CPD: Co-design and continuing professional development

18. Oct 2017

Two why-not paths that could helpfully meet.

Text: Alison Ritter

There are two key topics, or to be more pragmatic perceptible trends, that are currently occupying the lighting design community – and which are reflected in a number of the papers to be presented at PLDC in Paris in November.

One concerns the whole issue of codesign: involving the users of spaces to determine which kind of lighting conditions are preferred, useful and required. Interest has grown in participatory design in recent years. This approach, often incorporating interactive elements, enables people of all ages and backgrounds to shape and affect their environments. Formerly carried out on a temporary or experimental basis, and with a leaning towards entertainment, this design strategy is beginning to convince more and more designers and clients, and for some projects is destined to become the recommended modus operandi.

The other of the two topics mentioned above is the growing awareness on the part of experienced and established lighting designers of the need to expand their skills and competences, and indeed to update the way their design practices are run, and reorganise their teams in order to be able to design more competently and effectively and handle and exploit the benefits and opportunities of modern technologies (not only lighting technologies).

When the word “education” crops up, it is generally initially associated with schools and universities, that is to say “young people learning stuff” for the first time. Training, on the other hand, is considered to be a process whereby you learn to apply what you know.

So what happens when you have gained your general knowledge in school, focussed on a topic or field of learning at an academic or further education institution, gained a diploma or between one and three degrees, pursued training “on the job”, and embarked on a career? End of story?

There is no need to go into the value of lifelong learning. We all know about that (I trust). Thanks to the internet, we can access information and news any time of the day or night. Vicarious experience is no longer only acquired by reading novels or watching well made films, since we can view real-life images and witness personal reports on site from locations practically anywhere in the world. So the opportunity to seek and find information is there, if you know where to look …

I would not go as far as to say that lighting designers are at a crossroads between confidently ploughing on and completely rethinking why they get up every morning. Albert Einstein, who apparently had an IQ of around 162 (30 points more than best average!) once claimed: “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” But what opportunity can we seize from co-design and the need to be professionally prepared for the future that is already there?

CPD (Continuing Professional Development) is a clear answer to the second part of that question, and maybe the first part can also be incorporated into CPD. How can we engage non-experts in helping develop lighting design concepts? Working with children is as much a challenge as it is a joy – ask any teacher! What we must never forget is that children are no less intelligent than adults. They just have less experience. And a clean slate – tabula rasa – can be an advantage in many real-life situations. Take this further. How can we involve the general public, the users of spaces such as the urban realm, office environments, stores, sports facilities, classrooms … to better understand what lighting is needed, appropriate, and physically, psychologically and socially beneficial – and consequently how to realise lighting by design.

In the past, PLDA workshops went a long way with regard to involving local residents and municipal decision-makers. This could be further developed along the lines of action research with an emphasis on encouraging and enabling lighting designers to better understand the thought processes that ultimately need to be triggered and trained.

Communal learning can be highly effective if everyone involved feels involved, and appreciates that they can both contribute to and gain from the experience. Interested in learning more? Or interested in learning more? If you answered “yes” to either or both of these questions, you’re well on the way!


My opinion:

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