Archive for the ‘Art and Design’ Category

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.

Vee Set


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.g_nugget_ac_spa_3_wv

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 conference

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.pendant

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.birds

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.





In the discussion of lighting quality, there appears to be a desire to see a simplistic set of performance factors to be met, that can be universally pointed to as “quality”. This is most apparent from fixture manufacturers, who wish to have a set of 3-5 reductive bullet points to indicate their product is a “quality” product. Color rendering is one such factor frequently singled out in this effort, regardless of its relevance to an application.  A quality lighting system is more than the sum of products lumped together into a specification, each defined as quality components, without contextual inter-connectivity. Lighting quality is the result of creating a recipe of approaches, priorities and understanding/agreement that delivers a system that satisfies the end-user occupants, the facility operator, and external influences  to the highest practical level. To this end, I have attempted below to summarize, in the most reduced form possible, the systematic factors that define a quality design.

There is no magic formula for lighting quality. (more…)

So, this isn’t at all about lighting, or solid-state, or technology. It’s just a gadget cat toy we call the Cat-apult.

The lever arm is sprung by rubber band and released by the trigger when depressing the pedal at the rear. The launch tube keeps the cat from stealing the treat inside, also protecting him/her from the lever when it is released.

Shown in the “cocked” position, the lever arm is sprung by rubber band. This is released by the trigger when depressing the pedal at the rear. The launch tube guides the snack projectile and keeps the cat from stealing the treat inside, while also protecting him/her from the lever when it is released.


08285I have a fondness for the halogen lamp. From the little 20W bi-pin 12V burners to the 500W double ended monsters, the combination of light quality, simplicity, toughness, light density and versatility filled a special place in the hearts of lighting designers for decades. While there were also  larger iterations of the technology reaching 20,000W, even the most halogen crazed found them to be a bit over the top, setting them aside for special applications. In my own experience, the 20W through 75W 12V burners, 15W through 65W MR16, 35 through 50W PAR36 and 75W through 250W mini-can line voltage lamps hit the spot for a wide range of focused and unfocused lighting product designs. For my personal portable lamp works, the low voltage burners, MR16 and the PAR36 lamps were my favorites. I could create live-structures (where the fixture acted as conductor) using remote 12V power supplies, allowing sculptures to be simple to the extreme.

This simple bridge design was created using building and armature wire, a PAR36 halogen lamp, and a ball bearing counter weight.

This simple bridge design was created using building and armature wire, a PAR36 halogen lamp, and a ball bearing counter weight.

When LEDs arrived on the scene in the late 1990’s, I caught a glimmer of what was to come. By the year 2002, it was obvious that solid-state would be delivering something new, and that the properties of the source technology shared a great deal with the halogen lamp from a lighting perspective, with a huge advantage – far less heat, much tougher and resistant to impact, and very long lived. The only issue was, color quality was initially poor, consistency from LED to LED was awful, and light output per individual LED device was pathetic. This required designs utilize a number of LEDs mounted to circuit boards, wired to drivers that were clumsy at best. The complexity of LEDs in the earlier stages were compounded by the lack of available components, which meant one-off application of the technology was out of reach for anyone not up for custom electronics design. (more…)

To set things off on the proper foot – I do not like complexity when it is not necessary. I’ve noted many times that if energy were free and maintenance was not a consideration, the perfect light source is the tungsten halogen lamp. This technology delivers a very attractive white light, is very easy to control, provides optical focus, and is as simple as it can get. The low voltage versions of this technology are equally attractive, accepting that transformers were a horrible thing to tag onto an otherwise neat little light source. I have made hundreds of lights using halogen lamps, mainly 12V versions, starting back in 1985. It was my go-to light source. I still have boxes of transformers and sockets, acquired over years of making lights for myself and others.

Applying LEDs in efficient lighting designs is no more complex than use of any other source, just more productive.

Applying LEDs in efficient lighting designs is no more complex than use of any other source, just more productive, and attractive than CFL or other conventional “efficiency” improving sources.

That said, there is no escaping that energy is an issue, and maintenance is a pain. The cost of operating halogen technologies is simply impossible to bear. This is why we have HID sources with all their ugly liabilities, and the fluorescent lamp.  While I get HID technology as a giant super-power halogen device, it has always been a clumsy, heavy, messy engineering gadget that sets aside the art of lighting for raw lumen energy. Fluorescent lamps have are a source you are forced to live with, in an uninspired, just-get-lumens-in -the-box sort of way. There is very little to love about their scale, lack of focus-ability, ballast hardware, delicate tubes, and ghastly glow. I’ve specified millions of these lamps into existence, wishing every time there was a better way. I never made a single art light using fluorescent lamps, not because itsn’t possible, but because I never liked them enough to give them that part of my time.

The emergence of solid-state lighting, specifically LEDs, hit me in two ways. One, I get the small controllable source I had with 12V halogen. Second, I get the efficiency and raw lumen potential of fluorescent that made it indispensable. Because of this, the last time I made a light using halogen technology was in 2004, and that product was converted to an LED sources in 2006. For my own use, every halogen light I made from 1993 to 2004 still in use around the house, has been converted to LED. Every new fixture made since 2005 has incorporated an LED light source, without exception. I do not use retrofit lamps. I either tear down and rebuild products to utilize LEDs properly, or design them around LEDs in the first place. (more…)


The Tasca test mule turned 2 years in continual illuminated state this May. That’s 8,760 continuous operating hours in the cold, hot, and messy environment of the shop in which it lives. It gets abused as well, from tossing greasy rags over it to see what happens when airflow over the heat sink is cut off, to blowing coolant on it until it freezes. There have been several lessons learned in this time. For example, lumen depreciation, captured by measuring the fixture’s output, has been negligable. Losses have been less than 1.2% so far, which means the White Optics reflector and anti-reflective glass are doing their job, as is the Bridgelux ES Array LED. Temperature readings taken over this time have not changed anywhere, which indicates the internal construction attaching the thermal slug to the heat sink is durable and reliable. (more…)

When LEDs first emerged, I was one of the many who expressed the opinion that a lighting system that could dim to a warmer CCT, imitating incandescent lamps, would be desirable. I want to take this opportunity to retract that original opinion and thought. I’ve played with it, seen the products available that do it, and have experimented with the approach… and can say unequivocally that I really don’t like it at all.

One of the problems with incandescent dimming has always been the patchwork of CCTs one gets through a space from different dimmer settings for the various products in a room. This has never been a good thing. Further, the change in CCT of an old school incandescent lamp is significantly different than halogen lamps, as it the character of the color. I for one have fallen out of love with the old incandescent lamp long ago. Over the last 20 some-odd years, I have come to use halogen sources over all incandescent forms, preferring the cleaner white color over that yellowy dinginess of the incandescent lamp. Incandescent lamps (non-halogen) produce a decidedly ugly color that I personally feel is misrepresented by their high CRI rating. The fact that the CRI formula will show a dimmed incandescent lamp with the same high CRI number, even when it very noticeably distorts color in a space, is a condemnation of our poor color performance metrics, not an indication of this lamps superior color performance. (more…)