Don’t Call Me A “Creative”

I was recently referred to as a “creative” and the person who said it was surprised when I asked not to be called that.  Here’s why I hate that word used as a noun.

In other industries the training, talent, and roll of individuals is recognized.  In finance, for example, there are bank tellers, stock brokers, analysts, hedge fund managers, etc.  While we might say they all work in the financial industry, we don’t call them “financials” or “moneys”.  We describe each person’s role using the name of their distinct profession.  Kayla is a financial analyst, not a “money”.

Likewise, in medicine there are nurses, doctors, surgeons, EMTs, etc.  We might collect all of their expertise when we refer to the medical or health care field, but we don’t call the individuals “medicals”.  Again, we describe each person’s distinct role or profession.  Alex is a registered nurse, not a “health”.

I work in a creative profession, but I’m a lighting designer not a “creative”.  I’m not a poet, choreographer, photographer, or web site designer.  I find it lazy and dismissive to lump all of us into one category and call us “creatives” as though we’re interchangeable, without regard to the education and skills of our very distinct professions.  You don’t want a web site designer lighting your building, or a choreographer making your web site.  To me, calling us all “creatives” disregards and degrades our unique abilities and contributions, essentially saying that what we do isn’t worth recognizing or naming.

Designing Beyond Fidelity

I recently began a project that includes about 8,000 SF of office space that is completely without windows or skylights.  I’ve renovated spaces like this before, and the common complaint from occupants was a disconnect from daylight, weather, and the way they indicate the passage of time.  On this project, I determined that the most appropriate solution was to use a light source that rendered colors in a way that is highly preferred to make the spaces more pleasant to occupy and use.

Of course, as a designer who is very knowledgable about color rendering issues and is a TM-30 advocate, I know two things.  First, highly preferred is not high fidelity.  People prefer a light source that slightly increases the saturation of object colors (especially reds) over a high fidelity source.  Second, TM-30’s Annex E provides specifiers with ranges for certain TM-30 measurements that allow us to accurately specify highly preferred light sources.

The task seemed simple enough.  Forget about fidelity and find a fixture/LED combination with a spectrum designed for preference, i.e. a light source that meets the TM-30 Annex E specification for a highly preferred (aka P1) light source.  After all, we’ve had TM-30 for seven years now, and Annex E for four years.  Surely, by now LED manufacturers have introduced products that meet color rendering goals other than fidelity, right?  Who wouldn’t see that as a huge marketing opportunity?  And surely fixture manufacturers would offer specifiers that LED, again to differentiate their products from the many, many, many similar products from other manufacturers…right?

Alas, the answer is, “No.”  One member of the IES Color Committee shared with me a database of over 1,000 LED products, their SPDs, and their various TM-30 measurements, including the Annex E Preference Design Intent.  Of those, there are a generous handful of retrofit lamps, most of them by Soraa and Cree, that meet the P1 specification, but only one LED in commercially available linear LED fixtures – Focal Point’s Preferred Light series.  That’s it!

Fortunately, this project is for a private firm so I don’t have to worry about developing a three-name or performance spec.  Otherwise, I would have to give up on a preferred spectrum and default to high fidelity not because it would be appropriate for the project but simply because there are more options.

I’ve mentioned fidelity and preference.  You might be asking if there are other color rendering goals.  The answer is, “Yes.”  Other color rendering design goals, with brief explanations, include:

Preference.  Light distorts object colors with slight increases in saturation, especially reds, in a way that is preferred over the reference light source (that is, preferred over high fidelity).   This might be the goal in an expensive restaurant where you want to emphasize the beautiful colors of the food, people, and interior design.

Vividness.  Light renders object colors as more or less vivid, or saturated, than the reference light source. Vividness is different from Preference in the degree of distorted saturation and the design intent – making colors pop, not making colors more attractive.  This might be the goal in the Skittles store in Times Square where you want the colors to leap out at people.  

Naturalness. Light renders object colors as expected, which, surprisingly, is usually not the same as fidelity.  This might be the color rendering goal in a grocery store where you want the food to look ripe and appetizing.

Discrimination.  Light renders object colors so they can be appropriately sorted. This might be the goal in a facility where even slight color variations must be detected.

Specifiers are captives of manufacturers.  We can have design goals oriented toward the needs of the users and the success of the project, but manufacturers only want to sell us fidelity, the same way they’ve been selling us fidelity since CRI was introduced in 1965.  For 50 years we only had a hammer (CRI) so all problems were nails (fidelity).  TM-30 changed that and it’s time for manufacturers to catch up.

