My blog - here is where I talk about the latest in lighting design and how to make it work for you. 

Maybe Losing #5Pointz Was Inevitable, But It Still Sucks

This post is a little bit of a departure from my usual lighting stuff, but I wanted to share  this story for those of you who read my blog but aren't from NYC. 5Pointz was a mecca here in Queens for legal graffiti art. The 7 train famously snakes around the building on it's elevated tracks running from Manhattan to Main Street, Flushing.

5Pointz is being turned into luxury apartments (like the rest of the city). Last night it was white-washed as if it never existed. It's loss marks yet another step toward a watered down art scene in NYC. As neighborhood after neighborhood is claimed by wealthy developers and willing politicians poor artists are losing places to go. 

I don't have a dog in the 5Pointz fight, but I do believe we are rapidly creating a New York City where creators cannot live, unless they create mortgage backed securities or write code in Silicon Alley or have a trust fund. Maybe this slide toward a wealthy ghetto was inevitable for Long Island City, but it's still a deep loss. Instead of an icon of independent art now 7 train riders get to see some glass towers. I just wonder where all of these art lovers will get their art, when all the artists are forced to leave town.

Here's What I'll Be Thinking About Heading Into #IDCGreen

Here's the challenge - we live in a world where there are a limited pool of resources. At the same time as designers, we are charged with creating beautiful spaces that people will fall in love with. For too long there was a stark choice between beautiful products and products that were deemed sustainable. That gap is rapidly closing and at our upcoming #IDCGreen event I'll be chatting with manufacturers and experts from across the industry about how they are solving this challenge. 

Here's Who's Coming

  • GKD Metal Fabrics - makers of facades with solar management capabilities.
  • JLC Tech - Makers of an innovative office lighting solution meant to reduce energy consumption.
  • Ralph Crozier of Garden State Tile - Ralph will offer his persepctive on green  interiors. 
  • Sara Gutterman, President of Green Builder Media will join us to talk about the VISION House series. 
  • Emily Hooper is the products editor of Architects Newspaper, she's ready to chat about green products. 
  • Wanda Lau is a senior editor with Hanley Wood Media and will be talking about a wide range of green products. 
  • We'll also be speaking with TOTO about their recycled materials programs. 
  • Lindsey Waldrep of Crossville Tile will be there to talk about Crossville's sustainability efforts. 

So as you can see we are not lacking for brilliant perspectives on this subject. You can follow the event live on Google+ or you can follow #IDCGreen on Twitter. 

Questions? Find me on Twitter or on G+ can't wait to connect with you. 

Join Me For A Sustainability Event Live from Greenbuild!

Exactly one week from today I'll be headed to Greenbuild. The nation's largest event dedicated to sustainable building. My friends at Google+'s Interior Design Community and Crossville Tile have invited me to host an event both in person and in a G+ hangout. Similiar to our last Sustainability Summit (but this time live and with wine!) We'll be talking to green building pros about what's changing and how green building doesn't have to be devoid of great design. 

Throughout the week I'll be post updates here and my various social channels on the gathering. I hope you can join us!


How To Be An Awesome Lighting Person on Social Media

When I first tweeting about lighting, I felt like the only one out there. Today the social sphere is full of lighting designers and manufacturers using social media to grow the presence of their business. Whether in reaction to this or in hopes of spurring even more lighting conversation Architectural Lighting has posted a primer on social media for lighting folks. It's a solid background piece on how to avoid some of the stumbles that have hit other companies as they attempt to grow their social media presence. As a lighting guy who's been playing with social media and have reaped great benefits from it allow me to offer up my tips for being awesome with social media. 

Five Tips For Being Awesome On The Social Web

Social Media is a Conversation

Too often we look at what brands do on the social web as an example of what we should do. The reality is if you're a celebrity or a huge brand then by default your social presence is broadcast, you will gain millions of followers just from name recognition and so the rules change. For most small businesses or solo practitioners you'll be starting from the ground up. Find people who are talking about lighting and design and start talking back. The web is getting noisier, real engaged conversation shows people you're human and that you care about this topic.  

