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How invisible lighting design improves user experiences

invisible lighting design in Times Square

Today, office exteriors, parking areas and driving lanes share a common element that may be hard to spot. That’s because invisible lighting design makes lighting fixtures less visible in the observed surroundings. 

We talked with Kenneth Siderius, Invue marketing manager with Eaton’s Lighting Division, about invisible lighting design and the impact it has on the surroundings’ appearance. 

What is invisible lighting design? 

KS: Invisible lighting design is the practice of selecting and applying lighting equipment without compromising the visual clarity of the surrounding environment. The environment can include buildings, automobile driving lanes or parking spaces, and hardscape or landscape – all during the daytime or at night. In essence, lighting should not be noticeable by observers or people who use the space in a way that it becomes a distraction from their experience. 

What is the main goal of invisible lighting design?

KS: The primary goal of invisible lighting design is to ensure that lighting fixtures 1) complement the design language of the hardscape or surrounding building architecture and 2) reside outside or above observers’ field of view, avoiding unwanted brightness.

Fixtures should be strategically placed outside of sight lines and avoid excessive brightness or glare.

What are the main benefits of invisible design? 

KS: Invisible lighting design enhances and promotes the commercial or recreational use of a space. If you’re not distracted, you tend to perform better at tasks. Invisible lighting design enhances safety because it increases occupants’ ability to make rapid, informed choices. This ultimately provides a better experience to observers. By promoting the surrounding hardscape and building architecture, invisible lighting design also enhances the pedestrian experience, adding value to the space.

How does invisible lighting design affect safety and wayfinding?

KS: When lighting is too bright, it creates glare that becomes a visual distraction. Glare can prevent occupants from making a rapid and accurate visual evaluation of risk, which hinders safety. Invisible lighting design helps ensure proper, glare-free visibility of the surroundings. Appropriate lighting helps occupants rapidly and accurately focus on the task at hand.

Has LED technology had an impact on invisible lighting design? 

KS: The advancement of LED lighting technology has allowed for smaller, lower-profile luminaires that are easier to apply in the space. LED lighting is the most controllable light source, and lighting control is a crucial component of invisible lighting design. LEDs create an opportunity to manage luminaire brightness and control task illumination with little effect on overall performance. This can result in outstanding visibility for wayfinding tasks as well as increased safety and feelings of security. 

What are common applications of invisible lighting design?

KS: Many large commercial properties and parking facilities rely on invisible lighting design. High mounting heights and low-brightness, controlled fixtures combine to create optimal lighting while respecting both design objectives and the environment.

What are some tips for effective invisible lighting design? 

KS: To prevent lighting fixtures from competing with the architecture and overall design of the space, select plain, geometric shapes that match the style of the building. This allows the fixtures to blend into the surrounding environment instead of distracting observers. 

One way to avoid the appearance of unsightly poles in a parking lot is to light from the perimeter of the area. In larger areas, taller poles can also be helpful, as they place the lighting source above occupants’ field of view. Attention to proper architectural scale is important to ensure poles are not installed above the height of surrounding buildings.

What’s the future of invisible design?

KS: Education is critical to the future of invisible lighting design. Communicating the benefits of carefully considered design is important to pedestrians and occupants.

Connected lighting plays a role as well. As technology in this field advances, it will allow for better lighting design by ensuring we’re able to deliver the correct amount of light, at the right time, under different conditions. This, in turn, will create a dynamic experience. 

Even though the goal of invisible lighting design is to be out of sight, out of mind to the observer, invisible lighting design can have a significant impact on environmental experiences, making it not so invisible after all. 

The Lighting reSource