Design over functionality?

November 28, 2017

Should aesthetics ever be prioritized over functionality?

This is an interesting discussion to be had considering the very nature of our profession is to find the right balance between both of these tenets. Design and functionality. The lighting professional’s yin and yang.

What goes into designing a low-voltage outdoor lighting system that is both beautiful and functional? In short, a hard-earned understanding of lighting design principles and a commitment to the functionality of each aspect of the lighting system. Without one or the other, an outdoor lighting system will never achieve its intended effect.

Some of the design principles of a low-voltage lighting system that we incorporate into every design includes height, symmetry, color, angle (both viewing and spread) and output. These principles of design allow us to deliver complete and custom systems that are predicated on the specific functions of each fixture, vantage point and desired effect.

Finding ways to achieve height and symmetry is one of the more difficult aspects of architectural lighting design, and something that takes experience and vision. When it is done correctly, however, it can make a great lighting design transcendent. Color, which is something that is achieved through various temperatures of the bulb, is something that must be carefully matched based on the material, texture and hue of what is being lit.

Everything mentioned above, is taken into account in the design phase and meant to ensure that each of our systems create a beautiful night scene at our client’s homes. While creativity can help us to overcome any obstacle, there are still some things that need to be taken into consideration from a practical standpoint.

Glare is one aspect of a lighting system’s functionality that can dictate where a fixture needs to be placed, the type of bulb that can be used and where the fixture can be angled. Anyone who has ever been blinded by a light shining directly into their eyes can attest to the importance of reducing or eliminating glare for safety reasons. Whether you are walking up a flight of stairs, pulling into your driveway or sitting on your back deck, glare should always be minimized.

Another aspect of a lighting system that needs to be taken into account during the design phase is longevity. Different types of fixtures need to be installed in certain ways to ensure longevity. There are ways to install a light in a tree to ensure the tree’s growth or sway during a storm doesn’t damage a fixture. There are places to put an uplight and a pathlight and places where those fixtures should never be installed. No one wants to replace a fixture several times a year, when there are various installation techniques a professional can employ to ensure it won’t need to be.

There are also more serious safety concerns anytime you are dealing with an electrical system, even one that is low-voltage. Lines cannot be exposed as they can be accidentally pierced or cut by children or landscapers. They can also be chewed on by animals, including cats and dogs. A lot of systems are also installed in pool areas and in water structures like ponds and streams. Water and electric do not mix and a lighting professional that does not take extreme caution to ensure safety is negligent at best.

A properly designed and installed landscape lighting system is meant to accentuate the beauty of your home and landscaping, but should always be done in a way to ensure safety and longevity. Aesthetics and functionality. The lighting professional’s yin and yang.