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

Why Martha Was Right

Hello Friends, if you follow my blog, you know that there's been a significant break in my "real" writing. I can't say that it was planned. It just sort of happened. The reality of my new job has rearranged my daily priorities a bit. Blogging for me has always been a way to explore the topic of lighting, share my own thoughts and share topics that I've researched. There was a time when writing a post a day was the norm, then it was three times a week. The truth is that time is so short for me during the day that it's been difficult to make time for writing. That said, I never stray too far from blogging. While I can't commit to a schedule, I have a list of topics I need to delve into soon. 

I'd been thinking about my own blogging and the bigger ideas around blogging "is this platform still important? Why not just use Facebook or G+ as my platform? If I'm active enough on social media isn't that enough?" Then this interview with Martha Stewart made the rounds. 


The quote that I think is firing up the design blog community is this one...

Who are these bloggers?...They're not trained editors and writers at Vogue magazine. I mean, there are bloggers writing recipes that aren't tested, that aren't necessarily very good or are copies of everything that really good editors have created and done. Bloggers create kind of a popularity. But they are not the experts and we have to understand that.

When the clip hit twitter and facebook I found myself commenting on a thread in my friend Leslie's facebook stream. Many of the design bloggers I know and respect where pretty angry about what Martha has said. I won't quote anyone here, since I didn't discuss it with them first, but the core of their anger is two-fold. First, that bloggers do a lot to prop up Martha Stewart. They review her products and recipes, they boost her popularity and increase her SEO. The second is that she was also an amateur. She wasn't a trained chef when she came on the scene. She was just a woman with a lot of creative ideas and some skills for making them happen, just like many of the lifestyle bloggers she was deriding are today. 

Martha Was Right

Here's my take as someone who's been a blogger for years. Martha was right. When Martha was trying to launch her own empire there were a different set of barriers to jump through. She had to present herself to editors and TV producers. She had to write a lot of articles and recipes for practically nothing as she continued to build a reputation in the industry. In other words, she had to go through the old media machine of evaluation and rejection before she could become the Martha Stewart we all know. 

...And it terrifies her.

Today none of those hoops exist. With simple tools like Wordpress or Squarespace, hell with a Facebook account anyone can become a go-to resource for the same kind of information Martha has been profiting from for years. This terrifies her for two basic reasons. 

1. It potentially divides her audience. If people only have so much time in the day and they spend it on Pinterest looking up recipes, guess where they didn't look it up?

2. It means that the next Martha Stewart could be out there in the legions of bloggers. 

So What Should the Blogosphere Make Of This?

I think there are two lessons to take from this little episode. The first is that we have to acknowledge the criticism of blogging. There are bad bloggers out there. There are copycats and people who don't vet their information. That's just as true of interior designers as it is of food and mommy bloggers. Not every blog is good and while yours might be excellent it's important to realize that we are painted with the same brush as the bad bloggers and it's only our body of work that can speak for itself. 

The second lesson is that the media landscape is changing. Martha Stewart doesn't owe bloggers anything (her SEO would be pretty great even without the Blogosphere). She sees bloggers as competition and frankly, she should. What Martha understands is that we are deciphering expertise in totally different ways than we used to...what you put out in the world on your topic of choice is going to be the criteria you are judged on, whether that's by an editor at Vogue or a group of friends on Facebook. There are no gatekeepers. The gatekeepers are the many on the internet who choose to share your work. 

This brings me to one last point. Stop writing junk. Just stop it. We've been trained by the SEO schools and the social media experts that we must  write every single day to stay relevant to the algorithms. Maybe. But I can tell you that when I write good quality content it gets shared. When I phone it in, it doesn't. 

So when I take a break from writing it's because I don't want to write something rushed and short and not worth your time. I want to write something you'll take 5 minutes and read. I want to write something that might make you share. 

Bottom line dear bloggers, write when you have something to say. 

Am I wrong? Am I an apologist for the big media regime? Tell me in the comments or on Twitter. (@jamesbedell) 

 

Cree - The Global Leader in LED

As part of my ongoing series, this post is going to profile Cree. Many of my readers will be familiar with Cree and there are extensive materials on the Cree website. Having visited the chip plant in North Carolina this week, I can tell you first hand that what Cree is doing, no other LED manufacturer is capable of... 

It starts with a vertical integration.

