This week on Wednesday at noon Central Time, the IALD is hosting a webinar to address the impact of racism on our industry. This will (hopefully) be the start of a longer conversation filled with action items - what can we actually do to improve our industry by making it inclusive and welcoming to a diverse population?
When Edward Bartholomew and Nelson Jenkins asked me to join this panel, the first words out of my mouth were, "I might say the wrong thing. Don't get me wrong - I'm passionate about this topic. It's close to my heart, but I'm still learning how to be Anti-Racist." Edward graciously answered that we are all still learning and Nelson welcomed me to the panel. I have already learned during the short time we have been preparing for this webinar.
Why would I want to be on this panel? I believe that justice and equity are human rights. I also believe that designers can apply our creativity to solving issues of social injustice. As a kid, I often felt left out. We've all been there, right? I remember that feeling, and I hated it. Because of that, I have always tried to be inclusive.
As a human, I care about how others are treated.
I care about how they feel.
I care about people.
I care about my seven-year-old niece who is the princess of our family. She was born in Ethiopia and adopted at eight months old. She is spunky and smart. I want everyone to see that about her and love her as much as I do. I want her to have access to every opportunity that my nephew and my sons will have. And I absolutely don't want anyone to hurt her or judge her based on her gender or the color of her skin.
Let me ask the white people reading this...when was the last time you were in the minority? When have you gone to a meeting or a store or just driven down the street and noticed that you were the only white person around? Can you honestly say you were comfortable in that situation? Okay, now reverse that and you might begin to imagine how Black lighting designers feel. At a lighting conference about 15 years ago, I happened to notice that nearly everyone in the room was old, white, and male. A few years later, an Emerging Professional approached me and said, "This is awkward, but I feel like I can talk to you...are there any Black people in this industry?" My truthful answer had to be that there aren't many, but then I proceeded to introduce her to as many people as I could to make her feel welcome.
This conversation is long overdue.
Since the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests, many in the lighting industry have condemned social injustice and racism. Many in the lighting community have even issued diversity and inclusion statements.
Action is also overdue.
I hope everyone who has been speaking out will join this Webinar.
Help us discuss ways to move into action and make positive change in our industry!
Update: A version of this story was published in St. Louis CNR! Read that story here, and our original blog post below.
Cities everywhere are closing roadways to traffic and allowing restaurants to add outdoor dining tables because of coronavirus. Other restaurants are taking over parts of their parking lots to add a few tables. This outdoor dining option will be a lifesaver for many restaurants, allowing them to serve more guests while social distancing. Small overlooked nooks and crannies can create a perfect socially distanced table and with the right lighting, it can be stunning.
Outdoor dining creates daytime and nighttime lighting challenges. Umbrellas or a trellis may be needed to mitigate hot sunshine, while those “ceilings” become perfect opportunities for lighting at night. Uplighting an umbrella turns the whole thing into a glowing light source. LED lights are small sources which don’t take much power. Some can even be solar powered.
The Envision Lighting Design team has studied the options, and we would like to offer a few guidelines for spicing up your ad hoc alfresco dining spaces with a little lighting magic.
Be sure to highlight steps, ramps, and curbs. This can be done with post-top lights, wall sconces, or ropelight tucked underneath the steps. Light can also mark pathways and help with wayfinding.
To screen diners from roadways, parking lots, or even other tables, add plants and put lights in them for increased visibility. If you don’t plan to bring your lighting system inside during inclement weather, make sure you are using lights that are rated for outdoor use.
Warm Color Creates Fireside Ambiance
LED light comes in all different colors. Be sure to pick a warm color light (not “daylight”) to help people – and their food – look the most appealing. Be careful with saturated color! Pops of red or blue color can be fun, but use it sparingly to avoid discoloring food or creating a chaotic atmosphere.
Another thing that creates a warm fireside ambiance is…fire. Firepits can be used to help socially distance patrons while also providing light. Firepits or heat lamps can provide warmth and ambient light to extend the outdoor dining season in cool climates. Candles on tables provide light, too. You can also use candles or other lighting to track which tables are ready for new guests.
