Research: Lighting design & human nature.
19th August 2015
This week, we thought we’d shift our focus from designing lights to designing with light.
In our most recent study, we delved into the how’s and why’s of lighting and mood, with the goal of uncovering the reasons that some lighting designs give an inviting and welcoming feel, while others evoke more negative emotional responses. We found that despite the popularity of diffused downlights in Australian homes, most people actually have more positive emotional responses to lighting designs that feature directional and peripheral light sources.
Below is a summary of the top four things we discovered about lighting design and human nature, all of which can affect the way people respond to your space.
At its most basic level, lighting provides us with a sense of safety. It allows us to view any threats that may be around us, while also providing light cover/shelter with the shadows it casts, giving us the ability to hide. The innate desire within us that wants to feel safe is thought to be a key reason why humans tend to prefer spaces with non-uniform lighting. This can be achieved by avoiding diffused lighting, opting instead for directional beams that allow for more variation in your lighting designs.
By highlighting key features in a setting, lighting can orientate new visitors by drawing their attention to important information or boundaries. According to our research, when someone enters a new environment, their primary goal is to establish a cognitive match to their memories of past experiences and places they have been. This helps them to interpret and understand their surroundings based on previous experiences, creating a sense of familiarity and comfort.
Lighting designs that leave areas of shadow are more likely to engage observers, adding interest and atmosphere. This is where the artistry involved in lighting design really comes into play. If you’re interested in using shadows to add interest to your design, we recommended In Praise of Shadows, by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, which draws on the Japanese aesthetic concept of wabi-sabi.
In a study that compared the effect of wall-, diffused- and directional-lights alone and in combinations, it was found that the lighting designs with greater variety received more positive results. Non-uniform designs that incorporated peripheral lighting were considered more pleasant, making the area appear larger and increasing perceptual clarity.
Although each lighting design should be considered for the unique purpose and styling of an environment, our research outlines the universal benefits of designing with directional luminaries—as opposed to diffused lighting—to ensure a positive emotional response to your space.
Read the white paper.
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