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Let there be light! Even after the sun sets, people can have light. Lighting design emphasizes the beauty of built and natural environments inside and outside. When lighting changes color, brightness, or contrast, it creates various feelings for the users. By doing light level and color rendition calculations, lighting designers provide sufficient and appropriate light for people to see clearly, read comfortably, work efficiently, and walk safely. Light designers combine precise measurements of illuminance, light shape, distance to task, effect, etc. The lighting industry has changed radically in the last ten years and now produces more energy efficient, brighter, longer lasting bulbs. Review natural light and artificial light journeys and prepare to design lights and lighting!

Activity 1 – Observe lighting design

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Go out and walk around your neighborhood, city or the countryside. Observe what natural light and artificial lights do to the surroundings. Consider the color, intensity, brightness, and shadow. For example, see how the moonlight illuminates a countryside road; Observe a sunrise. Find the difference between early, midday, and afternoon sunlight on shapes, forms, and spaces. See the contrast between light and shadow. Photograph and label nature’s light. Next look inside spaces. FInd a public space like a restaurant or grocery store or clothing store. Take a photo of it. Identify all the sources of light you can see. Determine the types of lights you are observing and their function.

Activity 2 – Observe light on materials

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Refer to the color rendition activity in the Artifical Light Journey. Using a flashlight (or a cell phone), shine the light on different materials. Experiment with fabric, concrete, mirror, metal, glass, etc. Experiment with different positions and angles and types of light. Leave the light on the floor right next to the material facing up. Next, move the light away from the material by a distance of 1 foot, 2 feet, 3 feet ….. Thirdly, adjust the angle of light. Observe and reflect on the changes of color, texture, and reflection/absorption. Take two different materials and photograph them in indirect (northern ) daylight, direct sunlight, incandescent, fluorescent and LED lighting. Print and cut the photos and put them on a chart labeling the color rendition of the materials by different the lamp types.

Activity 3 – Make a light meter

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Everyone has different needs of lighting levels; it’s important for you to know how much light you need and how much you would like. Take a look at the instructions to build a light meter. After building your light meter, you can measure different light levels and record their intensity.

Activity 4 – Light Critic

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Walk around your neighborhood. Look into spaces. Some are bright and inviting. Others are dark and mysterious. Look critically at places in your community. Try your library, the grocery store, restaurants, even your school classrooms. Identify one space that you think is exceptionally well lit. Photograph it and then print a reduced contrast image. On the grayed image list with ‘+’s the positive lighting elements. Write a sentence that describes the experience of the space. Next, find a poorly lit space. Repeat the same steps except this time mark ‘-‘s on the image and write a short description of how space fails because of dim lighting. You are now a light critic!

Activity 5 – Lighting Design

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Find a space you would like to light in a new way. Print it out two times in black and white. Using colored pencils, use one copy of the space to diagram lighting needs. Identify locations for atmospheric or mood lighting to capture visitor emotionally. These could be colored or bright or mood lighting areas, wall washers or hidden cove lighting. Secondly identify general lighting needs such as exits and signage for navigating the space in the middle of the night. Next, determine task lighting for specific activities. For each type of lighting identify the color of the light and its suggested lighting level. On the second copy of the space, attempt to draw or render the light zones and different lighting effects. Take a look at some of the local lighting suppliers and choose some different lights that you might use in your design. TADA! Here is your first lighting design project.

Activity 6 – Light Design

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In this activity, you will create and make a single lamp. Look at artificial light types. Think about pendant (hanging) lamps, a sconce or wall lamps, and a table or floor lamp. Once you decide the location of the lamp, figure out the pieces that you will need. You will probably need a base, an electrical socket for the bulb, or LED fixture, and shade. You can look at nature patterns and use different types of paper or acetates or films to repeat the pattern and create a beautiful desk lamp. Create sketches of your ideas labeling the three parts then collect the materials and build your lamp!

Activity 7 – Wall Sconce

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Some lights hang on walls. The lamps are electrically wired to the wall and often support shades up, down or on the side. The outside of the scone, or wall lamp, can be made of wood, plastic, paper, glass, or metal. It can have small holes or overall patterns. It can bounce light upwards, downwards and even to the sides. Sconces are used singularly or in pairs or triplets. Wall sconces are often on either side of a mirror or picture. Find a bulb mounted to a wall in your house. Study how the shade is fitted to the bulb or the fixture and how it also supports the shade. Redesign a wall sconce shade for a lamp or imagine a new one. Experiment with different materials and patterns of materials for the shades. Explore different ways of casting light on a wall!

Activity 8 – Table Lamp

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Table lamps sit on tables and light our room, our reading, and our conversation. Table lamps consist of a lamp base and a shade. The bases and shades come in many different forms and shapes. Design a table lamp for a bedside table. get simple light fixture and mount it on a wooden plate. The plate can be round, square, or rectangular. Try different materials for the shade. The materials can be singular or layered. Create a nature or geometric pattern on the shade. Mount the shade on the base plate with tape, glue and or additional wood or pieces of the material of your choice and plug your lamp in!

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Activity 9 – Pendant Lamp

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In this activity, you will create and make a single pendant lamp. Hardware stores will sell you a ready made pendant lamp with a plug on the end for your use. Your job will be to create the frame around the light socket and wire and the shade. You can look at nature patterns and use different types of think wood, paper or acetates or films to repeat the pattern and create a beautiful desk lamp. Create sketches of your ideas labeling the three parts then collect the materials and build your lamp! Take a picture of your pendant lamp installed!


  • Mood lighting can change the perception and experience of a space.
  • Artificial light is used for
  • Artificial light has different color renditions.
  • The first source of light is the
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