Becoming a lighting designer

Shanghai, 31st January 2010

Sometimes we hang out with our fellow consultants after our project site meetings to get to know each other a bit better socially and invariably I get the question asked how I got into lighting design.

For me it started 30 years ago now. My dream as a teenager was actually to become an astronaut. I passionately followed the US space program to land a man on the moon, so initially I set out to study aeronautics but when I came across the study of Industrial Design I decided that would be a better spring board for me in life. So after completing my master’s degree in Delft, Holland, I went looking for a job and one of the first interviews was with Philips Lighting in Eindhoven. One of the positions on offer was that of a lighting designer. I had never heard of it and had no idea what it involved. My first thought was that it involved making light bulbs :). Curious, I went to the department and found an exciting team of designers working on the most varied type of projects all over the world from hotels to Olympic Games. I immediately liked it and the rest as they say is history. I learned a lot from my time with Philips.    

Nowadays we have actual lighting design studies, but in the past people that got into (architectural) lighting design used to come typically from backgrounds in architecture, interior design, electrical engineering, manufacturing or the theatre and stage lighting world. While we would have the basic design understanding, our actual lighting expertise gradually build up through on the job experiences. 

I find it therefore always fascinating to know someone’s journey that led him or her to becoming a lighting designer (or any other profession for tha matter). Each of our stories is different but contributes greatly to the (lighting design) personality we eventually become.  Interestingly we rarely become what we orginally set out to become!

31. January 2010 by Martin Klaasen
Categories: Education | 3 comments

Comments (3)

  1. It is always interesting to see the progression of certain people, and the varied backgrounds that lighting designers come from.

    For me it started, when I was in architecture school and was doing an internship with a design practise that did a lot of research into daylighting, and I witnessed first hand how dynamic daylight was, in its ability to transform a space. This led me to thinking, what happened at night, since most spaces were occupied in the night as well, but most architects I knew then, did not have a clue and had supposedly not thought about it.

    This quest led me to study lighting design as my masters degree, and I got into the profession of lighting design. So I slightly dis-agree with the last line of your post, Martin, in that I did manage to become what I originally set out to become. But I do understand that it may not turn out the same way for many people.

  2. Hi Siddharth
    Great to have your feedback again! Happy to hear your story! Not many of us know exactly what they want, certainly not when we are young. It is only when we “arrive” in the real world after school that the opportunities are presented to us!

  3. Martin,

    Je bent niets veranderd.
    Goed om te zien dat je nog vol icht zit.
    Ik heb mijn eerste meeting bij PDLA-nl bijgewoond, ben aan het kijken of ik werkelijk lid moet worden.

    Groet, Hedwig

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