What is ‘Lighting Design’?

A company in India is offering to take the drudgery of producing lighting layouts and lighting schedules off my hands, at the attractive headline rate of only £12.50/hour. What’s your charge-out rate, again? That sounds like a healthy profit margin to me. What’s not to like.

But now that I think about it . . . what is there to like?

Does anyone really enjoy the long haul of producing lighting layouts, adding the references, adding the circuit details, producing the lighting schedule . . . what a drag it all is. We know from the lovely occupants of The Lighting Tree that this is the least-loved part of the design process. But what would the design process be like without it?

Those of us old enough will (barely) remember the 1965 film, The Agony and the Ecstasy, where Charlton Heston (Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, Damn you! Damn you all to hell!) played Michaelangelo to Rex Harrison (walk with the animals, talk with the animals, grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals) pitching up as the commissioning Pope Julius II.  The film was accused of being ‘heavy on the dialogue, light on the action’; it sounds like most lighting design studios that I know.

The film is a take on the creative process. It proposes that, in order to achieve the ecstasy of a finished work, its also necessary to endure the agony of the process. How close to a design can you get if you’re not responsible for the dots on the drawing and the detail in the specification? At what point does a design really become ‘yours’? What kind of presumptuous arriviste do you fancy yourself as?

No – I’m not going to name those guys in Uttar Pradesh. They’re probably great at what they do and can turn around a ‘design’ very quickly. But in the process they diminish what it is to be a ‘designer’.

Its meant to hurt . . .

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This article is one on the series of Good Lighting pieces for The Light Review.

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