Umbrellas can provide daytime shade from hot sun, while tiki torches provide light at night; either replace umbrellas with tiki torches nightly, or if you have enough room, create a checkerboard of umbrella tables for daytime and tiki tables for night.
Create a Focal Point
Light the vertical surfaces between tables, whether they are curtains, walls, or plants. Whatever you use as a partition between people, illuminate it. Accent your accent walls! Try hiding the light source behind a bench or plant to create a softer glow. Glare is the enemy of a pleasant ambiance.
Firepits, fireplaces, and landscape planters are natural focal points. You can also uplight trees or hang lights from their branches to downlight the spaces below them. Why not draw attention to these bits of nature if you are lucky enough to have them in your urban landscape?
String Light Love
We all love string lights, and they are easy to install. But try using them differently. Here are some suggestions:
Let Your Personality Shine!
Lights – even string lights – come in different shapes and sizes. There are standard globes, but there are also some that look like jelly jars or paper lanterns. Pick a shape that matches the personality of your eatery.
Another fun idea is to bring floor lamps outdoors. Some are even rated for outdoor use.
Speaking of lamps, anything can be a lampshade! Hang buckets, baskets, or wire birdcages over a simple shop light for a dressed-up look. Cluster a group of cord-hung lamps together to create your own chandelier.
Lighting can be expensive and complicated, but it doesn’t have to be, and using your creativity can keep costs low. Whatever you decide to do, remember that the magic of light can enhance the outdoor dining experience just like it does indoors.
I had a little "meetup" with friends last night. You know the kind: not actually in person, but on Zoom like a work meeting, except after work and with non-work friends. My (sweet and insightful) friend told me it looked like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. I'm sure it did...
I could stare right back at my own image...
...in fact, with Zoom I could stare right back at my own image and see exactly what she was talking about in real time. It wasn't pretty, folks. For one thing, I need to work on my video-call lighting set-up. And maybe I also need to place an online order for some new makeup. But I digress.
It's probably true that I have been worrying about things more than I need to.
But you know what else is true? I have been waiting for SO MANY THINGS.
We have all been waiting...
...for our states or cities to reopen
...for test results
...to hear who won the proposal
...for furloughs to end
...for PPP loans or EIDL grants or stimulus checks
...for school to end
...for summer to start
...for our grocery deliveries
...for newly planted gardens to grow
...to be let in to that next web call
Whatever it is that you are waiting for, take a deep breath and let the weight slip off.
We're all in this together. You don't have to carry it all yourself!
While much of the world is suffering unprecedented stress due to the global pandemic, the EARTH seems to be feeling less stress than she has in a while. We have been reducing energy usage and air pollution, and it looks like the Earth is breathing easier because of it. That's a silver lining, for sure!
It's also fitting, since this coming Wednesday, April 22 is the 50th Earth Day.
Those who dwell among the beauties and the mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life ~ Rachel Carson
Several of our ELD team members celebrated our love for the planet by getting outside and planting gardens this weekend. Luckily, we were graced with gorgeous weather in the St. Louis area, so that felt like an Earth Day gift to us!
This is our eco-challenge to you: remember the connections, including your human ones. During this time of isolation, the connections are more important than ever. Start by connecting to the people you know and love - with a phone or video call - not just a text. After that, think about the electricity and the water you are using. How can you turn them off and use even a little less? This article has some good specific tips on how to save energy during the coronavirus pandemic. Next, go outside and take a deep breath. Take three deep breaths! Smell the fresh air. Now listen to the birds, the peepers, or the buzzing bees. What are the natural sounds you can hear today? It's springtime! How many colors can you see? The browns are being covered over with vibrant yellows and greens. In Missouri, the dogwoods and redbuds are blooming pink and white. Finally, go all-in...find a patch of ground, take off your shoes, and press your feet into this one-and-only planet of ours.
