nice to see them all excited! Like Singapore, Jakarta has a lot of potential projects ahead, but likewise faces a challenge in collections…it seems epidemic in the region…so being and remaining vigilant is key! As part of our growth plans we are looking at getting some of the key staff for training in Singapore, as we believe strongly in caring and nurturing our team for the future…
Training for the Future
KLD has embarked in providing training on all levels to support the staff and help them improve both on a technical level as well as a personal level. This month we provided a two part workshop aimed at improving communication skills. Being a good designer does not mean you can carry the message clearly to your client, so having the proper communication and presentation skills was the key focus of these workshops that ended with a final presentation yesterday. In the first week the team presented based on a brief as they would normally do to a client, it was video-taped and reviewed resulting in directives and pointers on how to make the presentations flow more smoothly and the message carried more clearly. This week, after a week of preparations, they presented (this time with me present) implementing all the advice and recommendations they had received from Mark Stuart, our brilliant workshop leader.
It was great to see the enthusiasm and the team spirit they displayed in their presentation. While there is still room for improvements I could clearly see that both the seniors as well as the juniors had grown in confidence speaking and presenting in public. Carrying this over to reality (not just the confinements of our own team) is another step, but I feel confident that the workshops will be of great help. I have to learn to step back and give them more responsibility and leadership and with time and practice they will become experts in their own right. I know they will…the workshops have given them the tools to further improve and together with our daily reality they will grow become confident communicators…after all our work is mostly about being able to communicate our ideas, our concepts and our recommendations! Once the client is on board the task is to make sure they stay on board!
Have a great weekend!
Singapore, weekend 19-20th August 2017
Another week without travel! It feels strange if you are so used to hop in and out planes and hotels…but these times are generally very productive. It allows me to focus my attention to things that otherwise are on the slow burner (for when I have time)…I have many plates cooking in my kitchen. As most of you know I am passionate about sharing my knowledge and the profession of lighting design through seminars, lighting events and media as I do through my articles, my book and this blog. After 35 years in the business I humbly believe I have something to tell and keeping it all up in my brain cells is of no use to anybody. Sharing my knowledge and stimulating and motivating my own team is my first call while at the same time I actively support associations and other lighting organisations and events. Besides regular ongoing project work, this week therefore was pretty much dedicated to this passion. Our profession exists by the grace of our industry reputation, our business colleagues and our clients. While much work comes in through our established reputation, staying “in the race” means that you need to be continuously active, to see and be seen. It is a harsh world out there, with many new generation dynamic entrepreneurs ready to take your place…Sometimes I wish there were more hours in a day, more days in a week or more weeks in a year… 🙂
Lighting quality awareness in Asia
There is no doubt that there is still a continuous need to create awareness of the benefits of better quality lighting and lighting design. Our profession is still very much in its infancy, though well accepted, there are still many people who do still not appreciate how good quality lighting can improve the quality of our life. I very much appreciated the insights of Alessandro in last week’s blog, who really nailed the point on behalf of many professional quality manufacturers that are continuously fighting the erosion of quality caused by unscrupulous LED Cowboys with their “Frankenstein” monster products. Quality does not necessarily means expensive…quality means considerate, balanced, thoughtful, safe and reliable!
Because of my geographic location here in Asia it is logical that I focus my attention on this region and it is for that reason that I lent my time and expertise to the International Advisory Council to help grow lighting design in China and Asia Pacific through the Chinese Lighting Design Association, specifically bearing in mind that China is pretty much the cradle of most LED manufacturing! We have had events through many cities in China including Shanghai, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and others as well as Hong Kong and recently Bangkok. Together with Messe Frankfurt’s great support we are currently finalising the details of our Lighting Design Agora at the Shanghai International Lighting Fair (SILF), a concept we launched last year which consists of an enclosed speakers arena surrounded with our international top quality manufacturer sponsors and networking facilities. Contrary to the Guangzhou and to a lesser degree the Hong Kong lighting fairs, we aim for the designers/specifiers/end-users market. The whole program is a careful balance between international and local talent and aims to bring the lighting designers together with architects, interior designers, developers, operators and other relevant institutes such as governments and universities. Our aim is the same…to improve the awareness of the importance of better lighting quality. I have personally spent months together with the rest of the team putting together the booth and the speaker program…we are nearly there…the event, which I will be moderating, is held in Shanghai from 5-7th September. Please join us if you are in the neighborhood!
