INTERVIEW WITH IALD EDUCATION TRUST PRESIDENT ANDREA HARTRANFT, IALD
"Maintaining design integrity is most challenging about what I do. It is sometimes difficult to educate clients regarding the value added by high quality lighting profucts."
An advocate for lighting education, Andrea Hartranft, IALD, principal at Hartranft Lighting Design, has always naturally gravitated towards education. She has taught fundamental/advanced lighting design at the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, DC; has spoken on lighting issues at local colleges and universities; presented at IALD Enlighten conferences; conducted workshops for IES conferences; and was a workshop head and mentor at the Lights in Alingsås workshop in Alingsås, Sweden in 2015. So it is perhaps no surprise that she was recently elected as the new IALD Education Trust President for 2016-2017. Now at the helm of the Trust Board, Andrea is charged with leading the Board of Directors who drive the strategic vision of the organization. Having previously served as Treasurer and as a Director at Large, Andrea is no stranger to the task ahead. She first joined the Trust Board in 2009 and quickly got hooked; she hasn’t looked back since.
What drew you to light and lighting?
In college, I figured out that applied light was omnipotent. It could manipulate both psychological and architectural mood, sculpt environments and allow for creativity from both sides of the brain. I was hooked.
What does lighting mean to you?
Lighting means warmth, it means that I am not alone. Daylight reminds me that there is a much bigger picture; and moonlight reminds me to look for beauty. I feel very lucky to have wandered into such an incredible profession with so many amazing people.
What are your thoughts on darkness?
Yin and yang. Without darkness, there is no light.
How would you characterize your design work – in just five words?
Elegant – playful – humble – responsive – human
Where do you draw inspiration from for your creations/designs?
Often my concepts are born from the energy of my clients. Out in the world, I pay attention to how light hits surfaces throughout the day and how shadows define spaces.
What is your most memorable project and why?
My most memorable project was and is running my own business. I have been so very lucky to work on incredible projects with incredible people but creating something from the ground up is like nothing else.
What is most challenging about what you do?
Maintaining design integrity is most challenging about what I do. It is sometimes difficult to educate clients regarding the value added by high quality lighting products. Markets are so competitive that there is a willingness to settle for good enough to maximize profit, instead of fighting for quality.
What is a misunderstood aspect of lighting design?
That anyone can do it.
What is the biggest misconception you had about lighting design as you transitioned from school to the workplace? If not you, someone you know?
I don’t feel like I really had misconceptions. I would say that young designers might tend to trust calculations a bit more than they should; thinking it must be right if it comes from a computer. Lighting is about so much more than calculations – I have yet to find a computer program that accurately predicts quality of light and the lighting experience in a space.
What are important characteristics for a young lighting designer to have?
Communication skills, listening skills, humility and an open mind. Everything else can be learned.
What is the best advice you’ve received about lighting, and what advice would you give to fledgling graduates when they are on way to find a first job?
The best advice predictably, came from Candy Kling, FIALD. She said always make the client feel that the design ideas were their own. I really miss her. Beyond that, my advice to graduates is always the same: Remember who you are designing for because at the end of the project, you walk away, but they live/work/exist there – it is NOT about you. Not Ever.
At the university level, what aspect of lighting would you like to see given more attention?
There are many different approaches to lighting education all over the world; it is a difficult question to answer. How about this: for the more technical programs, I would like to see the artistic side emphasized more; for the artistic programs, I would like to see the technical side emphasized more. And for all the students – teach them how to write. Please.
Who is your favorite designer of all time, and what new names in the industry have caught your eye?
Candy Kling, FIALD, was my favorite designer of course. She got it! It was never about her and she would have done it for free. She was so very generous with her knowledge and nothing made her happier than teaching a young designer.
As for new names, there are designers that are easily 20 years younger than me that are highly successful. I am not arrogant enough to suggest they have caught my eye; rather I would like to think that we are peers. And I love the fearlessness and hi tech creativity that is evident in their designs.
What are some of the most exciting things happening in lighting design today?
Lighting is honing in on human needs; I’m sure Dr. Flynn would be pleased. The flexibility and creativity enabled by technology is inspiring. All of the research that is leading to more and more understanding of the physiological and psychological effects of lighting is incredible. What a great time to be in the industry.
Finish the sentence: “When I’m not designing with light, I’m… “
I’m cooking. I really, really love to cook. And to chop. With my really big knife.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
I would be a human Babel Fish – able to translate all languages. But I wouldn’t tell anyone…