Have a Home Base

This blog is my home base. There are no rules on character length and no formatting constraints from the social network. I pay for this site. It is mine. When social media buzz first started getting hot the gurus and trend setters were all about Twitter. Now if you're jumping in, you're probably reading a lot about Facebook or Google+  these things go in and out of style. Having a home base ensures that no matter where the trends go, you still have a place that's yours. 

Try All The Platforms, Then Stick To The One That Works For You

Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram - there are more populated social channels than ever before each with their advocates and detractors. To be honest with you, what platform is best for you is really a function of the kind of content you want to share. As a lighting guy, I've tried them all and seem to keep coming back to Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. It doesn't really matter, these are all massive networks with plenty of audience to gain. What does matter is that you like the platform and engage with it. You don't have to be everywhere if you are awesome somewhere. 

Don't Write Unless You Have Something To Say

So this is one that cuts against the grain of most social media advice. Most social media experts will tell you that you have to tweet X times a day or post to G+ X times a day. They will tell you that frequent blog posting is a key metric for Google's algorithm. I'm not saying they are wrong, but I am saying that the quality of the content matters. My best content gets shared, my mediocre content doesn't. That's really all there is to it. Once you've built a base audience by engaging in conversation (see the point above) then really the only thing that matters is the quality of what you're presenting. That means writing less, but better stuff. Social gurus hate this advice, they are in the business of making sure that all of us are constantly sharing content on the web. Don't make this a rat race. Write thoughtfully and post when you're ready. 

Promote Others More Than You Promote Yourself

If you were at a cocktail party and went from room to room proclaiming how great you were, you wouldn't make many friends. If on the other hand if you went from corner to corner talking about how great your colleagues are or others in the field who inspire you, I bet you'd make a much better impression. We're all yelling into a crowded room on the social web. Prop up someone else, odds are they'll do the same for you.  

Bonus Tips

  • The social web is getting more and more visual act accordingly.

  • Be human first. You’re not a media outlet, you’re a person or a company. Have a personality.

    If you liked these tips go ahead and download the images below. Share them with your friends. 



    Stop Telling Me You Can’t Find the Right LED


    Time and again, I’m told by interior designers that they simply can’t find the right LEDs for their projects. There are always familiar refrains. Statements like “no I know LED is great, but they are too expensive.” Or, “they just don’t have the right color.” Or “they don’t dim properly.” Or “I use 100 watt PAR lamps in my kitchens, and there’s nothing like that in LED.”

    LED is Different - It’s Time To Think Differently

    Housings for the KR Series from Cree

    Housings for the KR Series from Cree

    Stop thinking in terms of wattage. “But I always use 75 watt PAR lamps” is not the right answer. The truth is you like a certain amount of light in a kitchen. So let’s find a fixture that creates that much light. GE lists a 75 watt PAR30 narrow flood lamp at 1030 lumens. And since a PAR 30 lamp is 3 - ¾” we know you need a minimum 4inch aperture to accommodate the lamp however, at 75 watts most fixtures will have to be larger (6 inch aperture) to allow that much heat to dissipate.. So rather than think about an LED lamp that can replicate this kind of performance, think about an LED fixture that does the same thing. Why? LED fixtures are built from the ground up and will perform better over time than LED bulbs. They will also dim much more easily with the proper dimmers supplied. An example might be the KR series from Cree, which delivers 1050 lumens at just 13 watts and is dimmable via triac, 0-10v, or Lutron EcoSense or Lutron forward phase dimming.

    But, LEDs Just Don’t Have The Right Color


    Just because we’ve solved the brightness and dimming issues doesn't mean we’ve solved color. So often I hear, “my clients love the warmth of incandescent light, LED just doesn’t do that.” More and more LED fixture manufacturers are solving that problem as well. Case in point USAI’s BeveLED line features Warm Glow Dimming. This technology actually allows the light to get warmer as it gets dimmer - just like tungsten. So it’s time to drop the idea that LED can only be cold and blue. Many LED manufacturers offer color temperatures in the 2700K range which is actually warmer than incandescent light.

