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The Skills You Need
to Become a Light Designer

See also: Problem Solving Skills

Lighting is one of the most important aspects of interior design because proper lighting helps to accentuate and highlight the beauty of a space. Whether it’s a brightly lit joinery unit or beautiful finishes, spaces look better when shown off through proper lighting. Landscape lighting can light up a gardening entrance too, thus bringing warmth, home, and luxury.

Lighting is all those things and more.

But, what skills do you need to make lighting magic? Keep reading to find out.

1. Borrow Some Light

One of the first things you will learn as a light designer is how to leverage borrowed light. This refers to natural light that flows into the house from the exterior of the home. This smart use of natural daylight is essential to sustainable design practices.

You see, the sun provides us with a lot of intense light each day and this light is measured in foot candles. The full moon delivers about 1 foot-candle worth of light while a sunny day comes with 10, 000-foot candles of light from the sun. However, due to filters such as glass and clouds, we end up with a comfortable 1000 to 10, 000-foot candles worth of sunlight delivered to our interior spaces.

The best way to borrow natural light is to paint the walls with bright paint in order to be an indirect source of light. Also, “Good solar exposure can be borrowed by one room from another through a glazed upper wall or skylights,” says Jeremy from Elektra.

Using borrowed light can make a relatively small space appear larger than it is so it’s a great strategy to use with smaller spaces.

2. Give Your Clients the Look They Want

A large part of your job as a lighting designer is to help your clients realize their home design dreams. Understand their vision so that you can apply the lighting principles required to help them realize it.

For example, you might have to layer different light sources such as mood lighting, accent lights and task lighting to create a space that suits their lifestyle and style preferences. If you are designing a home office with lots of natural light during the day, you must still incorporate multiple sources of artificial light to compensate for low-light conditions when your client is burning the midnight oil.

Find out what your client plans on doing with the space so that you can provide them with the right type of lighting for their needs.

3. Keep Your Finger on the Pulse

Lighting is one of the most exciting aspects of interior design and there are always new developments to look forward to. Between technology innovations such as wall dimmers and bespoke fixtures that are artfully designed, there’s never a dull moment in the world of lighting.

You should also know which bulbs to use with the specific light fixtures while considering the owner’s needs. For example, LEDs are long lasting bulbs that are perfect for chandeliers and other fixtures that are difficult to reach.  If a client requests warm light, then you should stick to the same color temperature through the room, in the same way that you would use a cohesive color scheme.

This specialised knowledge is one of the reasons why people hire lighting designers in the first place, as the average homeowner is not aware of these nuances in light. So, keep doing your research to stay ahead of the trends and widen your options.

Some of the latest trends taking the industry by storm today include art deco and mid-century modern which exudes a sleek yet homely warmth and is characterised by bulb-shaped lighting fixtures that are effortlessly stylish.

Retro and industrial lighting styles are also making a comeback, taking inspiration from the growing minimalism movement, and characterised by sleek metals that are perfect for the kitchen.



4. A Sense of Place

Lighting designers work closely with interior designers and architects to determine how light relates to space. The goal is to ensure that everyone using that space has a unique sense of place or the distinct feeling that there is sufficient lighting to appreciate the design elements while allowing for full functionality.

To achieve this, you must use artificial light to balance out areas where natural light is not present in an interior. You want to make the space feel balanced and comfortable for everyone who uses it. Whether you’re reading a book on a chilly winter afternoon or showing off your artwork to friends for a balmy cocktail party.

5. Be a Techie

You also need to have technical knowledge of lighting design. This includes understanding how light relates to different settings. For instance, you need special light bulbs to illuminate and highlight wall art in large spaces.

To determine which light bulb to use, consider its color rendering index (CRI), a measurement of light that goes from 1% to 100%. Fluorescent bulbs provide 75% CRI, LEDs offer 95% to 98% CRIs while the sun offers 100% CRIs.

6. Versatility

You must be versatile enough to work on external spaces as well as interiors. Because outdoor spaces have access to more natural light, you will work with the decorator to design the area in a way that allows you to direct this natural light for maximum functionality.

Depending on how extensive the project is, this could mean planting trees in strategic areas so that the homeowner has ample shade to comfortably host elegant soirees in the summer and enjoy their yard all year round. It also means learning how best to illuminate areas such as the driveway, patio and balconies using the right light fixtures for maximum efficiency.

It’s important to note here that even the outdoor light fixtures you pick should complement the home’s exterior design to maintain a cohesive aesthetic. All of this requires dynamic thinking and an ability to coordinate different elements effortlessly.


The exciting world of lighting design awaits. Go out there and make your mark and who knows? You might become the next George Nelson.


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