Cree is a solid-state company that became a lighting company. So what we're talking about is a company that develops chips for specific applications and can then tailor those chips as applications evolve. Cree's chips are regarded as some of the best in the world and can be found in many luminaires and lighting products that Cree itself doesn't make. When that chip technology is at the core of a luminaire Cree has built what you have is a completely integrated product from the ground up. Here's an example:

 

Ten Year Warranty

Over 90% of the Cree product line carries a 10 year warranty. That's because Cree is confident in it's ability to bring a product to market that will perform for well more than a decade. That 10 year warranty includes the LEDs, the drivers, and the finishes of the fixtures, everything. More on the warranty:

Performance Driving the LED Revolution

Cree's technology in many ways helped spark the LED lighting revolution, and so today Cree finds itself in the relentless pursuit of driving the market with better performance and lower up front cost. Cree's TrueWhite technology brings LED illumination that isn't just as good as incumbent technology, but better. TrueWhite brings 90+ CRI to the market in affordable retrofit packages. 

A look at Cree's product line will show you that as a company Cree is attacking market verticals where it can make the most impact. In other words, Cree wants to bring LED to most common lighting applications in the market today. Whether it's a 2x2 troffer or an all new LED A-Lamp.  

Why I'm Excited To Be Working with Cree

It's been a lifelong goal of mine to help businesses and institutions lower their energy use and improve their lighting at the same time. Cree's product line offers an affordable way to create amazing light that I can feel good about specifying for my clients. Gone are the days when specifying LED meant compromising on lighting quality. Here's an example from the automotive world... 

 

Need help swapping out your gear to LED? Have questions about how to get started? Don't hesitate to let me know.  

Why We Don't Need a License in Lighting Design

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The IES has posted an excerpt of an essay from Jody Good on its website. The essay argues for the need for licensing of the lighting profession. The essay describes a 4 part problem, then one prescriptive solution. Here are the four parts: 

Part 1 - There is too much new gear for just anyone to specify it.

Every LIGHTFAIR brings us acres of new products and ideas. How many sensible and impractical new LED luminaires were shown this year? How can you tell the difference? Yes the “market” will eventually decide this, but how do you know what to use and what to avoid, in the best interest of your client? For example, who decides if the color, color rendering, glare or flicker of all these new lights is acceptable? Of course, these decisions are project- and task-specific, but I argue that the public is harmed by the wrong light in the wrong place....

Part 2 - Building codes mandate the need for lighting control systems. Control systems are complex. 

There is also the question of building codes. Today this means mandatory evaluation of task and ambient lighting and the associated energy consumption. More recent energy codes require complex, if not complicated, control systems.

Now we find controls apply to virtually all buildings and sites...

Part 3 - Lighting calculations are becoming more and more common to meet code requirements both indoors and outdoors.  

Extensive lighting calculations are being required by authorities to prove compliance with egress lighting requirements. Outdoor lighting calculations are also being required to prove compliance with various light coverage and light trespass requirements. It is safe to say that energy codes will continue to become more complex and stringent, and lighting ordinances will continue to be adopted. Both will require proof of compliance, which will result in more computer calculations submitted for review...

Part 4 - Smarter energy codes would allow more lighting choice with more reliance on lighting control to reduce peak demand.  

Some people in the industry are anxious to see the energy codes move to a consumption metric to credit the project with the benefit of an extensive lighting control system...

...However, the electrical utilities and certainly the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) have no responsibility for or authority over the LEED portion of the project. Even projects with the most aggressive LEED objectives are ignored by the AHJ on the project...

The Solution - A license to practice lighting design.  

...a consumption - based energy code compliance path could be adopted, if it were designed and certified (or some such action) by a licensed lighting designer. Of course the path to a license would have to test this competence. Continuing education in this field would have to be included in the licensure program....

OK, so what's the problem? 

Let me take each part one at a time.  

Part 1: Lighting is getting complicated.  

I have two primary issues with this argument. The first, lighting was complicated before LED. Metal Halide, induction sources, cold cathode, neon, fiber optics, high pressure sodium, and the myriad types of fluorescent light are all examples of sources with very different characteristics. In fact, I would argue as LED chews up more and more of the market lighting will get simpler, people will understand drivers, dimming and LED specification as it replaces incumbent technologies. Furthermore a license will not help this issue. How does one test for current technology knowledge? Should we have a test after every year's Lightfair?   