    But, LED is just too expensive.

    Consider this if you have 8 downlights in your kitchen burning 75 watts each for 5 hours a day that’s 3000 watts per day. At 20 cents a kilowatt hour that costs you $219 per year in electricity to light your kitchen. You’ll also have to replace all of them at least once costing approximately $48. If your kitchen renovation is meant to last 10 years. That means this lighting solution will cost you $2,670 not counting the initial cost of the fixtures. I’m not quoting budget pricing here, but a good fixed LED downlight can be estimated at anywhere from $200 to $400. Even at $300 per fixture you’re looking at $2400, when you take the long view that means the you’ll actually same $200.

    Since these fixtures are meant to last well beyond 10 years at 5 hours a day, there’s a high likelihood you’ll save even more money over time. So at the end of the day, LED will save your client money.

    Talk to Your Local Reps

    Let me be honest, specifying really good LEDs takes research and work. Get your local reps involved and review the products available in your market. LED is the future of lighting and it’s here today. It’s time to stop clinging to how you’ve always done things and start learning what it takes to specify LED.


    On Light and Nothing

    I have often spoken of my love for podcasts. I'm an auditory learner and so for me the podcast medium is a terrific way to engage in new ideas. One of my favorite podcasts is Start the Week from the BBC. This show l launches your Monday mornings off with a big existential question and then asks for points of view from multiple, often brilliant, contributors. This week's show struck a chord with me and lighting and so I thought I'd share it.  


    The show this week was about the idea of nothing, and what quickly emerged from the panel is that whether you're taking about mathematics, physics, or art it's very difficult to actually have a nothing. For instance, is the vacuum of space nothing? Or is it simply the space between two other bodies? Is the truest nothing whatever existed before the Big Bang? Well what was that? The more you think about it, the harder and harder is it to really define a nothing.  

    Nothing and Light

    So it is with light and lighting design. If there is a nothing in lighting it is darkness - the absences of light. Yet, to a lighting designer (or anyone who wishes to create great light) darkness is essential. It's akin to negative space in art or silence in music. Without it the created portion is irrelevant. Here's an example.  

    So stripped of the awful color of the high pressure sodium street lights, what makes this image interesting is the contrast between the lighted portion of the street in the background and the darkness in the foreground. It is the absence of light, the negative space, that is compelling in this scene. Without the modeling effect of shadows and darkness our eyes (and brains) would have no way of discerning shapes and depth. Absence, darkness, nothing is also a way to create mystery. We collect 80% of the information governing our lives visually. Without light we cannot discern that information. That creates mystery and interest for the viewer. Images like the long dark tunnel or a face lit in silhouette. That's the power of nothing in light. Darkness is a lighting designer's best friend. 

    The Purpose of Surface Lighting

    This weekend I jumped in with a post on The Lighting Quotient. They are a company dedicated to properly lighting horizontal and vertical surfaces with even washes of light. They do this through superior optical engineering to make fixtures tailored to this exact purpose. 

    What I didn't really do in that post was explain why you want to light the surface in the first place. There are several reasons you might want to light the surfaces instead of areas - here are three of them. 

    Soft Ambient Light

    Lighting the ceiling to create indirect ambient light. 

    By lighting wall and ceiling surfaces you create soft, glare free ambient light that makes a space feel more open and inviting. Rather than casting light down directly on an open area creating obvious shadows, bounce lighting from the ceiling or walls acts more like natural light. It's ambiance without an obvious source. 

    Highlight Architecture

    Concept Sketch - lighting gallery walls. 

    By lighting the surfaces of a room you highlight it's architecture. You can see in this simple sketch that lighting surfaces here outlines shape for the visitor, making some walls prominent and letting others fall off. This is a replication of how natural light defines space for our eyes. 

