Laws of perception

Jakarta 12th March 2012

Lighting design is very much a matter of perception. Lighting is something that we need to see, so as a lighting designer we need to understand how human beings perceive, see things. But perception as part of the lighting design process is not only about the creation of lighting effects and their visual impact (reflections!) on its surroundings; there is also the hardware part where the physical presence (shapes, dimensions, modularity, locations) of the light fittings determines as well how we appreciate a space. It is therefore important always to visit the space that you are designing for (even the environment if the space has yet to be build) to get a feel of how lighting (hard and software) will impact on its surroundings.

Today I visited two sites in Jakarta that are in process of design. The most creative ideas often come when you are on site, see and get a feel of the space and the environment you are to light. We don’t design for lux meters, but for people. Likewise we don’t design from behind our desk, we design for a specific space…

Light & Learn 3-9: Today some insights on how we perceive things. Developed in Germany during the Bauhaus period our perception is very much driven by the so called Gestalt Laws. Researchers found that we see things according to very predictable principles. Here are some of these principles that we (should!) apply as part of our lighting design concepts:

1-      The law of continuity; dots (read luminaires) are seen as a line even though they are not actually a line. In lighting design for instance we need to integrate these dots/ lines as part of the architecture


2-      The law of proximity; similar objects (read luminaires) are seen as one (group), not as individual objects. We can lessen the impact of many luminaires in the ceiling by grouping them together


3-      The law of equality (or similarity); similar sized looking shapes are assumed to be the same. In lighting design we make an effort to minimise size and shape difference to create a “quiet and balanced” ceiling design with our light fittings.

4-  The law of dominant shape; when we create design and layouts our eye will automatically pick out the dominant shape. We need to understand and use this to reinforce the interior or architectural design intent

12. March 2012 by Martin Klaasen
Categories: Light & Learn, Light and inspiration, lighting and culture, lighting design | 1 comment

One Comment

  1. Great article your insight and ability to visualize light sources as shapes to determine how that is perceived. makes so much sense.
    this balance of composition of shapes and grouping will certainly be a great tool for my future projects.

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