Part 2: Lighting control system specification is a required skill.  

I would argue to be a good lighting designer you need to understand how lighting control systems work, but having worked in the field I can tell you the kind of lighting control specified in the field is effected by multiple things. The governing BMS system, the incumbent technology, the possible LEED certification or rebate programs being sought and of course the budget. Everyone from the operations manager to the AV systems commissioner to the lighting designer to the maintenance staff needs to understand this at an appropriate level. Should they all attain a lighting design license? 

Also, what makes lighting controls complicated is the over-arching concepts a licensing exam would test, but rather compatibility issues along the specification chain, and no licensing exam could test for those complications. At the end of the day, it's questions from lighting designers wondering if luminaire they want to use can include a 0-10v dimming driver instead of the usual trailing edge kit. If so, who will supply it? How long are the standard lead wires, because the connection point is....etc etc. What makes lighting control complex are the details. Not the concepts.  

Part 3: Lighting Calculations are required.  

Yes they are. They should be done by a competent lighting professional. If you want to make sure that building code inspectors can read a photometric plan or perhaps generate one on their one in order to verify a specifiers claims, I'm all for it. Otherwise, I don't see how licensure has to do with this issue. It's required, if you don't submit it you don't get a C/O. That seems like enforcement enough. 

Part 4: Licensure would make consumption codes possible.  

This is possibly the most doubtful part of the argument for two reasons. Building codes are generally written with the worst case scenario in mind. Because no matter how well a system is commissioned, there's nothing saying users will not bypass it in the future. Maximum connected load is still the best way to ensure against energy use beyond intended design. 

If we really want to move to consumption-based energy codes we need to think of buildings as living things and meter and submeter every system of the building. The only way to ensure a building stays as green as it was designed to be is with constant measurement.  

But perhaps my biggest problem with a lighting design license as described in the essay is this...

The lighting design license should be held by contractors, architects, electrical engineers, interior designers, sales persons and dedicated lighting professionals. I am saying that the new and coming knowledge necessary for good, safe lighting should be measured by the states that determine and maintain licenses.

Here's where you really lose me. Lighting design as a profession is already de-valued in the United States. If everyone that might have anything to do with lighting is required to carry the came license, it will only further degrade the value of a lighting designer as a separate specialist. After all, if you're contractor, architect and interior designer are all licensed lighting people, why does the client need a lighting designer?  

I also have especially high trepidation for creating a license that a state body is in charge of standardizing and renewing. Would there be a state by state test? What if I'm licensed in New York, but working on a project in California?

In fact, I would argue if we want good safe lighting to be the norm, then we actually need the code enforcers to become better educated, not the professional community. More often than not a group of consultants have put together a design for a building including a lighting and control package, but a code compliance officer who doesn't understand the materials presented holds up the design process. We don't need a dedicated lighting design license we need better, smarter codes with more educated code enforcement.  

I understand the thinking behind creating a lighting design license. It seems like we need some kind of core competence test for those specifying lighting, but at the end of the day there are so many players involved in lighting specification that any licensing exam that tried to create a base level of competence for all disciplines involved would become so dumbed down as to not be relevant. I fear we'd all be carrying a meaningless license. 

Am I wrong? Should there be a lighting design license? The comment section awaits.  

 

 

ERCO Lighting - It's about the Light

Here on the blog I'll be starting a new series. As I get in-depth training on specific brands as part of my work with SDA Lighting, I'll be sharing highlights. Some of these brands will be common knowledge, others might be new to you. Today's brand is probably an example of the latter. Say hello to ERCO.  

ERCO is very well known in Europe for everything from exterior lighting to an enormous array of recessed downlighting. However, here in the US it's all about projection. By projection, I mean that ERCO is focused on creating luminaires that push light to the target. Indoors, this means they've created an incredible collection of LED track heads that cast bright, warm light with exceptionally low power consumption. Outside, ERCO's amazing line of powerful exterior projectors and wall washers create amazing exterior effects.  

Putting the Light Where You Need It

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ERCO's clean minimalist design is all about putting light where you need it. Great lighting design is meant to accent spaces. It's not about looking at the lighting fixtures, it's about casting amazing light and using light as a tool to illuminate a space.  Accent lighting is all about lighting control. ERCO understands this which is why they offer a diverse range of track head options, which a variety of delivered lumens, beam spreads, and optical patterns. 

