Putting brands in the best light

Today’s light-emitting diode (LED) signs now have slimmer profiles and can be fabricated into creative shapes and sculptures. Photos courtesy SloanLED

Today’s light-emitting diode (LED) signs now have slimmer profiles and can be fabricated into creative shapes and sculptures. Photos courtesy SloanLED

By Susan Svotelis

It would not be surprising to find bad lighting near the top of any designer’s pet peeves list. Whether it is an unevenly illuminated sign, inappropriate colour temperature for the environment, or an overly bright (or not bright enough) space, design professionals always have opinions about lighting and are not afraid to share them.

Consumers have an astonishing array of options when deciding where to spend their hard-earned money. Brick-and-mortar stores, restaurants, hotels—what drives them to these businesses? What influences their patronage? A range of motivators, including emotions, logic, and brand loyalty come into play. Multiple visual elements help shape these motivators, such as architecture, interior design and decor, signage, and of course, lighting.

Interior lighting patterns

Our brains are wired to pay attention to light, motion, and colour. Designers use this knowledge to create spaces which are not only inviting, but also help guide consumers to specific areas within the location.

Since we know light draws people’s attention, then we also know unwanted brightness or glare can have a negative effect, distracting or directing a consumer away from where we want them to focus.

In retail settings, lowering ambient lighting to create visual contrast and draw focus to a target is a winning design approach. While the old-school trend might be to blanket the entire space with even illumination, the resulting “flatness” is uninspiring and one-dimensional. The main goal is to drive sales activity, draw customers as deep into the store as possible, and steer attention to higher-value targets along the way.

An ambient lighting system should fade away in a well-designed concept. If consumers are spending more time looking up than looking at the merchandise, the lighting design has failed. One of the trends in the new era of light-emitting diode (LED) lighting is to minimize the physical size of luminaires, which has unintentionally created uncomfortable spaces. When the reduction of the fixture size leads to an aperture with an excessive amount of brightness, the consumer is distracted, and their visual comfort is compromised.

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A better approach is to lower ambient lighting in circulation areas and increase the lighting levels for zones along the back and sides of the store, which will draw consumers deeper into the retail environment. This way, people will walk by a variety of products, creating more opportunities for impulse purchases. Adding supplemental (shelf or overhead) lighting along defined travel paths will also help draw attention to high-value targets.

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