Professionalism and integrity
This brings me to another important issue…with quality comes the responsibility for professionalism and integrity, character traits that are a key ingredient for the longevity of our profession and the trust and confidence of the specifiers and end users in using lighting design and quality products. Not only do we need quality products we need the people behind it and the specifiers using them to lead the way of quality by example, which means a professional and independent attitude towards design and specifications, great service from suppliers and manufacturers and personal integrity in the handling of all related work and services. That’s the kind of image and identity that has to go along with the quality message that we are promoting as part of better quality awareness.
Unfortunately many times personal and commercial interests take precedent as I personally discovered this week. I was invited and confirmed to speak at an international sustainability conference in Singapore next month, with my topics and time slots confirmed. On enquiring about the event progress I was reluctantly told that I was no longer part of the program and that another speaker was taking up the lighting slots!…What? In a subsequent phone call I could not get any decent explanation other that one of the organising partners had pushed in a no-doubt “friend” for personal benefit. I have no other explanation as I learned that the speaker in question is one of my former suppliers! Beside it being totally insulting it is also a mark of total unprofessionalism which marks the event even before it has started! As I initially thought highly of my contact and the event, this has shown me I was grossly mistaken…Unfortunately there are many such conferences (I unknowingly participated in some I have to confess) that promote themselves as THE conference on the subject but as you then later find out, are in fact organised for pure financial gain rather than for a professional desire to share real knowledge, which is a real shame and murk’s people’s perception of quality…
60 Over 60
Finally I would like to salute and celebrate those who have genuinely contributed to the quality of our profession of lighting design through their years of experience and realisations. I noted that there is a “competition” that focusess in finding the brightest 40 lighting design talents under 40, the 40 under 40’s awards. Great stuff! However I would like to suggest to the lighting community to make that a perfect 100…let’s find and honor another 60 lighting designers over 60 that have visibly contributed to our society with their great designs and research! The 60 over 60’s! Not because I am over 60 but because I genuinely believe these people deserve the respect and appreciation for a life-long dedication and contributions to our profession!
Have a great weekend!
Here is a peek at the provisional program of the Lighting Design Agora coming September…
Singapore, weekend 12-13th August 2017
This week saw Singapore celebrate its 52nd birthday which is traditionally celebrated with the National Day Parade at Marina Bay. Thousands of Singaporeans (and non-Singaporeans) flock to Marina Bay to watch the sky divers, the air force fighter planes and the fireworks as the grand finale. As I happened to be in Singapore this week we decided to book a room in MBS and watch the proceedings from the sky decks infinity pool…This year, in celebration of Singapore’s strive to become a smart nation, saw a dazzling display of no less than 300 orchestrated drones performing light acrobatics…using mostly blue, white and red colors, the drones were synchronised into creating meaningful patterns and images representing Singapore. I found it interesting to see how lighting and the latest drone-technology found its way in common public festivities…it won’t be long before any ceremony without drones will be found dated and boring…laser is out…lighting drones are in! 🙂
It gives me pleasure to introduce this week’s guest blogger, one of my many loyal and long trusted lighting manufacturers, Alessandro Montenari from IGuzzini…Alex has a special place in my heart because he (and with him his team at IGuzzini) decided together with local supplier Mondoluce, to help out by sponsoring the City of Perth with the lighting for his Majesty’s Theatre in Perth, a project currently deservedly shortlisted for a DARC Award. Without IGuzzini’s and Mondoluce’s help we would not have been able to realise the project within the limited budget that had been made available. Over my more than 20 years of professional lighting design I have of course had many opportunities to work with IGuzzini and have never been disappointed. Quality always wins…and as a professional lighting designer I need to be able to rely and work with quality lighting manufacturers like IGuzzini. I thought therefore it would be interesting to hear some insights from a quality manufacturer’s perspective, so welcome Alex!
Challenges and opportunities in the lighting world
The lighting industry is becoming an extremely complex business, segmented in several product categories and price positioning: new so called “lighting manufacturers” are emerging daily with “Frankenstein products” which are merely made by key components produced by third parties without any particular added value; copied products by “Me Too” manufacturers who are infringing patents of innovative lighting manufacturers or playing around it at the limit of the legality. In addition to this, there are a massive number of low cost driven lighting manufacturers invading the market, tempting the established industry chain to go for cheap: “In the end it is just a simple light fitting, so why spend too much money, isn’t it?”
