The construction recession of 2008, paired with the undeniably explosive growth of LEDs—at the time, a disruptive technology that took over homes and urban planning across the globe—created a talent vacuum in the architectural lighting industry. But if there’s one field that knows innovation can transform a flickering period of time to a steady, exciting one, it’s this one. Fast forward 10 years to today, and the new landscape of the lighting industry has proved to be expansive, especially in the discipline of lighting design.
For employers and industry professionals looking to recruit more designers into the architectural lighting field, consider these facts and talking points.
Career pathways. As more organizations recognize the profound impact lighting can have on quality of life and the consumer experience, architectural lighting experts are more in demand than ever. Lighting design firms like One Lux Studio are increasing their head count, Wynn and WeWork are building in-house design teams, and manufacturers like Royal Contract Lighting are expanding their in-house lighting design capabilities. As a result, a trained lighting designer has many suitors: lighting design firms; architects and engineers who are competing against lighting reps; and manufacturers and tech companies who are looking for the top talent.
Diverse beginnings. Do you know someone interested in the idea of architectural lighting, but who feels they lack the qualifications to go for it? That’s the beauty of this industry, which draws new talent from a wide variety of fields. Shaun Fillion, is program director for the Master of Professional Studies in Lighting Design program at New York School of Interior Design. He says, “When I joined the industry in 2006, my background in theatrical lighting was not an anomaly; I worked alongside graduates of interior design, architecture, and engineering programs. Our commonality was a love of lighting.” It’s not too late—or out of left-field—thanks to higher education. “I have worked beside and managed designers and lighting professionals who have brought wide varieties of training to their job,” says Fillion. “What has distinguished the ones who advance into senior design roles is their deep knowledge of lighting and their confidence to take the lead on project scoping, design, and follow-through. Without exception, these leaders in their field have advanced degrees in the art or science of architectural lighting.”
Education that pays off. In some industries, it’s not easy for a college student or a working professional to decide if investing in graduate education is worth their time and money. In architectural lighting, proof shows that students do see a return on their investment, and fairly quickly at that. Fillion, who also works as Lighting Studio Manager at RAB Lighting and serves on the IES Progress Committee and IESNYC board of managers, says “In our one-year program at NYSID, I have seen students recruited to design firms with significant salary increases. Following alumni on LinkedIn also shows that the majority hold senior designer roles within a few years of obtaining their master’s degree.”
The lighting design industry lost a lot of entry-level talent in 2008. Aspiring designers can take advantage of this by coupling their experience in the field with education, and these individuals will no doubt become the leaders of our industry over the next 15 years.