 

This rendering depicts the variety of beam spreads available from ERCO LED track heads. 

This rendering depicts what an LED framing projector is capable of, a framing projector allows a perfect cut off of light allowing an accent of a specific piece of art or perhaps signage. 

Wallwashers give you the ability to light an entire vertical surface evenly. This technique gives a space tremendous volume making it feel more spacious and making the architecture the star. 

Sometimes you want to wash in a narrow but wide beam, this linear spread optic allow an even spread of light from just one track head.  

By mixing these tools and including lighting control you can use this track lighting system to create dynamic environments and effects. If you want to learn more, I encourage you to go to the ERCO Optec page.  

Creating Luminous Facades

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Whether it's metal halide or LED technology, the key to beautiful facade and outdoor lighting is projecting light along the facade with control of beam. ERCO offers a wide range of uplighting and flood lighting from easily hidden fixtures like the Grasshopper all the way up to the powerful lumen delivering Beamer, ERCO is changing the game with it's series of excellent outdoor LED projectors. 

What I love about ERCO's focus is that it's all about beam and using light as a tool to create a vivid space. As an old school theatrical lighting designer, my background is in using beam and color to highlight a stage scene and tell a story. ERCO is giving architectural designers those same tools, making them energy efficient and incredibly beautiful. I suggest you go to the ERCO website and review their guide page. The amount of education ERCO puts into it's lighting guide gives you an idea of how passionate they are about light and it's power. 

Want to punch up your space? Need more information about ERCO products? Don't hesitate to let me know.  

 

What Amazing Lighting From #BlogTourLDN

I put together a little Storify of some of the best lighting of Blog Tour London. I experiences some amazing lighting when I had my turn in London last year and it seems that this year's London crew saw just as many amazing things as I did. The European market of lighting fixtures is a bold dynamic one where design is elevated. Here in America we could learn a little bit from the amazing design on display in London. 

The Best Lighting On The Web

When compared to subjects like technology or politics, there are relatively few blogs out there dedicated to lighting design, but that doesn't mean there aren't great places to learn more about light and lighting. Here are some places to learn more about light on the web.  

LightNow Blog

The best lighting data on the web, regularly gets shared at LightNow.

The best lighting data on the web, regularly gets shared at LightNow.

Probably the best known blog on lighting, LightNow is written by Craig DiLouie and every single weekday he provides the the latest in product news, updates on regulations, trends in the market, as well as regular features from Jim Broderick of the DOE. 

Bottom Line: If you care about lighting, LightNow is a must read.  

Jim On Light

Jim on Light Rocks. 

Jim on Light Rocks. 

Jim is an online buddy of mine. When we're not debating politics on Facebook, Jim is busy writing some of the coolest lighting content on the web. Jim comes from the entertainment side of lighting, where my roots lie, but Jim doesn't keep his focus there. Whether it's The Daily Lamp  feature, or the JOL Sunday Flickr there's always something new and amazing at Jim On Light. 

Bottom Line: For the most eclectic lighting site on the web, keep up with Jim On Light. 

IES Light Logic

Learn how to make bedroom lighting like this at IES Light Logic

Learn how to make bedroom lighting like this at IES Light Logic

IES Light Logic is where you can go to learn about lighting techniques. Essentially, a collection of lighting designers and experts contribute to this fantastic blog, which is sponsored by the Illuminating Engineering Society. Tips for bedroom lighting? Check. Interested in how to add flair to the living room? No Problem. It's a terrific place to learn about the power of light to transform spaces. 

Bottom Line: Want to learn how to use light? Follow IES Light Logic. 

Spectrum from Rosco

The magic of light, shared at Rosco Spectrum.  

The magic of light, shared at Rosco Spectrum.  

Spectrum, the lighting blog from Rosco is a great place to see what's possible with creative light application. Rosco makes theatrical lighting accessories like gel, gobos and projection gear. I love this blog because it gives a little perspective on how film, photography and theater pros use light to create amazing scenes and spaces. It gives you a sense of what's possible with light. My only complaint - I wish there was more content on spectrum! 

Bottom Line: Lighting can make magic, and spectrum gives you a peek behind the curtain.  