Those who haven around long enough in our industry have learned the value and importance of quality lighting, quality in both lighting effect and durability of the products. Luckily we still have lighting manufacturers who, despite the challenges they are facing on a daily basis from the Frankenstein products, the Me Too, or just the cheap manufacturers, keep the benchmark high, keep investing in research and development striving to innovate and make our industry always better. They do not compromise in quality manufacturing and they do not promise what they cannot maintain just because somebody won’t be around in the future to answer!
When in a project a Professional Lighting Designer is on board, for the professional lighting manufacturers it’s a joy. This means, first of all, that someone from the client’s side understands the importance of lighting quality in the project and also its complexity. Let’s face it, today lighting is much more complicated to be managed and selected compared to the past and an architect or interior designer has hard times to keep up to date with it and be able to design lighting by himself.
That’s why the Lighting Design Profession is becoming vital in projects that want to achieve the best overall results. A professional lighting designer brings quality lighting design in the project and usually specify quality and innovative manufacturers because he knows this is the best possible choice for his client.
The professional lighting designer cares about the lighting industry progress and is always looking for new product solutions, new application ideas or lighting possibilities. This, ultimately, will contribute to make our world a better place to live. For this reason, quality and innovative lighting manufacturers are the natural choice of the Professional Lighting Designer and the professional relationship between Lighting Designer and these professional manufacturers is the only way to go in order to sustain both categories. Without pushing quality and innovative manufacturers, there won’t be any more innovation in the industry because the Frankenstein and the Me Too products and just the cheap manufacturers will win the game. Sadly, these manufacturers are just looking to make money, definitely not contributing to the evolution of our industry and ultimately this will dry up everything, including the importance of the Lighting Designer profession.
We very well know the challenges we are facing, mostly in terms of education. Budgets are always very low for lighting and helping the client to make the best choice is always difficult. Both Professional Lighting Designers and Professional Lighting Manufacturers work daily to educate the market about the importance of light, about why the presence of a Lighting Designer in the project can be the best ever investment for the client and why increasing the budget for lighting on the overall project cost can assure superior results, consistent quality and reliability, generating much higher returns of the investment.
Professional Lighting Manufacturers create new products to meet the demand of the Professional Lighting Designers, they manufacture new tools for their new lighting design ideas. This keep the lighting industry progressing.
The relationship between Professional Lighting Designers and Professional Manufacturers is therefore vital and every time the Frankenstein, the Me Too or just the cheap manufacturers are approved as alternatives, somehow we are all putting in danger the future and existence of our industry. A world where the quality of light will have the right importance will be definitely be a much better place to live for the next generation. We are all committed to this, let’s keep working together and make this possible!
Have a great weekend!
Below some of the more colorful and unusual projects that we worked on with KLD…
And of course the drones…
Perth- Singapore, weekend 5-8th August 2017
One of my key ‘moments” this week was my presentation at the Australian Institute of Architects (the AIA) in Perth, who had asked me to deliver a key note presentation about lighting that would credit them with points for their CPD certification. The Continuing Professional Development point system assures that practitioners remain active and up to date in their field of work. Architects in Western Australia need to accumulate 20 points over a year of which 10 are from formal events like the one I contributed to. My presentation called: “How Smart is your Lighting Design” dealt with the rapidly growing influence of smart (lighting) technologies and therefore the need for knowledge and expertise to apply the many smart and sustainable opportunities that are today presented to us. Below some of the learning outcomes for the participants:
1- Lighting design is a not done to only satisfy lux or energy meters, it is designed for people! Never forget the human (lighting) factor in design.
2- Smart and sustainable lighting is a balance between environment, human needs and economic considerations
3- Smart lighting controls are an essential tool to optimise the use of sustainable lighting systems
4- While technology is getting more complicated, simplicity should always be the drive for a good design.
5- The internet of things is here to stay and understanding its impact on lighting and lighting design is crucial for the future (of lighting design)
6- The current lighting market is built on a waste economy, lighting as a service could be a great and smart way for the future
7- Professional independent lighting designers are of tremendous added value to any architectural project (of course I had to put that in!)