If the pandemic has you feeling tired and alone, take a break to connect with the beauty and mystery of our Earth.
Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. ~Rachel Carson
Let us know how you are celebrating Earth Day this week!
This weekend was my husband's birthday - our family's first birthday celebration during the pandemic and stay-at-home order. We celebrated with sidewalk chalk messages and streamers and zoom and FaceTime. It turned out to be a pretty, lovely day.
Then today was Easter. For me, this Easter Sunday felt bleak and dark.
But today's church sermon had been pre-recorded at dawn. The online message began with just an orange horizon in the background and finished with full daylight. The scriptures were focused on beautiful analogies of light and darkness, which spoke to me as a lighting designer. (The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. John 1:5,9)
I have actually been thinking all week about how light can bring hope. Light can brighten dark spirits - besides just illuminating actual darkness. In this way, I suppose churches and lighting designers are doing some of the same work. So today, I'm dedicating this space to a few of the churches we have worked with in the past. We know you all miss having the ability to gather together. We are hoping with you for a quick return to your spaces filled with your people. Until then, stay home, stay safe, find your hope and be a light.
Last week I read an article about dads being "stuck at home" during the pandemic, which reminded me of one of my past research projects. It was favorite project of mine. (Are you allowed to have favorite research projects? Or is it like having a favorite child?)
These are the questions which spawned the research:
Are you a woman? Are you a lighting designer? Are you a mother? Have you ever noticed women leaving the design profession after becoming mothers? Are they actually leaving? If so, why? Are they quitting work altogether, or are they going to work somewhere else? If they are working somewhere else, what makes that other profession more desirable than lighting design? What can we do to make lighting design a good place for women who are also mothers?
Flexibility is one of the top requests from these employees, and now that we have all tried a work-from-home model, maybe that flexibility will be easier to achieve in the future.
In 2018, Emily Klingensmith and I created a first-of-its-kind survey of U.S.-based women in lighting design (and women who were formerly lighting designers) to find the answers to these questions and more. Thanks to great participation by women in the industry, along with great support by WILD and IALD, the survey received over 430 responses.
The survey attempted to answer difficult questions which don't have easy answers, but some of the survey results show trends which may give us clues to retaining mothers in the profession. Mental load - taking the lead on most household responsibilities and almost all parenting tasks leaves less time for mothers in lighting design to commit to work deadlines, overtime, trips, and after-hours aiming sessions. Flexibility is one of the top requests from these employees, and now that we have all tried a work-from-home model, maybe that flexibility will be easier to achieve in the future.
This is something all employers should care about. The answers to this anonymous survey were insightful, poignant, and sometimes raw. See the complete survey results here, and stay tuned for the next time Emily and Lisa present the results in person.
It has been incredible to see people step up and lead during this time. I mean, to be honest, just getting out of pajamas and taking a shower feels like an accomplishment for those of us who aren't leaving the house much...
Here are some of the things I have seen leaders doing this week:
Today I read a great blog post on the Convergence of Leadership and Community written by Orv Kimbrough, CEO of Midwest BankCentre. This phrase really jumped out at me:
During a crisis, you see the difference in management and leadership, they are both important, but are not the same. Leadership is about measured growth and management is about maintaining. Leadership is about challenging and inspiring others to deliver their best and management is generally about accepting things as they are.
Wow. Which one are you? We do always need both. But what does leadership look like?
For leaders, this is the time to shine, to encourage, to inspire!
What can we do to emerge from this better than we were last month or last year?
What can we do to grow and inspire growth in the people around us? And in the people we can influence, but who are currently NOT around (physically distanced from) us?
Use this time to show up and be your best. Just because no one is looking over your shoulder at your remote workplace doesn't mean they can't feel your commitment or enthusiasm. Be a leader! Put a smile on your face when you talk. Get on video chats so you can see your coworkers, and if nothing else, at least change out of those pajamas!
I've decided it's time to write, talk, and share.
How are YOU doing? How is your team? What is your state of mind?
This is hard, but we are all in it together. We need each other.