Finally! You Can Subscribe to the Blog Via Email

This is one of those things you've been able to do since probably 1995 and for whatever reason I never set it up. After several people have mentioned that they'd like to receive updates from the blog in their inbox, I've finally set up a super simple way to do that from any page on the website.  

I actually really recommend signing up. These days tweets and Facebook updates fly by so fast it's easy to miss updates. Email is an easier way  Which I will try to update 3-5 times a week. 

While you're here, why not leave a comment and let me know what kind of content you'd like to see here. I tend to just explore whatever is on my mind in the lighting world, but if there are topics that would be more helpful, I'd love to give you more of what YOU dear readers want. 

 

 

Working On NYFW as a Lighting Designer

If you follow my various social streams you saw over the weekend my adventures working on an editorial event for All Saints.  

I did my best over the course of the load-in on Saturday to share what the process is like to work on a fashion week event. My experience will the All Saints event was prototypical of fashion week editorial. It's wild and unpredictable, full of heart and creativity and always short on hours. 

You must remember that an editorial event has no rules. It's the opportunity for the brand to create an experience they feel is emblematic of who they are. The space you inhabit, the food you eat, the music you hear, everything about the space is a a carefully selected element of cohesive whole. Everything, right down to the look of the look of the lighting instruments matters.

Natural light was the only source of light in the space, you can see the fall off of light between the skylight and the rear windows of the space. 

Natural light was the only source of light in the space, you can see the fall off of light between the skylight and the rear windows of the space. 

From a lighting design point of view, this event wasn't all that complicated. The challenge with our very raw space in SoHo was the sky lights. Sky lights are amazing and the client loved them, but they were also the only source of ambient light in the room. The product displays spanned past the two gigantic skylights leaving those mannequins in the dark. The challenge for us was not only to make sure they had as much illumination as the mannequins under the skylights, but to make the same quality of light. There were some additional displays that needed lighting and two projection surfaces, more on those later.  

The solution to the problem was fairly simple, I decided to create a constant row of light from one end of the mannequin presentation to the other, the light would be a consistent brightness and color temperature and wouldn't rely on the spacing of the mannequins. You can see in the photo below what the row of light looked like at night.  

Here was the mannequin lighting at night, without the aid of the skylight above. As you can see the goal was even illumination from end to end. 

Here was the mannequin lighting at night, without the aid of the skylight above. As you can see the goal was even illumination from end to end. 

To accomplish this on short notice during fashion week I had to go to the old mainstays. I wanted to do an LED solution, but there was simply no gear left in the middle of fashion week and I needed a wash light punchy enough to compete with daylight AND they had to look like classic theatrical fixtures. So the Source Four PAR came out to play, all 575 scorching watts of it. Every project has it's compromises, for me this one was the enormous wattage used to get this event lit. 

 

The classic workhorse wash light of the entertainment industry - the Source Four Par

The classic workhorse wash light of the entertainment industry - the Source Four Par

Barn doors, both for optics and the right theatrical look. 

Barn doors, both for optics and the right theatrical look. 

As always, the challenge of the day wasn't getting the exhibition lit it was all the logistics around that. A raw space like this one needed power run from a central point, and then lines run down the length of the 200' room to get the instruments powered up. Then there were the projection presentations which were a challenge in both rigging and cable management, When you're on a tight deadline, like the opening of a show, it becomes the details that really really matter. How will that cable get run? They are moving the shoe presentation? How much longer will the photo shoot go? Everything on a fashion week event happens at once. 

 

After a 15 hour day on site, lots of rerun cable, battling projectors and stealing one decorative light from an office (don't ask) we finally got the job done. In the end, the client seemed thrilled with the results. Here are some photos I was able to snap just before the show opened to the public.  

Thoughts? Questions? If you want to see all of the photos of the day you can head here, I've collected all of them in one place. Can't wait to hear your feedback!

Three Take-Aways from the IDC Sustainability Summit

Last week we hosted the first ever IDC Sustainability Summit. Sometimes you have an idea for an event or project and you're not quite sure if it will be awesome. You can only hope it will be awesome. Well I can safely say the summit was awesome. Our amazing panel did not disappoint. Here's what I recommend - on your lunch break or while you're doing the dishes or come back and watch the video below. It's almost exactly one hour and that hour is packed with incredible discussion and viewpoints on sustainability and what it means for the interior design industry. 

If somehow you don't have an hour to spend right now let me leave you with these key take aways. 

