It is not your choice

Occasionally, I hear someone asking to merely fulfill the function of the space and that aesthetics is not a priority. This makes me blink twice and try to understand what this means.

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How is it possible that what you see is not important? Especially regarding lighting design which is a practice based on delivering a visual impression. This misunderstanding of the terms compromises a project. It might be that a dictionary helps to clarify the situation.

”Beauty, for instance. Have you tried to explain to a child what the significance of this word is?”

Beauty, for instance. Have you tried to explain to a child what the significance of this word is? Or why something is called beautiful? It is not an easy task to put words to describe something that our body absorbs naturally and straightforwardly connects with a vast array of memories, to decode and make understandable an entire context. Our minds know what is beautiful, what is organized, or what is subtle. It is all part of a complex and ancient system of orientation. Or a survival mode.

Imagine, you come into a house. There is a note on the kitchen table with a message saying, “watch out and keep the doors and windows closed because the bears might come to invade the house”. This message was handwritten with the handwriting of an eight-year-old kid. It is the same words, same ink, and same paper as if it were written by an adult, but now a man put the warning in question because of what he sees. The typeface made the difference.

Every project is a sequence of decisions and trade-offs. Some areas are more important than others and receive different treatments. Taking this position is a rational act. Then be honest and recognize that the result will be perceived accordingly. When the choice is not to be visually attractive, it will be automatically the opposite. We cannot remain indifferent to the result; we see and understand.

Composition, order, symmetry, rhythm, hierarchy, and scale are some tools to properly convey a message to guide an individual through the chaos. These rules are part of this orientation system that makes us understand things and situations just by looking at them. They aren’t there because someone remembers to bring them to the table. They are there because it makes sense. It is aesthetics fulfilling its role. The rest is taste. Funny how…

Do you remember that scene from the movie Goodfellas? The character chooses that word to describe the colleague’s behaviour, and things get complicated. It’s the same when, for lack of vocabulary, one describes a project as cool. Cool how? Not everything is cool, not all places are cozy. There are words that more specifically describe a situation or place. The correct use of these words can help us to better explain the needs of a project; and consequently why we chose a certain way to resolve it.

We need to know first why you seek to do something pleasant to the eyes. It is not to make it fine-looking but to do something appropriate.

Understanding how beauty and aesthetics affect people opens up immense possibilities in our work. It’s part of the process of justifying why we do what we do.



Lightning Design is an activity that combines art and technique. We cannot just be known as professionals who apply colours and effects.


Afonso Almeida

Publicerad den 19 september 2023
Ur Ljuskultur Nummer 3, 2023

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