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From bold to subtle, from entertaining to intuitive – but why?

Updated: Jun 7

Is there a standard approach or technique when it comes to lighting a space? Can we simply say the design approach needs to be Bold, Subtle, Entertaining or Intuitive? What does lighting need to deliver in a given scenario? Before going into a discussion about an appropriate approach in lighting a space, we need to understand the end goal.


In general, lighting has a dual role to deliver, one as a Professional building Service and the other an Art.

First, as a building service, Lighting has the duty to provide a functional backdrop for well-being. Lighting for general tasks like accessing clothes in a wardrobe, for circulation, for providing light to grow plants indoor or even to simply work indoors etc.

In this capacity, lighting should, like a doctor’s Oath, “Do no harm,” and it should do well.Lighting should be functional, durable and appropriate.


Secondly, as an Art, lighting design is critical to the nature of a space, people, on cities and on aesthetics.

“By common consent, the Pantheon is a great work of architecture & light. It has aesthetic standing only as the work becomes an experience for a human being. Art is always the product in experience of interaction of human beings with their environment.”

In this capacity, it has an ability to inspire, and not just to “do no harm,” but actually to make improvements to the relationship between people and place. As art, lighting can be a catalyst for human experiences.


In the process of designing lit environments, we are also implicitly specifying distinct experiences, emotions, and mood. Through light, we articulate movement, representations, comfort and value.

So in principle, for a lighting designer without fully understanding how a person experiences a space he/she cannot fulfil the requirement in a space.


However, most of us choose to rely on standards rather than to specific information regarding a particular person who will be using the space. It does come in handy to design a space by using standards that are available, but it becomes a lighting design failure when designers rely only to the data, and neglect what the user actually experiences in the process of design.

To conclude, no matter what kind of a design, when the context is about built environment, we are dealing with human experience. So, in short, human experience is the key parameter and it needs to be considered even before the lighting designer starts to design a better-lit environment.

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