    Add Visual Volume To Your Space

    Lighting the wall surfaces to create ambient light.  

    Simply downlighting a space makes walls and ceilings go dark. That darkness can make a space feel small. When you highlight walls and ceilings the eye makes the space feel larger because it accounts for all of the volume. Look at the meeting room I started this post with. That is not a large room. Yet, by lighting the ceiling and walls the room has volume and the soft ambient light feels comfortable.  

    Ennis High School Auditorium, Ennis, Texas

    Ennis High School Auditorium, Ennis, Texas

    Any thoughts or questions on why surface lighting can be optimal? Leave me a comment or connect with me on twitter @jamesbedell.  

    Lighting Surfaces With The Lighting Quotient

    People have often said to me "lighting is so important." Of course they don't mean lighting. They mean pretty light fixtures. The most amazing light you've ever seen probably came from a theatrical instrument that looks rather ugly. My point is that people who really care about lighting care about the light itself. How it's created, shaped and projected. What color it is and how well it renders color. More than anything how we use a light source is critical to the final look and feel of a space. 

    The Lighting Quotient

    This brings be to The Lighting Quotient. Comprised of its sub-brands, Elliptipar, Tambient and Fraqtir, TLQ is a company full of lighting people. Real lighting people, the kinds of designers and engineers who are obsessed with how to shape light and use it to illuminate surfaces. That's not to say they make ugly fixtures. It's to say that they care about making instruments that put light exactly where you need it. 

    A Different Way of Looking at Light

    When most of us think about light we think in terms of ceiling mounted fixtures. Whether they are decorative or functional we tend to imagine light being cast down upon a space from above. That's not based on nothing. Most of our lighting is indeed created in this way. But TLQ thinks differently , and they have ever since their founder Sy Shemitz started creating Elliptipar fixtures in 1977. Sy was passionate about light and casting light on surfaces. In fact, he started the Elliptipar line of fixtures after he patented a new kind of reflector technology but couldn't find a manufacturer willing to build it. 

    Bloch Building, Nelso-Atkins Museum of Art

    Bloch Building, Nelso-Atkins Museum of Art

    That reflector is the basis for numerous iterations of asymmetric surface lighting and it's the backbone technology behind Elliptipar today. Whether you're lighting the facade walls of a museum or the stacks of a library the asymmetric distribution of Elliptipar is a critical tool for the lighting designer to have in her arsenal. 

    JetBlue Terminal 5, JFK International Airport

    JetBlue Terminal 5, JFK International Airport

    Fraqtir - Advanced LED


    Elliptipar is based on a reflector technology meant to hone the light cast by an omni-directional source light a metal halide or fluorescent lamp. So when the LED revolution started many asked how Elliptipar would adapt to solid state lighting. Rather than trying force LED technology into an existing form factor, the company rebranded (becoming The Lighting Quotient) and launched a new line of products called Fraqtir. Fraqtir is based on the concept of refraction. Since LED is a point source, the most effective way to make it an asymmetric wash light is to refract the light within a lens. This gives you even more control of the light than the original Elliptipar reflector. 

    FRAQTIR cove lighting

    Tambient - A Different Way To Light The Office

    Most people hate their office lighting. While I've written many times about different ways to fix this problem, like giving office areas access to daylight and better lighting controls Tambient comes a this problem in a whole other way. By creating an uplight/down fixture combination, Tambient puts light where we need it in an office, by putting the majority f the light on the work surface and allowing some to escape as ambient bounce light off the ceiling, Tambient creates a whole new office environment. 

    Screen Shot 2013-11-02 at 11.28.47 AM.png

    Tambient allows for flexible modular lighting design that bridges the gap between furniture and lighting design, creating enormous energy savings and a very different, soft lighting environment.  

