Inspired by the United Nations’ International Year of Light, Lightswitch is exploring Why Light Matters throughout 2015.

We have asked our designers why light matters to them and will be sharing their responses in a short Q&A each month. Each Q&A will focus on a different way light shapes our lives—from buildings we live in to the emotions it evokes. We hope our stories will inspire you to think about why light matters to you, and we invite you to join the dialogue on Facebook: What new lighting technologies are you excited about and why?

Lightswitch designers are tech geeks…and we’re not ashamed to admit it. After all, from the most basic lamp to the most complex media sever, technology drives our designs. Two of our proud technophiles, designers Mike Maio from Lightswitch San Francisco and Lacey Taylor from Lightswitch Chicago, share their thoughts on the latest lighting technologies and explain how they shape our projects.

Q: ‘Lighting technology’ is a pretty broad term. How would you define it?

Lacey: Any device we use to create or control light. For those in entertainment lighting, like me, this includes anything from media servers that create streaming video pixel content for video walls, to the basic Source Four PAR fixture, which is often only used to create an audience wash or light a backstage dinner table.

Mike: We tend to assume it’s the latest and greatest, but really lighting technology is any tool that will to generate, shape, diffuse focus or control light to meet our design. Lighting technology has been as simple as jars full of colored water in the days of gas lighting and as complex as multiple-story LED media façades on buildings today. As designers, we tend to use newer technologies because we are interested in discovering the new facets they can offer to our designs, but just as interesting discoveries can come by using old technology in fun, new ways.

Q: What kinds of projects do you work on at Lightswitch and how has technology influenced your designs?

Mike: That’s one of the things I love about working for Lightswitch—We work on all kinds of projects! In the span of just a few years I’ve worked on roller coasters, animal habitats, exhibition pavilions, office spaces, outdoor spaces and events. Such a wide selection of projects demands a lot of different approaches, which is challenging and very fulfilling.

One of my favorite experiences was trying to replicate the lighting conditions of Antarctica for a colony of penguins. Not only did we have to simulate each day to match the sunrise and sunset times of the penguins’ natural habitat, but we also had to carefully regulate the amount of total light and the amount of ultraviolet light that was delivered to help encourage consistent breeding cycles.

Q: How has technology evolved throughout your career?

Lacey: When I first started in the lighting industry, moving lights were very new to the playing field. When they started becoming a standard item it was a world of change, from whom we used for crewing to what we could now envision for designs. But I think the biggest game changer was the addition to of media servers to our tool chest. Now lighting designers can not only create beams of light with predetermined patterns, but we can also mimic and manipulate video content to the point that it becomes one with the rest of the fixtures in the rig.

Mike: The biggest game changer I’ve experienced was from a largely static lighting environments to a kinetic and interactive ones. At the beginning of my career there was a very large divide between 'theatrical' spaces and 'architectural' spaces. Now, that gap now is a lot smaller. With technology such as color-mixing LEDs, moving fixtures, media-driven arrays and complicated controllers even the most architectural spaces now have the ability to react and change their lighting with less infrastructure involved and from a wider array of triggers.

Q: What new technologies are you most excited about working with and why?

Lacey: There is never a day that goes by when I am not reading about a new fixture or control device. Currently, I am most excited to find a LED replacement for the gold standard in conventional lighting fixtures, the Source Four Leko. We need a technology that is small and lightweight, uses little power, and produces little heat. Everything out there today is large, hot and power hungry.

Q: If you had a crystal ball and could look forward to 2025, what would the lighting would be like?

Lacey: LED technology will have completely replaced arc source technology as the main source of light. I’d like to see us have more options and ways of creating new designs with more tools that are more efficient, from power consumption to cost.

Mike: Here in 2015, we have the ability to cater communication and media to exactly how we want to experience it. Everything is so personalized. I think that in 2025, more people will have much greater control over their environments and their light. I imagine that networked equipment (aka ‘the internet of things’) will start to give us the level of control that was romanticized by ‘the homes of the future’ in the 1950s. Lighting wise, I think we’ll really be able to define our own unique personal lighting experiences.