In the Q+A session I received a very interesting question following up on a section of my presentation that was dealing with tunable light. Understanding that artificially reproducing the effects of natural light could positively influence human productivity, visual performance, moods, circadian rhythms and the like, one of the participants asked whether tunable light could be used to “manipulate” human behavior. I initially thought that he meant something along the lines of what is being done with the shortening of daylight cycles for chickens to reduce egg producing cycles to 22 or 23 hours (instead of 24), but he was thinking of “manipulating” antisocial behavior in prisons for instance. It was a very interesting thought. I was not immediately aware of any related study or applications to confirm this approach but thought logically this should certainly be possible. I promised to research this further as I feel that this “reversed” approach to using tunable lighting certainly has its merits. Hopefully more about this in the future…
In a worrying report from the BBC news channel I read this week that pollination is being threatened by artificial lighting. Researchers from the University of Bern in Switzerland discovered that artificial light at night was found to reduce visits of nocturnal pollinators by 62%! The impact, the researchers said, is a significant reduction in fruit production. The transformation from flower to fruit is greatly dependent on insect pollination, but according to the researchers the insect population is in rapid decline as result of habitat loss and disruption, pesticide use, invasive alien species and climate change. And now also because of artificial light at night! The most common night pollinators are the moths, the beetles and bugs. However the study shows light pollution from street lamps for example, result in nights that are not properly dark anymore with artificial lighting at night increasing globally at a rate of 6% per year! A worrying trend and something we as lighting designer should take very seriously. While we may not be able to stop the spread of lighting we certainly can play a major role in containing and controlling the detrimental effects of light pollution to our natural environment!
Finally a short comment about the upcoming DARC awards. The voting deadline is up shortly and for the first time I decided to participate with our entry, His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth. A majestic heritage project for which we managed to design a lighting concept for its façade using less than 1 KW of power installing the lights without compromising its heritage façade. My hesitation to participate is the voting system. While it is touted as a peer to peer voting system, very little people will take the time to actually study each project and actually vote on merits. Over the last few weeks I have been literally bombarded on a nearly daily basis with emails and posts from shortlisted entries asking people to vote for them. The reality I am finding is that people vote on visual pleasing images and whether the designer is either a friend or an existing or potential business opportunity in the future. In an ideal world you vote on merit regardless who is the designer, but will you find one of your competitors actually voting for your project? While the online voting by your peers or industry experts seems a good way to do it, I personally believe that when you would be able to properly analyse the votes you will find that many did not vote on merit but other arguments such as “looks nice” or “I support my friend” or “I will vote for him and let him know, hopefully we can do more business together”. Am I cynical?…Yes probably and will have to eat my words should I win… 🙂
One thing I have to admit…the power of social media is quite impressive…I shared a post from Iguzzini on LinkedIn that was mentioning our collaboration on the project and the shortlist for the Darc Awards. In less than a day the statistics showed it was viewed by more than 300 people! Wow! (…well to me from the older generation it is… 🙂 )
I will end by sharing a picture (that also came to me via social media) from the City of Perth, sharing amateur photographs showing our city in all shapes or forms. This one particularly struck me as it nearly looks like a painting. Taken through a rain-soaked window it pictures city traffic against a sky slowly moving to night…the amalgation of the remaining daylight, the car head lights and the rain makes for a great picture.
Have a great weekend
Singapore, weekend 29-30th July 2017
As I am contemplating the contribution of other collaborators to the blog, it’s time I do one myself again…J. It has been very inspiring and rewarding for me to see the contributions of my staff to this blog. While I am the key man on which this practice is built there is no way I could do all of it by myself. The contributions of each and every member of my team, small or big, in Singapore or abroad make KLD to what it is today. The team’s dedication, their passion and the commitment to do a good job, learn, grow and get better all the time has been heartwarming! I am truly blessed with such a dedicated team and collaborators!
