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Intro to Lighting Design: Qualitative & Quantitative Principles

Intro to Lighting Design: Qualitative & Quantitative Principles

Two foundational principles of lighting design guide most designers and architects—the qualitative (or aesthetic) aspect and the quantitative (or engineering) aspect of light.

The qualitative part pertains to ensuring that a space has a pleasing ambience. It is the artistic interspersing of shadows and light, darkness and illumination, highlighting figure and form.

The quantitative part revolves around providing adequate light for a space. The Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) of North America publishes guidelines of light levels for many tasks and activities based on the nature of the space. 

If the work of lighting design is left to services engineers to meet quantifiable regulation-determined light output requirements per application, then interior and exterior architectural spaces become soulless environments. Using qualitative measurements, architects and lighting designers should make sure that the architectural intention and aesthetics of a space be stimulating and motivating.

Put simply, when designing the lighting of a space, ask yourself, (1) what are the light fixture and light output requirements of the space (quantitative), and (2), how will the space meet the subjective, psychological experience of the occupant (qualitative)?11

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What is lighting design? 
Lighting design imagines, creates, integrates, infuses and organizes lighting into a coordinated system, including factoring for the fact and advantage of natural light, electrical light, or both, to serve and advance human action.

Accordingly, design relates to the specific purpose, or multiple purposes, of a given particular space. In the kitchen, for example, you’re probably going to want to focus on illuminating the preparation and cooking of food. In a home theater or media room, it might be best to design lighting for proper seating and viewing — such as accentuating good sight lines — for comfortably finding your way in surrounding darkness and watching the movie.

Generally, lighting design should account for the specific type of action being illuminated; the amount of light provided, the color of the light, which may affect the optics for particular objects, such as works of art, and the overall, whole environment. Another design factor in a given space — whether it’s exterior or interior — is distribution of light. Though it varies by application, lighting design should also sufficiently address the impact the illumination has on the inhabitants of the space. Here’s a guide that can help you determine the amount of lumens you will need to properly light any application. 

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[…] practical terms, photometrics shows whether a lighting plan meets the qualitative and quantitative lighting requirements for a project. Proper use of photometry can improve the user experience in a space and provide […]


[…] lighting design imagines, creates, integrates, infuses and organizes lighting into a coordinated system, including […]