IES Publishes “Standards Toolbox”

The IES has added a Standards Toolbox to their web site that features an online TM-30 and TM-21 (projected luminous flux maintenance, i.e. LED lifetime projections) calculators, an interactive illuminance selector (for subscribers to the IES Online Library), and an IES Reference Retriever where members can access all of the documents, articles, and papers referenced in various IES documents.

Of course, I’m most excited about the TM-30 calculator which imports and exports spectral data and reports in a variety of formats and increments, and will always be the most up-to-date version.  As a bonus, the calculator’s code is also available for download on GitHub, which may be of special interest to manufacturers who want to bring calculations in house instead of doing them online.

The TM-30 calculator includes CIE S026 Alpha-Opic calculations (CIE S 026:2018. System for Metrology of Optical Radiation for ipRGC-Influenced Responses to Light) and output, and is expected to include additional spectral calculations in the future.

Updating the CCT Calculation

As I noted in Chapter 9 of the 2nd edition of Designing with Light, we calculate color temperature, correlated color temperature, and distance from the Plankian locus in a perverse way.  The calculations are performed in the CIE 1960 (u, v) chromaticity diagram (which is why distance from the Plankian locus is Duv).  However, since 1960 (u, v) is obsolete, we perform the calculation using CIE 1976 (u’, v’) chromaticity diagram, but then scale the v’ axis by .66 so that we’re using 1976 (u’, ⅔ v’) which is 1960 (u, v).

To complicate things, to present information graphically, most manufacturers transpose these calculations to the 1931 (x, y) chromaticity diagram, resulting in the industry using 2 ½  chromaticity diagrams for various calculations and illustrations.  Unfortunately, they also use 1931 (x, y) to illustrate the gamut of multi-colored luminaires even though it isn’t uniform, making the illustration of questionable value (they should be using CIE 1976 (u’, v’), which is perceptually uniform).

In a counter to this fragmented system, yesterday Leukos published a research article called Improved Method for Evaluating and Specifying the Chromaticity of Light Sources.  Among other proposed improvements to how we perform chromaticity related calculations, it introduces a new uniform chromaticity scale (UCS) diagram with coordinates (s, t), a measure of correlated color temperature (CCTst), and a measure of distance from the Planckian locus (Dst).  Importantly, it makes all chromaticity calculations in a single chromaticity diagram instead of the 2 ½ diagrams we use today.  It’s heavy on the science, but is an important step in fixing our current system.

Designers Thinking About Light – IES Vancouver Section

On February 24th I’m giving an online presentation called Designers Thinking About Light to the Vancouver section of the IES.  I’ll be talking about how lighting designers think about light as an artistic medium.  The presentation will include some ideas you probably know, as well as some approaches that will be new.  To register, visit the IES Vancouver Section web site.

The Limits of a ‘Standard’ Observer

I tell my students that we’re lighting designers not scientists, but that it’s good to understand some of the science that underpins our work.  This is especially true when the science is out of date and produces results that don’t necessarily agree with our vision and/or perception.  It’s frustrating and amazing to me that as individuals we’d never agree to use a broadcast only TV and give up our modern cable and internet channels. We’d never agree to use a flip phone and miss out on all of the upgrades and improvements that have been developed over the years. Yet as an industry we seem perfectly happy to continue to use 75+ year old technology with known flaws when we calculate color rendering, measure brightness, plot chromaticity in color spaces, etc.  Our industry doesn’t seem interested in “upgrading” to get the latest features like less metameric mismatch and measurements that better align with our vision and perception. But, I continue to shout into the void about these things.

One of these topics is the standard observer. This article, online and in the current issue of LD+A, looks at the problems that can arise from continuing to rely on the 1931 standard observer, and not “upgrading” to the 1964 or 2015 standard observers.

Where are the Photometrics?

Today I want to talk about the lack of photometric information provided by manufacturers because the presentation of information frustrates me in two ways. The first issue is the lack of information provided. The second is the difficulty of finding real world examples of what I teach in class. What’s the value of knowing the point and lumen methods if the information needed isn’t available? It seems to be a problem that’s getting worse and I’m not sure why.

  • Do manufacturers not understand photometric calculations, so they don’t see the value in including them?
  • Do manufacturers think lighting designers don’t understand photometrics, so they don’t bother including them?
  • Do manufactures not understand how lighting designers work, and think all calculations are done in AGI? I suspect this is the answer.

By failing to publish photometrics, manufacturers are dictating my workflow without understanding how I work and why I work the way I do. I rarely name names, but I’m going to make an exception here. Maybe a little photmetric-shaming (one of the most obscure types of shaming, to be sure!) will get manufacturers to change.

Are You a Contender?