This weekend I am back in Singapore after a heavy week of travelling. As I move on in years the travelling part is the part that seems to get to me most. I know how to deal with difficult clients, collaborate with designers and project managers who have an attitude, work my way through site issues and contractor fits, but keeping up travelling fitness requires pace, rest and discipline. This week I had a project meeting on a shipyard more than 250 km (!) south-west of Shenzhen to meet with team on site and check out the progress of a big luxury yacht we are working on. My team had been to site before and I was forewarned by them that the trip could be arduous…little did I realise at the start of my 3 day journey this week that I would spent about 10 hours in a plane (delays) and 20 hours travelling by car (traffic jams) for just over 4 hours total in meetings. The ship building facility is an hour out of Zuhai so arguably taking the ferry from Hong Kong to Zuhai and then on by car could be one way of reaching. However with both the client and the interior designer holding office in Shenzhen travelling through Shenzhen was decided. We did fly in via Hong Kong though because of the larger choice and flexibility of flights in from and out to Singapore. It was just unfortunate that the subsequent road trip the next day from Shenzhen took more than 5 hours due to unexplainable traffic jams…at one point we were literally stuck for over an hour on the highway not moving an inch…always be prepared for the unexpected! Add to that the searing heat of 35 degree plus and you can imagine the situation…
Anyhow in the end it was an important meeting, both on site at the shipyard as well as in Shenzhen with the designers. As with all projects coordination and cooperation are critical for a good end result and in China probably more than elsewhere, the decorum of the “boss” being present in high profile projects, regardless the costs, is seen as a sign off importance and prestige given to the project. While no major decision were taken that could not have been made without me present, making the effort to go to site to check and review the progress of the yacht building, discussing lighting issues with the site team was seen as a great sign of respect and show of our commitment to bring this project to a successful completion. We still have a year or so to go till the official launch and baptism of the ship, but the super structure starts looking good and I can’t wait for the start of the interior fit out…
For this project we have designed a custom integrated linear fitting of which we had brought a sample for testing and assessment by the installation team. The aim of the sample was to establish a few things:
1- are the dimensions workable
2- are the lighting effects smoothly dimmable (the dimmer specialist had come from Shenzhen to test)
3- how best to fix it in the ceiling
4- check the lighting performance in the actual space
5- get any other feedback from interior design and site team
We got all the answers needed and priced ourselves happy that we had insisted on this meeting as several issues in regards to dimensions, weight, installation and dimming were discussed, adapted and revised to suit the site conditions and dimmer capabilities. As often the case there is less ceiling space in some areas as previously assumed prompting us to redesign the recessed part of the fitting accordingly. No major problems expected but nipping this issue in the bud at this stage is crucial. Material finishes, optics and dimming protocols (DMX and DALI) will be reviewed to provide the client with an upfront budget estimate prior to proceeding.
The return to Shenzhen was a bit less strenuous but still a long journey and not surprisingly on arrival back at the hotel I went straight to bed after having had a shower to drench off the tiring and sweaty day we had experienced…The next morning we had a short follow up meeting with the interior designer to discuss the yacht issues from the day before as well as reviewing some updates on another mixed development project we are working on with them…but that is for another time…
Have a great weekend 🙂
Singapore, weekend 22-23rd July 2017
This week I have a very special guest, events lighting design specialist Frank Kelly, with whom I have struck a great professional friendship and together we are now looking at developing this relationship into a very beneficial project partnership. We can see the potential of combining our expertise of permanent architectural lighting and the dynamic world of events and content design. Frank is very well known by his peers in the events industry with an impressive track record, so I am really looking forward to develop this partnership! I asked Frank (in between his busy tour schedule) to write this week’s blog as to give a bit of insight in his life and the exciting events of a lighting designer, rigger, programmer and operator!
Frank Kelly, events lighting specialist
Over the years, I have witnessed great, unique and inspirational moments in my career as a lighting designer, technician and lighting desk operator. Starting many years ago as a technician placing 12 up lights around a marquee or hotel ball-room, it has now grown to setting up controls systems, rigging and designs for large sporting concerts, festivals and private party events which can have hundreds of moving lights and generics. Working in areas throughout the world in places such as St Barts, Azerbaijan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Europe and my home country of Republic of Ireland.
Starting my career in the London UK was great, it’s truly the home of high class private parties for the rich and famous, I was fortunate to work for a small but special event company in North London that supplied lighting, sound, set and fireworks for large private parties and events for the rich and famous. Events such as in Azerbaijan, St. Barts and Dubai will forever stay in my mind due to the adventure, hardships and issues that came along with them. Making sure the projects are successful is always my number one aim and making the impossible, possible. But knowing the moment to say NO!, is also very important in certain cases. Working with other suppliers and working a tight time line has always been a key part of the job.