    TLQ and Sustainability  

    When it comes to lighting and sustainability, most manufacturers proclaim that they are creating more sustainable lighting by using LED and reducing power density. TLQ takes it one huge step further and has multiple Elliptipar and Fraqtir products Cradle-to-Cradle certified. It's this commitments to sustainability that a better future that makes The Lighting Quotient a leader in sustainability. 
    So if you need to know more about the Lighting Quotient just head to their site and connect with your local representative.  

    Lighting the Panorama for the Brand New Queens Museum

    If you've been following my writing and social streams for a while then you know all about my work with the Queens Museum. The museum has undergone a $68 million renovation over the last two years expanding into what used to be the World's Fair Skating Rink. Now the operational museum is twice the original size. Just to be clear, I had nothing to do with the new wing of the museum. It's beautiful and I think the design vaults the museum into the next level of art houses in the city, however, I didn't do any work on it. However, I did get to do some work on a long term exhibition housed in the museum - The Panorama of The City of New York

    Re-lighting the Panorama

    The Panorama of the City was commissioned by Robert Moses for the 1964 World's Fair. It was originally meant to feel like a helicopter ride over the Five Boroughs of New York City. When it was renovated a glass walkway was put in and the architecture was updated. Today the panorama is a snapshot of NYC circa 1992.

    The lighting was updated at that time to create an automated sunrise effect. Over the years, the system began to degrade there were control errors and lights stopped fading or being controlled at all. My job was to get the panorama perfectly lit again and to get a simple day to night fade operating automatically, all with minimal equipment change.  So it started with inventory and maintenance. We took down all of the Source Fours and associated dimmers and cables did a count and cleaned  everything. This gear has been in service for twenty years continuously, it needed some TLC. 

     Click the image below for an instagram video I shot on one of the work days at the Panorama. 

    Once maintenance was done it was time to go to work on the dimming system. The backbone of the previous system was the Bakpak dimmer - one per source 4 connected to the feedrail system for power with an individual DMX connection daisy-chained back to the CueServer. If none of that meant anything to you, then important thing to understand is that every light had it's own dimmer, with it's own data connection. This made it impossible to troubleshoot errors when DMX control failed. It also created maintenance nightmares since every light had three possible component failures, the lamp, the dimmer and the DMX connection. So we opted to reduce the amount of dimmer locations by utilizing ETC Smart Bars.  These bars allowed us to create 9 central points of control. Making it much simpler to troubleshoot if things should fail down the line, as well as making it easier to program the system. 

    Manhattan was looking a little dark when we got started. 

    Manhattan was looking a little dark when we got started. 

    It took a lot of work, including taking 12 hours of solo focus work to get the panorama re-lit and programmed. The newly cleaned and focused lighting rig as well as the new dimmers ultimately resulted in a lighting job I can be proud of.  

    The view from Staten Island looking north

    The view from Staten Island looking north

    Looking from the north end of the Bronx out over the entire city. 

    Looking from the north end of the Bronx out over the entire city. 

    A view of Staten Island and Brooklyn

    A view of Staten Island and Brooklyn

    As you can see we managed to accomplish bright even lighting that treats all the boroughs equally. All of my lighting geek friends will be appreciate how difficult that is with only a high-side angle on a model that is 100'+ long and 75'+ wide - especially with less than 50 instruments. Lastly, being able to see the panorama fade to a night time scene automatically made the museum staff thrilled. 


    Go to the new Queens Museum!

    My lighting is a very small part of the new Queens Museum. The design of the new wing is nothing short of amazing and the new exhibitions are stunning. For more on the museum, head to their website. Remember they open November 9th! 

    Blogging in the Short Form

    Lately I've been frustrated by pretty much all social media platforms. Twitter seems too brief, G+ too quiet, Facebook too cozy.

    So when I have lighting related information of thoughts to share I'm going to do so right here. Squarespace gives me the ability to share blog posts via email. This post is an example. I don't get to do a lot of the fancy formatting. But I also don't have bloggers remorse for missing out on sharing ideas I have on the go.

    So look for more (short) content here on the blog!