Box Turners

KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz of Sustainable Brands started us off with a high level view of what "sustainable" means in today's marketplace. First of all, the term is becoming more elastic including ideas like organically produced and locally sourced products. That elasticity and inclusiveness has led some to say the term is meaningless. I happen to totally disagree. I think it means that people simply want products that better for themselves and the planet, that goes for everything from cleaning supplies to counter tops. She then went on to reference an emerging and growing segment of the consumer population referred to as "box turners." These folks skew younger, and tend to have some disposable income which they are willing to spend on products and services they feel are superior and more sustainable. Think of those willing to pay more for an organic lunch versus fast food. This market segment is referred to as "box-turners" because they don't blindly grab the cheapest product on the shelf. They review the product and compare it to competitive alternatives. For these consumers, often the greener or more sustainable product wins out. 

Getting Deeper Green

Lauren Sparandara of DNV KEMA took us on an exploration into LEED v4 and many of the changes and challenges that are coming down the line. In her own work she's been working with major suppliers to obtain life cycle analysis (LCA) data about the products they manufacture. What she's found is that many companies don't have sufficient information to provide an LCA. This requirement will make it more difficult to obtain LEED certification. The new version of LEED requires much deeper data and analysis for all of the specified building materials and products used in a project. Manufacturers aren't used to tracking this kind of data especially if they manufacture overseas.

The bright spot here is that smaller manufacturers might actually have an opportunity to compete for LEED certifications since they are more likely to know the suppliers and methods used to create their product. Put simply, the USGBC is responding to the criticism that they haven't done enough to promote deeper sustainability. LEED v4 is an attempt to address some of those concerns, and that provides both a challenge and an opportunity for greener specification. 

Transparency 

If I had to identify one theme of the night it was transparency. The word came up over and over again. Julie Urlaub mentioned it in her thoughts on independent designers and manufacturers using social media to market through story telling. Lauren stressed it in her discussion of LEED. Heidi Vassalotti of Crossville Tile discussed it when telling our team about Crossville's sustainability efforts. Don Hirsh of Cree embodied it when he gave a very direct answer to Lauren Van Zeyl's question "When is Cree going to give us a candelabra bulb?" he answered "we aren't." Our panelist (and green interior designer) Rachel Hulan stressed transparency with one's clients. Transparency is simply just another word for honesty and openness. If you're proud of your product or service and know what goes into making it, transparency shouldn't be a struggle it should be a given. What we learned in our discussion last week is businesses who embody transparency will win with the new market of consumers who want their products and services to be more sustainable. 

More to come from the #IDCSusty Summit as I learned so many lessons, I won't be able to confine my writing on it to one post. 

 

You Should Take a Road Trip

Traveling at Human Speed

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It's about 17 hours in a car from where we live in New York City to St. Louis, MO. When Jenn and I were invited to an old friend's wedding in Cuba, MO we decided that rather than fly, we'd simply get in the car and drive there. The journey was approximately 33 hours in the car (round trip) and we spent about 34 hours in Missouri total. For many that would be insane (OK, it was insane) but it was also wonderful, and not just because of the company. We have been conditioned to think of travel as something done by plane. Travel stories are rife with the struggles of security and delays and the cramped seats. I love to fly, and it is certainly more time efficient, but for me there's nothing like a road trip. Sure we could have flown over the corn fields of southern Illinois, but instead we saw them at eye-level. We could have flown over the Ohio valley, but you can't experience it's beauty unless you see it in person. America is a vast beautiful nation and as Americans I think we all should make an effort to see it at human speed, at ground level. 

One social media side note - this little road trip was a great excuse to get my Instagram going again after a bit of a hiatus, I was surprised at how much I missed it, I look forward to getting started with it again. 

Slowing Down at 70 MPH

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I tried to take as many photos as I could on our journey west, but I did the lion's share of the driving and that's no time to shoot. When driving through 8 states at 60-70mph you get the chance to really see things. All of the amazing hand-painted billboards for boot shops and fireworks, the Love's travel shops that dot the interstate through Pennsylvania, all of the miles of corn fields that feed us every single day. They're all out there, really out there and you can drive through them and see them for yourself. It's difficult to put into words what happens when you replace the media-driven image of "a farm" or "the country" for the real thing. It becomes tangible. The hours and hours of corn fields become a stand-in, a gentle taste, of the months and months it took to grow that field. It's not an instant at 30,000 feet, it's a half a day. All of the sudden it's a lot easier to appreciate the food we have, to appreciate the people who grow it and cultivate it. To get a sense for what a hard and beautiful life it must be to be a farmer. 