“Money is no object”, is a line I love to hear from clients. A great example of this is many years ago when Iceland supplied the rest of Europe with the infamous Ash-Cloud that grounded all international flights in Western Europe. I was part of a team that had a project starting in Venice, a 7 deck ship the client had chartered for a 4 day cruise down the Adriatic Sea. The client sent a car for us with a driver, took us to Paris, his private plane was waiting for us and flew us to Venice, where we took a speed boat to the ferry. But then reality hit as we realised that the 40 foot trailer on the port-side full of equipment was waiting for us to be unloaded, setup, tested for a live show within 24hours. Sister Sledge was the main act for that party.
I’ve worked with artists who refuse to let me program lights while they are doing their sound checks, as guests are about to enter the venue. That’s always a challenge. But the fact is, you have to love this job if you want to be successful. It lets you see the world, different aspects of life in all communities, learning new techniques, ideas and solutions when watching other talented lighting designers from different continents. The down sides are that at times you are working when others are already on their way home or getting up early mornings and going home late nights, working for 24hours and sleeping for 2…
But I can’t complain as for the past 3 years, it’s been non-stop for work, spending 3-4 months of the year in the Middle East working on many large & spectacular shows, events & ceremonies. 4-5 months in UK and Europe and the rest of the time in Asia and Singapore. So I’m one of the lucky LD’s that manage to hit all 3 areas in the peak season.
You will always encounter some great and talented people and meeting Martin has been one of those fortunate pleasures. Since meeting Martin we have struck a friendship and now I’m working as part of his new live event team and looking forward to translate our cooperation into a lasting success!
It’s really a strange, exciting, challenging and adventurous job, being a lighting designer, rigger, tech and programmer!
Ceremonies and celebrations, sporting events
Corporate events and fundraisers
Singapore, weekend 15-16th July 2017
After my recount last week of the dramas that unfolded in China it is my great pleasure this week to introduce my partner in crime during the trip, my daughter Kyra. What was supposed to be her maiden trip to China turned out to be quite an adventure 🙂 The reason I am happy to feature her in this week’s blog is that she is able to give an outsider’s look at what we do as lighting designers…she knows me as her dad and telling her stories about my work, but that is not the same as actually experiencing it! So here she is in a special edition of the Light Talk blog!
Light. People often take it for granted when it’s there, but when it’s gone or poorly lit you sure do notice it. Understanding the skill of a good lighting designer is one of the biggest things I’ve learned filming and making videos for my Dad as a professional video producer. Earlier this year I made a corporate video for Klaasen Lighting Design, my Dad’s company, and it was the first real opportunity I’ve had to truly understand what my Dad actually does and how he does it.
When I tell people my Dad is a lighting designer, many of them actually have no idea what that really means or have even heard of such a profession. General responses I get are “Oh, so he designs lamps?” or “You mean lighting in theatre or film?” I realised that it is a fairly universal term, because a lighting designer can be in many different fields. The best way I explain it to others is the way my Dad explained it to me: “You have an architect, an interior designer, and then there’s me, the lighting designer! We all work together. Just like an interior designer decides on colours, materials, what type of furniture goes where, a lighting designer chooses what lights, where they go, where they shine, etc.” But of course it involves much more than that.
After completing the KLD corporate video, I had so many of my friends and colleagues commenting on how much they enjoyed watching it and how cool my Dad’s job is, because for the first time they genuinely understood what his role as a lighting designer is. To me, this also reinforced the importance of my role showing how powerful the visual story telling of video actually is. For the corporate video I travelled to KLD’s Singapore office to film interviews and accompany my Dad to his on-site projects. I’d never been to my Dad’s new office before and it was a really great experience getting to know his staff and conduct interviews with his senior project managers and lighting designers in the office. Interestingly enough, while I was scripting, filming and editing the corporate video, I realised I only really knew on a surface level what my dad did and getting to experience it first hand was a very eye-opening and immersive experience. So, as much as other people learned while watching the video, I learned just as much in the process of making it.