Together, we will write this history. We will get through this. It will end. When it does, what do we want history to say about how we handled this pandemic?
Here's what Envision Lighting Design looks like today:
We have been working exclusively from home for three full work-weeks. We started on March 16, about a week earlier than our city/county mandates, because we have always been set up for remote work, and we wanted to do the right thing. Something new: our team has enjoyed daily video check-ins. We will keep some version of this in place in the future, because it allows us a more personal contact with our remote teammate(s). We will also do a better job with video product chats for our remote team! It has been great to meet with our reps and manufacturers in this way.
We want to stay in touch with all of our partners, so contact us to book a virtual meeting, lunch-and-learn, or coffee. We miss you!
...we are also sometimes exhausted."
While some of our New York-based projects and others under construction have been put on hold, design work is continuing at a pretty full clip. We are still writing proposals, too. Do you have a project that needs lighting design? Let us know! We have a summer intern all lined-up and anxious to start. Help us ensure he will have plenty of (remote) work to do!
We are carefully monitoring any potential shipping or supply-chain disruptions. There are some manufacturers who can currently ship and some who can't. We are keeping track and letting our clients know, so clients can decide whether to change specs or wait.
Like you, we are also sometimes exhausted. The kids learning from home, the adventure of shopping for so many at-home meals, finding a quiet corner for a video call, finding toilet paper, figuring out the CARES program, donating PPE to friends and family in medical fields, checking in with parents and older family members and neighbors...all from a distance. Whatever it is that is making you tired, we feel your pain! How can we help you?
Watch our social media accounts for stories about people who are helping and ways you can help too!
Stay tuned, stay well, stay home.
Envision Lighting Design recently received a St. Louis Section Award and an IES Award of Merit for the lighting design at the Stephen and Peter Sachs Museum at the Missouri Botanical Garden. The project inspired these thoughts from our Founding Principal, Lisa J. Reed:
Oh, if these walls could speak…
These walls, built in 1859…
Would they tell you about the 60,000 plant specimens Henry Shaw housed here, and then would they go quiet, remembering when Shaw’s body lay in state here?
If these walls could speak, would they brag about when they were a film studio, or would they gossip about the conversations overheard when this was a restaurant?
If these walls could speak, would they tell you how lonely it was to stand empty for three decades, or would they just be excited about the architects and lighting designers who finally started coming around, doing mock-up after mock-up to get the color and distribution just right on the ceiling mural?
Would they tell you about the artist painstakingly tracing every line of the ceiling mural onto mylar – then taking a sample light fixture back to her studio to recreate the mural under the same light that would eventually illuminate it?
These walls never spoke.
But one day, they LOOKED at us. The contractor had started demolition work, and there – right above the first hole in the demolished plaster ceiling – was a FACE, looking back at him. You see, this room, which had been destined to be a simple space with gypboard ceilings, recessed cans, and some track lights, had three hidden frescoes painted on forgotten arched ceilings! They were portraits of Henry Shaw’s friends and heroes. This room had to be redesigned quickly; the faces had to be illuminated; and (of course) there was nowhere to mount the luminaires.
Every good project has a story. This project had so many. Similarly, every good project has a whole team of people who worked to make it good. I want to thank the client Missouri Botanical Garden, the designers (and our client) at Christner, I have to mention the incredible support we got from Charlie and David and everyone at St. Louis Lighting Group, and of course kudos go to the entire Envision Lighting Design team for this one.
Now, let me just encourage you…
Next time you are at the Missouri Botanical Garden walking past this quiet historic museum building, take the time to go inside to see its surprising interior and maybe,
Just maybe…these walls…will speak…to you.
For the third summer, we have enjoyed having our intern, Aaron Reed, working with the ELD team. This summer, he applied for the IES St. Louis Section Scholarship, and we are pleased to announce that he is a scholarship winner. Thank you to the St. Louis Section, and congratulations to Aaron!
See below for Aaron's winning essay.
Basically what I'm trying to say is I have been around the world of lighting my entire life."