Design Inspiration

Of course, driving isn't only fun for the cultural observations. It's also a fun way to see the rest of the country as an example of design. I find interstate culture fascinating. Built for truckers and long-road types, the signage is amazing. The black and white sign that declares "LAST STARBUCKS FOR 91 MILES!!!!" or "ADULT SUPERSTORE EXIT 158" or the endless signs for hotels all offering free wifi and a hot breakfast. Emerging from the farmland of southern Illinois is Missouri and with it St. Louis. I would like to tell you that I saw all of St. Louis, but I definitely did not. The trip was just too short. Yet, our brief stay on "The Loop" provided some awesome examples of architecture and lighting design. We stayed at the Moonrise hotel, which was not only an example of great lighting design but of sustainability as a design value. The hotel will get it's own blog post, there's a teaser image below. 

In the end, I all I can say is get out there and see this great country of ours. Take your time, stop often and in random places, see the America you hear referenced on the news but have never seen up close. Do it at human speeds. You'll be amazed at the people and places you discover both just outside the car window and deep within yourself.  

 

Using @BufferApp to Stay Grateful

My twitter buddy @Thomaswensma asked me the following:

It's a fair question. After all, why am I auto-tweeting what should be a fairly organic question and why have I been doing it almost nightly? Well it's really quite simple actually. I believe we all live really busy lives. Lives that can be made to feel busier by the constant stream of social media that we are expected to tend to. It is my belief that social media is at it's best when it fosters human connection. That doesn't mean that automated content is the devil, it just means that the best of any social media platform is when we are really connecting.  

So I've been conducting a little experiment to see if social media can actually make me more mindful instead of less. It's a simple two-part experiment - every morning once I'm fully awake and the coffee is brewed, I tweet a good morning greeting into the world. That's simple and usually gets conversations started. 

The other part is where buffer comes in - I schedule a tweet asking some version of "what was awesome today?" The idea was simple, I wanted to get people thinking about the positive things that happened that day. It's turned out to have a profound effect on me. By scheduling the tweet, sometimes in the hustle and bustle, I'd forget that it had gone out. Then midway through the evening I see mentions from friends all over twitter telling me what was awesome about that day. 

 

So as you can see from this minor sampling, my twitter friends are doing and sharing awesome things. Having people generously share them with me sparked something. It's become a daily reminder at how many awesome things there are in life, both large and small, to be grateful for. In a world as busy as ours it's easy to forget this. By asking this question daily, I get a kick in the butt to remember that there are lots and lots of things to be thankful for in life.   

How do you stay mindful? How do you keep perspective?  

 

It's Going to Be a Very Big Week

It seems things comes in bunches, at least that's the case this week. I have not one, not two but three big things happening this week. I hope you can join me, this is going to be a very big week. 

Our First-Ever G+ Interior Design Sustainability Summit

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I've been tweeting my butt off about it for the last few weeks. It's finally here this week. Our Sustainability Summit will be September 5th at 8pm Eastern. If you want to take part, follow the hashtag #IDCSusty in our Interior Design Community and on Twitter. You can find out more about the event on G+ and right here. Please join us and share your thoughts. 

I'm Hosting #KBTribeChat!

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If you're not familiar with #kbtribechat you should check it out. This lively chat of kitchen and bath design pros is a fantastic place to share information from pros to pros. I'll be hosting on the topic of sustainability as a lead-in and supplement to the upcoming Sustainability Summit. So terrific to talk about sustainability with a group of seasoned design pros. Thanks so much to Stacy Garcia for her generous offer. 

Starting a New Job

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Starting Tuesday September 3rd I will officially be part of the team at Stan Deutsch Associates. I talked about the position in a previous blog post, but I couldn't be more excited to be joining SDA this week. My focus will be on sustainable retrofits for businesses and institutions and given what I'm already working on and passionate about, I don't think I could find a better fit for work.  

So that's my busy busy week. I'll try to keep the blog updated along the way. But you can also follow me on Twitter and on Instagram for updates on what I'm up and thinking about when it comes to all things lighting and sustainability.