After the success and positive feedback of the flagship corporate video, we decided that it may be a nice idea to try doing specific project videos, in a perhaps more documentary-like fashion. An idea we were both excited about and were keen to explore.
So my Dad decided to begin with the Alila Yangshuo Hotel project in China. So I travelled with him and his senior lighting designer and manager of the project, Cheryline, to film the grand opening of this hotel. You will of course know what happened to this project from my Dad’s last blog mentioning the flooding, which was a very unexpected and sad twist of fate in direct contrast to the happy festivities of the previous day. However, despite the flooding, it does not diminish what an absolutely fantastic and beautiful project it is. So yes, the hotel has had a setback, but I am really excited to edit this project video together, because it is a wonderful project and I had an amazing time there amidst the majestic Guilin mountains, watching my Dad and Cheryline do what they do best. – their jobs as professional lighting designers! We arrived 2 days before the opening, so that there was time to check the lighting installations and make sure everything was honky dory before the big day. Of course, my job was documenting all of this. Later on I also travelled with my Dad to his Xitang project just outside Shanghai, which is still in the early building stages.
Being able to tag a long and make these videos has taught me a lot about my Dad’s job, so I thought I would share what I’ve learned.
- Translators. Working in different countries with different cultural norms, and you don’t speak the language: my Dad doesn’t speak Chinese (or only very little), so how does he communicate his vision with the rest of the design and construction team? This was a very interesting process to witness. Cheryline played a key role in this as she can speak both Chinese and English, so it was her job to make sure the communication process happened as smooth as possible. It can make the process rather frustrating and time consuming to have the translations going back and forth through various chains of command.
- Team work: as a designer working with other designers, everybody has their “vision” or their dream of what it will look like. The real challenges is being able to come up with a united vision between all of the designers, while still satisfying the needs and requirements of each individual designer. So being able to have witnessed the dynamic between the architect, interior designer, hotel operator and lighting designer, it created a whole new layer of understanding for me as an outsider, into how much team work is required to reach a final stage of design. Often compromises have to be made.
- The process. Being able to see and understand the process from beginning to end has been interesting. Lighting design is not just about designing, it’s about communication and testing, and keeping up to date with the latest technologies, having good relationships with suppliers and manufacturers. Working with a ginormous group of people from other design consultants, to contractors to hotel operators. It’s about being able to adapt to changing circumstances and still come up with a beautiful design that still celebrates the building space, even if it doesn’t end up being the original design. This you can only find out my testing the lights on site once they are installed by contractors. So it’s understanding that it’s not just about sitting behind a desk designing something on a sheet of paper, it’s also the physicality of actually going to site and testing these lights too.
- Testing lights at night. This is such a small simple stupid thing that I hadn’t even thought about. When are lights the most prominent and play the biggest role? At night of course. Hence often lighting designers work through the night, because they can only test the performance of the light at night – at night. Very obvious and logical, but not something you think about if you’re not a lighting designer.
- Clients. As with any job, you’re going to have different kinds of clients which will fall into a certain category or stereotype. It’s doesn’t take long to figure out what kind of client you have on your hands. Tagging along with my Dad, I was able to see what kind of clients he has to deal with and the constant juggling act between compromising to give the client what they want, whilst still being able to maintain high quality professional lighting standards. This more often than not has a pretty close correlation with how much the client respects you as a designer versus them just wanting you to get the job done no matter the compromise on quality. KLD does a lot of hotel projects, so this means dealing with the hotel operator as well.
- Integration. I’ve learned that good lighting is how well it is integrated into the architecture, so it comes across as seamless. This comes back to what I said about people taking for granted that lights are already there and not really noticing its direct presence. Unless the design purposely makes light a feature element, more often light is meant to highlight the architect’s work and blend effortlessly into the environment.
- Renderings. During my video editing I have come across the ‘layers of light’ renderings that my Dad does for his lighting design process. These are CG renderings of the project (rooms, exteriors, interiors etc) which show step-by-step each layer of light in the space. This allows you to see the comparison between how the space looks without light, and with each varying degree of light. This has been one of the best visual tools I have used in the corporate video to demonstrate the role of good lighting design in any given space.
These are some of the things I have learned during my time with KLD. Hope you found it insightful, just as I have! Below some of the pictures I took from the site in Yangshuo.
(MK: I added some of Kyra 🙂 )
All the best,