You don’t need to know about the melting of metallic salts in an HID lamp, the chemical balance in a fluorescent lamp, or why these lighting specialist people keep referring to light bulbs as lamps. You just need to know how to make lighting fit your needs.
So how do you do that? Here are a few pointers:
Partner with a lighting expert
Have you ever gone to Home Depot and bought a “daylight” light bulb thinking it will make your lighting look similar to the warm, pleasant aura of the sun? You get home, climb a ladder, screw it into the socket, and then turn cockeyed as you look at the light, trying to figure out why it's not warm. Nor pleasant. Nor sun-like.
Here's the problem: the “daylight” light bulb you just bought has a kelvin temperature of 6500. And you know what that means, right?
Just kidding. That means the bulb emits a blue, bright light that you typically find in surgical operating rooms. Yeah –– definitely the wrong atmosphere for the living room you're trying to cozy up.
A lighting expert's job is to make sure the marketing speak on the box of the bulb doesn't hoax you into a purchase that won't accomplish your goals.
You can probably remember the last time you stepped into a room and got a weird “vibe” from it, but you probably couldn't really put your finger on why it felt off. Lighting experts are trained to easily identify good and bad lighting and whether or not it will work in a specific application
That leads me to my next point.
Good lighting in the wrong application is bad lighting
We talked about operating rooms earlier in this post. Maybe you've never been under the knife, but you can probably picture a hospital hallway and its crisp, clean, white lighting. Walking down that hallway brings you comfort. The cleanliness and sterility
On the flip side, have you ever walked a hospital hallway that has dingy, yellow lighting? You don't feel that same sense of safety there. It feels so much less sterile and you're probably looking for an exit –– “Get me out of here before I catch Ebola!”
Those two hospitals are probably equally clean and probably have similarly talented staffs, but when a hospital hallway has warmer, yellow lights, you get all the wrong vibes. Good lighting in the wrong application is bad lighting.
Read more: What is color temperature?
Now, picture a local coffee shop. It has comfortable seating, rustic furniture, and friendly baristas who have laid-back music playing at just the right volume. You feel relaxed there –– like you're in a place where you could read War and Peace cover to cover and down a few cappuccinos.
Remember those nasty warm lights in the hospital? Those are the same lights in your local coffee shop hideaway, just in the right application. But if you took those bright white lights in the cleaner-feeling hospital and put them in a coffee shop, you'd feel distracted and discomforted by the brightness. You'd probably get your cappuccino to go.
The point remains: good lighting in the wrong application is bad lighting.
In order to achieve good lighting in the right application, you first need to…
Define your goals
Are you a restaurant owner with a concept fit for family dining? Well, you're probably not aiming for a dim, intimate “bar” feel. You want your families to feel welcome and relaxed enough to enjoy the food on their plates. You're looking for a good neutral light that balances warmth and brightness to give your space a family-friendly feel. Too warm and families will feel unwelcome. Too bright and the myriad of spills and crumbs from all of those free-loading two-year-old patrons will be put under a spotlight.
Maybe you're a store manager of a place which sells a wide variety of clothing. You sell to the business professional as often as the hipster teenager. In this case, you have a very wide target market. You want your consumers to see every corner of the store as soon as they walk in. You want them to do a quick scan and know where to go –– “Ah, back left, there’s something for me.” What kind of lighting do you want for your store? Probably a brighter white light. Everything needs to be crisp and vibrant with nothing squirreled away in the shadows.
Without first defining who your target market is and what the goals of your business are, it's tough to get your lighting right. But once you figure out those fundamentals, it's time to talk to a lighting expert.
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