How long to become a lighting designer . . . 12 months?

Thanks to Mary Ruston-Beales for bringing this to my attention.

Becoming a specialist in lighting design in just one year.


The New York School of Interior Design is offering a full-time master’s degree in Lighting Design (classes offered in the evenings and on weekends). The School is claiming to turn interior designers into lighting experts in record time. And if they can do that in one year, I’d suggest that they are also turning them into Lords and Ladies of The Universe.

It’s timely that this should appear now. Next month, in Rotterdam, the great and the good of the industry will be sitting down at PLDC to talk about how we should be going about training lighting designers and how on-going education via initiatives like CPD programmes need to be integrated into professional practice.

Full disclosure: I didn’t train as a lighting designer. My papers tell me that I passed exams in Illumination Engineering. That was part of a five-year training period. After that I joined a lighting manufacturer as a technical sales engineer, supporting architects and interior designers in putting lighting schemes together. Eventually, I decided I had acquired the chops to call myself a lighting designer, a mere fourteen years after I started on my professional journey. When I look around, I think I still have a lot to learn.

So – to anyone who thinks they can strut their stuff on the Design Stage after a single year’s ‘hands-on exploration of lighting design techniques’, my advice is to slow down and watch how the job’s really done.

I thought I’d take a closer look at the set-up for the course. The Program Director is Shaun Fillion and I have no doubts that Shaun knows what he’s talking about. How can I assume that about someone I don’t know? . . . because Shaun has been in lighting practice for almost 20 years. He’s walked the walk, as a staff designer for 4 years, as a manufacturer’s project design manager for over 3 years and eventually becoming a lighting studio manager. That’s what becoming a designer requires . . . time and experience.

I hope he whispers that truth into the ears of his students.


(headline photo by Ashes Sitoula on Unsplash)

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