Lighting as a Design Tool

June 27, 2022

Lighting is the foundation for defining our experiences and sets the mood for what happens in each space. Lighting design can determine how everyone, and everything looks and feels, based on personal choices. For that reason, we know that informed lighting design allows us to live extraordinarily – and can provide an exceptionally beautiful and transformational experience.

What’s really important and a top priority when planning the lighting in any home or space is that the light in the primary rooms feels good at all hours of the day. There should be a balance between natural and artificial light. In the morning, warm lighting for a gentle awakening to start your day, and as the day progresses, the lighting should become brighter and cooler. Finally, as the sun starts to set and dusk arrives leaving not much natural light, your lighting should begin to set as well. It’s impossible for your lighting to feel “right” with static artificial light that does not include the capability to adjust with natural lighting throughout the day.

Another aspect to consider when planning is lighting for task-oriented work or activities. For example, bright and cool lighting provides high visual acuity for food prep; a neutral white hue with mid-range light levels for reading; and a warm setting with low level light for relaxing and watching movies. Flexible spaces that are used in different ways (like playrooms, home offices, etc will require lighting design that provides versatility in color temperature and intensity. One of the things we learned during COVID is that rooms have to serve multiple purposes. We use them in different ways and those rooms have to work for you. Dynamic light empowers flexibility and allows rooms to better serve your diverse needs.


purple light in shower

Color is an important factor to help establish the right vibe and help set the scene. Lighting with color is transformative. As warm and cool color temperatures influence our moods and perceptions, colored light evokes physiological & psychological responses. Uplift your mood with the warmth of orange. Instead of espresso after lunch, try spending some time under red light to awaken without caffeine. Or start the morning with meditation under the calming, zen hues of purples and blues. By using different colors in lighting, experiences and emotions can be elevated and enhanced. Reds evoke highly emotional responses and increase the heart rate. Exposure to a red light is awakening but because of its warm tones, it won’t disrupt your circadian rhythms or sleep/wake cycles. Oranges are associated with warmth and joy. Greens are associated with nature. Blues and purples are considered calming and cooling due to their association with water and are known to reduce heart rate. On the other hand, exposure to increased quantities and intensities from smartphones and other mobile devices, can disrupt our sleep – making it ideal to keep exposure to earlier in the day.

Dynamic Lighting: Home Lighting that Adapts to Natural Lighting Changes Throughout the Day

lighting design in kitchen

To provide lighting that balances with natural light, dynamic lighting is ideal; it allows you to adjust color temperature and dimming. This type of flexible lighting in the home allows interior spaces to look however we desire – even on a cloudy day. Interiors may start off dim and warm, similar to the sun’s gentle rise. Then it will move to match a bright, crisp blue sky that helps keep us focused and alert, until it gradually softens into an evening sunset as we settle into a relaxing night, signaling our bodies to prepare for a restful sleep. USAI LED Color Choices lets people choose color temperatures that match the activities in the room with Classic White. Dynamic lighting settings like Warm Glow Dimming, Color Select, or Infinite Color+ offer greater flexibility in multi-functional spaces.

Circadian Lighting: Understanding and Implementing It in the Home

There is more to lighting design than meets the eye — a lot more, in fact. While light enables us to see our world in vivid color and stunning detail, we have learned that it also regulates many biological responses in people which are not associated with our sense of sight, including an ‘internal clock’ in our bodies that makes us alert during the day and sleepy at night. The daily changes in our physical, mental, and behavioral states that respond to a light-and-dark cycle is commonly known as our circadian rhythm.

Industrialized society spends most of its time indoors, within a built environment that can provide for our every need – but the electric lighting we are working and living under during the daytime does not match the dynamic quality and amount of light the sun can provide. Although the lights may be on indoors, we are in circadian darkness. Instead of the clear black and white signal our circadian systems used to receive, our internal clocks are operating in a world without contrast. Our days blur into nights. This mismatch or lack of entrainment, between our internal clock and the local time, disrupts our circadian system. Nighttime use of electric lighting and electronic devices with bright screens — from smartphones to tablets, laptops to big-screen TVs — expose us to blue light at the wrong times, which contributes to and exacerbates circadian disruption. Research now tells us that a disrupted circadian system is connected to a whole host of long-term health and behavioral problems: fatigue, cancer, obesity, diabetes, depression, mood, and sleep disorders, reduced physical and mental performance, reduced productivity, and irritability are all related in some shape or form to a circadian system that isn’t functioning the way it’s supposed to.

Why wouldn’t we want to replicate this natural light cycle with our interior lighting, to give ourselves the best chance of feeling good from day to day? This is where our new knowledge, coupled with the dynamic features and potential that LED lighting technology gives us today, puts us in a position where we can now create personalized lighting design to mitigate circadian disruption, optimize mood and visual experience, and improve our sense of wellbeing, in better ways than ever before. There are many promising LED products on the market now to support circadian health, including tunable white light technology. By independently adjusting light levels and color temperatures, the full dynamic range of natural daylight can be recreated in an interior space. Innovations in LED lighting and controls continue to elevate the human experience each day.

—By Bonnie Littman, CEO of USAI Lighting