An Enlightening Experience: Creating Successful Experiences for People.

As a Lighting Designer I have dedicated my career to the art and science of incorporating light into the dark spaces of the built environment. I design for the needs of the people that inhabit these spaces. My goal is to be truly innovative and to bring forth a design that enhances each space by balancing function and aesthetics. Within my field of design, like many others, there has been the introduction of regulations and frameworks of do’s and don’ts (mostly don’ts) that, in my estimation, limit the essence of design – better known as ‘the experience’.

Throughout the myriad of phases that encompass design, there is a common binding thread known as ‘the experience’. It is within ‘the experience’ that creativity flourishes, innovation is expansive, and playful methodologies flourish. Maintaining the experience in design is necessary to evoke playful notions of grandeur that innocently m otivate every designer. Fresh eyes and new approaches to design live in ‘the experience’.

The rules and guidelines of conservation and the like are indeed warranted. They encourage us to be responsible conscious designers and place the design industry in a position to contribute to greener and safer global efforts.  As I too, move closer to environmental awareness I begin to wonder if I am able to find a balance between strategy and creativity. I fear losing the capabilities of play and evoking lasting emotion throughout my designs, while the rule makers and creative types sit at either end of the table not speaking to each other. What is happening to ‘the experience’ in design? Can strategy and ‘the experience’ coexist in design?

Strategy has been defined as an adaptation or set of adaptations that serve or appears to serve an important function in achieving evolutionary success. It is in this discipline of strategy that engaging imagination ceases to exist and begins to dictate ‘the experience’.  At any given moment in the design process I find myself abandoning one idea for another solely based on “the numbers”. In relation to a variety of professions, “the numbers” could encompass politics, paperwork, constructability, availability, price points, subjective peer reviews, efficiency standards, etc. The more a designer gets caught up in “the numbers”, the designs potentially become more mundane.

My participation in California College of the Arts’ MBA in Design Strategy program has further enabled me to identify these risks and develop a more cognitive approach to the role of ‘the experience’ in my work; not just in the lighting solutions I create, but also in all things design. It is here that I discovered the need to look beyond design tangibles like paper and pencil; and to concentrate on a more sensory level. For example, simply understanding the role of lighting and lighting equipment, particularly in architecture, is insufficient to determine what design to create, why it is being created, for whom, and how to innovate both presently and over the long term. By incorporating ‘the experience’ in design it becomes a discipline that helps a Lighting Designer reach purpose. On a cursory level, ‘the experience’ in design can be understood as the approach to creating successful experiences for people. This approach includes consideration and design in the senses, personal meaning (of the designer and/or the end-user) and emotional context.

In this age of necessity of sustainable practices and habits it is with great hope that my designs forge an identifiable relationship that creates “socially responsive, culturally relevant, and technologically appropriate lasting value.”

Throughout the design process and its outcome I need a sensational experience, deliberate or not, to occur – an experience that makes my design worthy to be apart of a conversation. In the end, design should enable us to communicate. Only then will I have succeeded as a designer. I am still on the road to discovering a means to balance strategy and ‘the experience’ into my designs. Yet, I present this as a challenge to the design community as it remains a task for those of us in the industry to tackle. If I am to strike a balance between ‘the experience and strategy in design I will be able to embed the communal aspects of my designs into the folds of the architecture around me.

These articles were created as part of the course work for “Live Exchange” the foundational course on communication for The MBA Design Strategy Program at California College of the Arts. Read more about the project here.

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