Perception-oriented lighting design

Perception-oriented lighting planning regards people and their needs as an active factor in perception and no longer merely as recipients of a visual environment. Following the concept of qualitative lighting design developed by Richard Kelly (1910-1977), we also understand our task in the analysis of the significance of individual areas and functions. On the basis of this pattern of meaning, it is possible to plan and appropriately design lighting as a third factor. This requires qualitative criteria and a corresponding vocabulary. This makes it possible to describe both the requirements of a lighting system and the functions of light.

Light to see

Image: ERCO

The first and fundamental form of light is called "light to see". This element provides general illumination of the environment, ensuring that the surrounding space, its objects and people are visible. This form of lighting, which provides general orientation and action, is largely consistent with quantitative lighting design through its comprehensive and uniform orientation. Unlike there, however, light for seeing is not the goal, but merely the basis for further lighting design. The aim is not to provide general lighting of what is supposed to be optimum illuminance, but to provide differentiated lighting based on the basic level of ambient light.


Light to look

Image: ERCO

In order to arrive at a differentiation, we distinguish a second form of light, the "light to look at". Here, for the first time, light is expressly given the task of actively participating in the transmission of information. It takes into account the fact that brightly lit areas involuntarily attract people's attention. A suitable brightness distribution makes it possible to order the wealth of information in an environment. Areas of essential information can be highlighted by accentuated lighting, while secondary or disturbing information can be reduced by a lower lighting level. This facilitates fast and reliable information. The visual environment is recognised in its structures and in the meaning of its objects. This applies equally to orientation in the room - e.g. the rapid differentiation between a main entrance and a side entrance - as well as to the accentuation of objects, such as the accentuation of furnishing or architectural elements, but also the staging of tables in the catering trade, which gives the guest a feeling of intimacy and familiarity even in an otherwise large room.


Light to look at

Image: ERCO

The third form of light, the "light to look at", results from the realization that light can not only point to information, but is itself information. This applies above all to brilliant effects that evoke point light sources on reflecting or refractive materials. However, the light source itself can also be perceived as brilliant. Above all, "light to look at" lends life and atmosphere to prestigious rooms. What has traditionally been achieved by chandeliers and candle flames can also be achieved in modern lighting design through the targeted use of decorative luminaires. In the context of the above-mentioned components of the grammar of light, light for seeing and light for looking, an attractively designed luminaire no longer has to contribute to general lighting, but must be effective in all its own beauty and contribute to interior design as light for reputation.