What are the Fundamentals of Lighting Design?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 29 April 2020
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The fundamentals of lighting design include both form and function. In other words, the look of lighting must suit the space, but its function as a source of light must also be appropriate for the activities and tasks done in an area. For example, rows of pendant lights not only look attractive over a kitchen island work space, they also focus needed light onto the work area. Each room or portion of outdoor space should be carefully assessed in terms of what types and styles of lighting would be the most suitable.

For instance, many people prefer dimmer switches in dining rooms so that the lighting can be bright for occasions such as a children's birthday party or dim for gatherings such as an adults' dinner party. A dimmer switch allows the level of light to be controlled in a room. In outdoor lighting design, lights on automatic sensors can be mounted on buildings so the lights turn on when they detect motion. Garden lights can be installed to provide practical and attractive lighting for pathways and patios.

Many different styles of outdoor lighting are available to suit any type of garden decor. While garden wall sconces give off a soft romantic light, ground lighting provides up-lighting to illuminate landscapes of plants and flowers. Spotlights such as those around a fountain can showcase outdoor water features.

Natural light plays a role in lighting design for indoor spaces. The amount of natural light that a room gets depends on the direction it faces as well as the time of day. If a room such as an office doesn’t get adequate natural light for working during the day, desk lighting should be added as a standard ceiling light may not be effective enough for working at a desk. If work will be done at night, then extra task lightening such as adjustable desk lamps should be incorporated into the room’s design.

Reading lamps are an important part of bedroom lighting design since many people like to read in bed. Ceiling lights are not usually bright enough for reading and bedside lamps are more convenient as they can be turned off and on from the bed area. Beside lamps range from small lights mounted near the headboard to table lamps. A bedroom light may also be a floor lamp or a pendant style lamp.

A fundamental part of lighting design that relates to function is the practicality of the placement of lights. For example, a pendant lamp can be very stylish hanging from a metal rod low into the room. However, if pendant lighting is placed low over a foot traffic area where people could walk into it, the design makes no sense.


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