I attended my first IES meeting when I was 18 days old. It was black and white night at the Los Angeles Lumen West Awards event and I was wearing black and white stripes. All I remember was my grandma holding me up when they asked everyone to stand up who dressed up for the event. (Okay, I don’t actually remember any of it. These are just the stories I’ve heard.) When I was eight, I sat in the corner during the St. Louis IES illumination awards judging, listening pensively, plotting my own award winning design. I have now been an intern at Envision Lighting Design for the past three summers. Basically, what I’m trying to say is I have been around the world of lighting my entire life. During this time I have learned an absurd amount about light and lighting design. Light is one of the most overlooked things in our daily lives. It is all around us in many different forms and is one of the most important ways we interact with the world around us. There are different wavelengths of light which we have called colors, artificial light created by releasing energy in the form of photons, and the natural sun and moon light that make our world turn. Yet no one really takes a moment to stop and appreciate this wonderful thing. Before we had figured out how to harness the power of light, humans were at a standstill of innovation. We were limited by the twelve hours of sunlight, this being the only time someone could see or make anything. Then in 1879, Thomas Edison produced the first electric light, forever changing the course of humanity. The number of productive hours had essentially doubled as people could now work and create throughout the night. It’s tough to imagine what life would have been like had the electric light never been discovered. It would surely not be as great as it is today. Today, innovations in light are continuing to affect all of us. A lot of people don’t know that lighting affects us medically. We all have a thing called circadian rhythm which is our sleep/wake cycle. The light around us can have a major impact on this rhythm and can be instrumental to our health. One of the most common ways our brains are affected by light is from our phone and computer screens. The large amount of blue light emitted from these screens can make it more difficult to fall asleep. We will surely continue to find new ways light affects us as more innovations are made. It’s easy to overlook the importance of light, but it has a profound impact on all of our lives.
Before...I thought lighting design was just installing a light bulb in a room. Now I know it is so much more than that."
Lighting has had a personal impact on my own life. I have interned at the world-renowned lighting design firm, Envision Lighting Design, for the past three summers. This experience has helped me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. It has given me a look into the professional world; I’ve discovered how lighting design works, and I’ve learned many useful skills. Being able to have a close look at how a business really runs is one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned. I now realize there are an unthinkable amount of factors in making decisions and an unbelievable amount of decisions to be made. It has shown me how important communication is in the workplace. It seems like most of what is done in the office is talking with architects and distributors, or networking to try to get new projects. While interning at ELD I have been given the opportunity to solve real life problems with light. Before I got my valuable experience at ELD I thought lighting design was just installing a light bulb in a room. Now I know it is so much more than that. I have learned about things like color temperature, CRI, beam spread, and luminosity, and how they can be changed to meet your design goals. I have also learned all about the design process. Seeing the space, figuring out constraints, meeting the budget, making it look good, and then finding out they decreased the budget. I have also been able to learn many useful skills like how to build a website, a computer, and how to use Revit and AGI.
Just having people more aware of light around them will lead to better, more intentional lighting."
While I don’t know exactly what I want to major in I know good lighting will certainly play a significant role in the rest of my life. If nothing else, I will always be an advocate of a high standard of lighting. I and my family have contributed a great deal to the lighting world. My mom has been a lighting designer her entire professional career and has served on many IES committees. Her volunteer work for the community even goes beyond the IES panels; she has given many different speeches and has taught others about light and lighting design. She always tries to provide the highest quality lighting at the lowest cost. My dad works for an electrical distributor, Graybar, which is also an integral part of the lighting world. I have worked with a lighting design business and have gained the experience to know what good lighting is. I hope I can take this experience and apply it to the real world no matter what career path I go into. I am attending the Missouri University of S&T in the fall and plan on studying some kind of engineering. I want people to be able to understand the significance of light and how much it affects our lives. Just having people more aware of light around them will lead to better, more intentional lighting.
Lisa J. Reed, lighting designer and Principal at Envision Lighting Design, LLC