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What’s Lighting Up Design?

InspireDesign recently caught up with two lighting leaders who weighed in on current industry trends and challenges, and told us what the future of lighting could look like. A return to the past? A race to the future? Here’s some of their predictions for lighting design and innovation:

Peter Bowles, ​managing director, ​Original BTC

What lighting trends are you seeing?

There is always a sense of nostalgia for things of the past when it comes to design. For lighting specifically, this affection for retro styles is evident in the current popularity of glass wall lights. Our art deco-inspired ​Mini Globe Wall Light​ is an excellent example of this, with both chrome and brass finish offerings and a choice of anthracite, opal, or seedy clear glass for added vintage glamour. Neutrals are prevailing across the board in design, even in those areas where color is most common, such as wallpaper. Lighting is currently serving as a complement to this palette, with a great deal of black, white and gray in the materials used.

What has changed in lighting in the past 5-10 years?

The blending and coordinating of different materials and metal finishes are growing in popularity when it comes to lighting. There is also an increasing demand for “the real thing”—that is, designers are trading plastic and faux materials for higher quality, often handmade products.

Where is lighting headed in the next 5-10 years?

Though some lighting will change in style while other trends remain, I foresee a continued interest in vintage-inspired lighting. Offerings will become increasingly environmentally friendly; manufacturers will use less plastic and focus on product longevity, reflecting a more sustainable approach to lighting.

What current challenges is the industry facing? How do you recommend those are handled?

When it comes to designing lighting schemes for hospitality interiors, designers are faced with the challenge of creating a balance between relaxation and function. Hotel rooms are generally small in size and need to serve the practical needs of guests, which requires there to be balanced brightness for tasks such as applying makeup or shaving. However, hotels should also serve as retreats that are, in many ways, more luxurious than home. Because of this, there must be ambient lighting to set the mood for relaxation. I would recommend installing dual or multi-switching wherever possible, providing guests with the freedom to adjust the lighting to their activities and preferences. So many hotel rooms are too dark, contributing to a dingy feel regardless of the hotel grade. Rooms should instead have generous lighting so guests can see clearly when desired.

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Bart Maeyens, general manager, ​Modular Lighting Instruments

What lighting trends are you seeing?

Smart lighting or connected lighting is becoming more and more prevalent, which is leading to cheaper automation options which include motion and voice controlled fixtures. Because most smart lighting technology can be retrofitted for existing systems, we are seeing a lesser need to change wiring or tech installation.

48V system integration, which allows for low voltage regulation in a project, is becoming more widespread. Because it is far easier than mains voltage regulation and connects to AC and other building electronics standards, it is a preferred offering.

Multi-focal spots allow designers to easily switch up the beam angle, which fits into the trend of flexible spaces. The industry is asking for more modular fixtures that can cater to a host of applications, without having to swap them out once a space has been shifted or redone.

The miniaturization of LED fixtures is being observed across the industry, with manufacturers trying to release the smallest LED module that retains a powerful and even lumen output. Typical 2-in. or 4.2-in. dimensions coming from halogen and PAR lamps is no longer the standard. This trend is making light sources more subtle in spaces, while providing quality illumination without interfering with design.

What has changed in lighting in the past 5-10 years?

LED has become more mature and reliable as it has become a universal standard. Consequently, LED COB prices dropped from a few dollars to a few dollar cents, making it more affordable for everyone and connected platforms such as Bluetooth, Zigby and PoE are becoming clear and stable.

Where is lighting headed in the next 5-10 years? 

Lifi—which uses high speed (invisible) light intensity changes for speed data communication—will be more prevalent; human-centric hospitality lighting schemes will also be more wide-spread; furniture-integrated lighting will elevate fixtures and finishes, complementing a space through subtle touches of illumination; and organic growth interior lighting, for projects such as indoor farming, will become a larger industry as these types of urban natural spaces continue to flourish.

What current challenges is the industry facing? How do you recommend those are handled?

The industry is struggling to keep up with rapid technological advances and applying it to light fixtures. The lighting market is currently highly saturated as a whole, and it will come to a point where it must be consolidated, as it is too fragmented right now. The industry is also continuing to adjust to ever-changing coding and legislation for the environment, energy and human wellbeing. Lighting companies must continue to innovate their products and maintain transparency with customers about the tech behind these innovations , for example, if a fixture is using “smart technology” it must be data secure and safe. Ultimately lighting manufacturers must differentiate themselves in the market, crossing boundaries in design and putting new ideas forward for their targeted markets.