Solid-state lighting technology is poised to cause an explosion of artistic lighting design that eclipses all before it. The opportunities to do great things is limitless, with a great many interesting applications have already come from utilizing it to great effect. LEDs and OLEDs open doors to creative work like nothing before them. While the technologists focus on saving energy and other metrics to satisfy any number of codes, comply with regulations and meet objective demands – artists are now finding ways to apply the technology to delight customers. This is what keeps me interested in this industry.
My background in graphic arts was founded on a deep desire to delight people with creative work. As NCOIC of Graphics on Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, I included art in otherwise mundane officious graphic presentations. There was a level of thrill when, as a lowly sergeant, a starred-up General seeks to you out to express his delight with a presentation.
The move from graphics to lighting design 36 years ago was fueled by the same desire to realize delighted customer response. Architects, Interior Designers and property owners, from home owners to casino operators, were the new delight-able generals to me. The addition of product design and development followed delight-able customers in manufacturing, coupling my design interests with my passion for making things with my hands. I’ve invested the last 11 years in solid-state technology in lighting for one reason – I see it as a new frontier in creating applications and products that delight customers.
I have been criticized for lacking focus. I write, design lighting systems, design products, engineer, prototype, build things, as well as fix and tinker with machines. How this can be seen as negative is beyond me. So, in an effort to understand, I read several contemporary business books, which advise focus as the key to success – the narrower and more concentrated the better. Sounded boring to me, until I realized that I have a focus – to delight customers, more narrowly – lighting customers. To accomplish that requires more than a singular focus on any one aspect of the business.
The key to success in any commercial endeavor is differentiation, standing out among competitors. For some time I have done business in service of manufacturers, designing, marketing, and assisting others in the design and marketing of products. In this, I have purposefully limited direct involvement in lighting application design (except when employed to assist a manufacturing customer to serve their customer.) The idea was to avoid conflicting with lighting designers, who I had hoped would engage us to assist in the deployment of solid-state lighting in their own work. This, coupled with our work with manufactures seems a nice match-up. What we learned by working with lighting designers could be used to assist manufacturers in development of better products. What we learned from manufacturers and access we gain to technologies involved, can be applied to assist lighting designers in use of the technology.
As it turns out, this was a flawed approach. Lighting designers, with a very few exceptions, don’t see us as an asset to their efforts. Forget that we can modify products, refit older products to new technology, help in building truly unique components to supplement off-shelf products to deliver unique results, or assist in the application of the technology to reduce field problems. We can create customized optics, suspension components, brackets, wiring harnesses, connectors, and adaptations of products that manufacturers are shy to bother with. That’s what we do, it’s what we built our shop around. Yet, it’s never really be adopted by the customer we hoped to serve – the lighting design community. Oh well…
A Fresh Approach and Value Proposition
We’re no longer restricting service offerings in our search for delight-able customers. With more than a decade experience in the trenches of product development to meet application needs, we have accumulated a level of expertise and understanding of solid-state technology that virtually no other lighting designer can approach. With in-house capacity to modify and tweak off-shelf products, adapt standard products in unique ways, as well as test, evaluate and qualify products before we specify them, we are uniquely qualified to produce excellence for customers in ways no other lighting design entity is capable of – especially when it comes to integrating solid-state lighting technologies.
Of course, we can do all of the normal AGI32 evaluations, lighting plan work, specifications and selections, on-site inspection, controls layouts, code/regulation compliance paperwork, etc… as any other lighting design entity. We’ve been doing that for more than 30 years all along, directly and indirectly behind the scenes. Nobody is excited by code compliance, so it’s not something we spend a lot of time crowing about.
While our approach is not widely applicable to large projects around the world, that is not our market focus. These attributes are very applicable in mid-scale and small projects for discrimitating customers looking for a personal touch, a market generally under-served. These are also the customers that value direct personal interaction, and clever adaptation to meet special design requirements – which means direct experience in their delight with the end result. For me, that is a great pairing of capability and end use customer.
Evolve or Die
The lighting market is evolving. Technology is changing everything from access to information to controls integration, and light source performance. The evolution is also changing the relationship between designer, producer, and customer. The closer the collaboration, the better the end result. This means finding ways to meet special application demands without full custom solutions, re-thinking the relationship between purchased hardware and delivered light, and redressing the interaction between occupants and the building itself, at every economic level.
The time is also right to see a new class of design entity emerge that can delight customers who do not have deep pockets, with excellent design, coupled with effective application of off-shelf products adapted to serve unique purposes, coupled with full custom designs that utilize available modular components that do not demand the expense in time and capital of full-blown custom products. The end goal should be to deliver the highest value, and biggest smiles all around. We are just such an entity, and are actively seeking new customers ready to be delighted.
While we are at it, if there is a need for a custom gadget, a sculpture, detail, or unique piece of furniture we might help with, lighted or not, we are here to serve. We don’t believe diversity and lack of singular myopic focus is a liability at all. We embrace it.