When I navigate my way to a fixture web page and open the cut sheet my main goal is to determine if the fixture is a contender. Does it seem to have the features I’m looking for? If not I can move on. If so, the next question is, “Does it have the performance I’m looking for?” Photometrically, I’m looking for general distribution type, followed by more specific distribution information, lumen output and load, and beam angle. If those look good, I’ll scroll down the cut sheet to the photometric section to get some info to run a quick calculation in a spreadsheet that’s open on my desktop. If the fixture works in that quick calculation I’ll download the cut sheet and .ies file and run an AGI calc when I’m ready. What I’m looking for on the cut sheet, depending not the calculation, is:

  • Lumen output
  • Center beam candlepower
  • Beam angle
  • Candelas distribution
  • Coefficient of utilization (CU) table

For example, I recently went looking for a linear downlight. My first stop was Coronet because I know they’ve recently revamped their historically deficient cut sheets. Are the new cut sheets any better? No. The first page of the cut sheet for the LSR2, for example, now has a section labeled “Optics” (not photometrics) and gives a sort of candlepower distribution curve, but there’s only one number, which seems to be candlepower at nadir but isn’t labeled as such. A separate section at the bottom of the next page shows “Performance” in terms of watts/ft and lumens/ft for three output levels. That’s it. Any reasonable calculation of the fixture’s performance in a space requires downloading .ies files, building a model in AGI, and running a calculation. As I said earlier, that’s not my workflow. I can run a lumen method calc much faster than I can build an AGI calc and I don’t want to be forced into AGI.

Next I looked at Focal Point’s Seem 2. As with Coronet, there’s a candlepower distribution curve. The ordering matrix tells me there are four lumen outputs, and there’s a table of output, watts, and lumens/watt. A lot of page space is given to lengths and controls, but there’s nothing else about photometric performance on the cut sheet. To find any useful information I have to download .ies files and open them in Photometric Toolbox or AGI.

Finally, I looked at Acuity’s Mark Lighting. The cut sheet for the Slot 2 LED presents a table of lumens/ft, watts/ft, and lumens/watt for four output levels, but there’s no candlepower distribution curve or CU table. On the plus side, the information I want is provided, but in a separate location on the web page called Photometry & Revit (BIM). If I click on Report I find a polar candelas graph, zonal lumen summary, CU table, etc. I wish this was in the cut sheet, but at least it’s available.

I have similar complaints about other manufacturers who make fixtures I generally like: Alphabet, USAI, Day-O-Lite, and Ecosense among them.

Let Manufacturers Know

If you’re similarly frustrated let manufacturers know. If you’re at Lightair this week tell them face to face. If not, tell your reps and anyone at the factory you may know.

The Strength of TM-30

Last week Tony Esposito and I presented seminars at ArchLIGHT Summit in Dallas, TX. The topic was TM-30 and the deep information that it provides us about a light source’s spectrum and the resulting color rendering. CRI, of course, only evaluates fidelity – how close a light source matches its reference light source. But CRI penalizes all deviations and says nothing about the rendering of individual colors. Nor does it help us understand if the deviations from the reference are acceptable to viewers.

A small part of our demo is shown below. It illustrates how two light sources can have the same fidelity (in this case Rf of 70) but wildly different spectra that produce wildly different color rendering results. This is the great strength of TM-30, a deeper insight into the effect of a light source on illuminated objects and their color appearance – not just fidelity, but chroma shift, hue shift, and the perceptual implications of those shifts.

The video below shows the color appearance shifts. The graphic illustrates that even though the Rf is 70, the first light source renders objects in a preferred manner (Preference Priority Level of 3 or P3) and increases vividness (Vividness Priority Level of 2 or V2). At the same Rf the second source mutes colors and fails to achieve any of the Design Intents and Priority Levels specified in TM-30’s Annex E.

Alternating between light sources with Rf 70, Rg 94 and Rf 70 Rg 111

Lighting Metrics and The Test of Time – Illuminating Engineering Society

There’s an excellent post on the IES’s FIRES blog.  It recounts some of the the history of V(λ) and our pursuit of measurements for brightness.  It points out how much we’ve learned since the metrics we use today were developed, and calls for rethinking and development of new, 21st century metrics.  Read it!

Source: The Test of Time – Illuminating Engineering Society








TM-30 at ArchLIGHT Summit 2021

My colleague Tony Esposito and I will be giving a new TM-30 seminar and demonstration at ArchLIGHT Summit 2021 in Dallas on September 21st and 22nd. We’re working on a new, and we hope more attendee friendly, presentation and an all new set of demonstrations to explain TM-30s Annex E specifications. The demo will include, for the first time, live models of different ethnicities so attendees can evaluate the impact of of the specifications on skin tone. I hope to see you there!