Seven Key Steps In The Lighting Design Process



A well-planned lighting scheme adds beauty, atmosphere, and safety to every space. But, because lighting design involves many variables, designers use an exact process consisting of specific steps which must be followed in order. After determining the goal of the finished job, they then decide on how to reach this goal, and pick the best equipment. Step four requires calculating the exact lighting parameters in lumens.


Armed with data from step four, designers then draft the light control system - switches, dimmers, and motion sensors - for example. In step six, planners settle on the luminaire. A final check of the system completes the process. Here's a closer look at the seven key steps in the lighting design process.


1) Identify the Requirements


To get a full picture of what a lighting installation should achieve, designers look at the level of illuminance required, any glare that might come into play, and the mood that the lighting should provide. To do this, they look at the room or area's shape, what to emphasize (or hide), the direction of light, and daylight interaction.


2) Determine the Method of Lighting


The method of lighting decides how light will be delivered. Some of the more popular methods include surface mounted (sconces), recessed (ceiling cans), and portable (table lamps). The direction must also be factored in, along with whether the area needs direct, or indirect light. The light's main characteristics - brightness, colour, and colour temperature must also be settled on at this stage. The amount of sunlight the space gets on a typical day figures into the mix, as well.


3) Select the Lighting Equipment

Lumen output, wattage, and size come into play when choosing the best fixtures for a project. Planners also consider the type of bulbs to use - LED, fluorescent, halogen - for example. The life expectancy for equipment matters for installations that may become hard to get to later on. Lighting designers also consider a fixture's compatibility with the existing electrical system, sustainability in the operating environment, and heat output, when drawing up a lighting scheme. Of course, along with delivering illumination, lighting equipment should also work with and enhance its surroundings.

4) Calculate the Lighting Parameters and Adjust the Design

To calculate a project's lighting parameters, designers typically use one of three methods - Manual, Three Dimensional Modeling, or Visualisation.

  • The Manual Calculation Method - The most common Manual calculation method - the Lumen Method - calculates the average illuminance in a given space. It also takes into account any light reflected from interior or exterior surfaces. Lighting planners use a formula that considers the length and width of the room, as well as the height of the light fixture that lights the space.

  • Three-Dimensional Modeling - Recent advances in computer modeling has simplified the Lighting Design process considerably. Thanks to Three-Dimensional Modeling, designers can virtually change the type of luminaire used, its location, and its output, at will. They can also see the results of a changing a bulb's temperature, and how different lights perform at various sunlight levels.

  • Visualization - Visualisation programs create photographic quality images. They yield a higher level of perspective and detail than block representations. Visualization programs let designers confirm that the lighting plan, and their visualization of the space, line up.

5) Determine the Control System

The control system affects the performance of the lighting plan as much as any of the other factors. Control system elements include the number, location, and type of switches used throughout the installation. Using multiple switches adds efficiency and flexibility. Turning on all the lights in a large room with one switch doesn't make sense.


Switches - two-way when possible - placed at exits encourage people to turn off the lights when they leave a room. Motion sensors that automatically turn lights on and off come in handy for the elderly. Outdoors, timers, motion sensors, and daylight controls add security and save money, too. Solar-powered lights are an easy and inexpensive way to light gardens and pathways.

6) Choice of Luminaire


Along with its initial cost, lighting designers factor in the long term performance of each luminaire. A well-made luminaire gives off a higher quality light and costs less in the long run than a low-quality unit. High-quality bulbs usually feature sound construction, a durable finish, and adequate heat dissipation.


In high luminance lamps, quality screening helps to minimize eye discomfort and glare. Lighting professionals also consider ease of installation, cleaning, and maintenance when choosing a luminaire.


7) Inspect the Installation Upon Completion


No job would be complete without a complete inspection. Lighting technicians check that all fixtures and luminaires work correctly and as intended. They also look for problems such as overheating, overly sensitive motion sensors, and misdirected light. To provide insight for

future reference, some lighting designers revisit a project space after it becomes occupied. They get a first-hand look at what part of their plan works, and what doesn't.


Lighting design plays a large role in every project. Architects use light to beautify, instill atmosphere, and add safety to indoor and outdoor spaces. Because lighting design involves many variables, planners use these seven specific steps to create successful lighting design schemes.