Wayfinding — the manner in which people orient themselves in a physical space and then navigate within it — is a critical component in design. One Seattle lighting company has developed a decorative and seamless solution.
By Stef Schwalb
Today’s wide range of office layouts presents numerous design challenges, especially as it relates to wayfinding. LightArt, a 3form company, is a custom lighting fabrication and design studio based in Seattle that is illuminating the art of wayfinding through its LA2 Connected Collection.
The company’s approach was developed in response to current market demands. “We saw an increasing need for connecting and organizing more open air spaces,” says Ryan Smith, President & Creative Director of LightArt. “Everyone always appreciates a bright arrow, and when you’re following that path, it just makes things easy.” Connected, he adds, is about being bold.
This new evolution in lighting design promotes an innovative use of color, form, pattern, and brand features to visually connect spaces with a simple solution for architects and designers to employ.
The line’s fixtures – available as a standardized kit of 12 Shapes – can be bought individually and assembled in a range of unique configurations to suit any particular project’s needs. Connected provides designers with a chance to consolidate lighting, wayfinding, and branding together into one custom solution.
Connected Rings (a specialized subset of Connected) can be utilized to bring focus to designated spaces and design elements. For example, designers can showcase a conference table, meeting pod, or office space with illuminated Rings 6 to 16 feet in diameter. Rings can also be used as a wayfinding device to link employees and visitors together.
“The scale of the pieces – a big ring or rectangle –
can help to create and define architectural spaces,” Smith explains. “A classic example is a ring over a nurse’s station in a healthcare environment. We always see a need to delineate a smaller space within a larger one, and Connected can achieve that with a high level of visual intrigue. The fixtures help to center/organize the room.”
3form Varia Eco-resin is the primary shade material LightArt uses for Connected, providing designers with access to 1,000+ color choices including 3form’s most recent color launch. Because of its custom configuration and color options, Connected offers countless design solutions. The fixtures are handmade in the company’s Seattle studio and have UL-listed integrated LED components and solid-state systems with dimming capabilities. The company has also earned the Living Building Challenge’s LBC-Compliant Declare Label for lighting after the Connected system fulfilled the rigorous material requirements for transparency and energy-efficiency in the manufacturing process. Every LA2 fixture can be spec’d on Living Building Challenge, LEED V4, and any projects where materials disclosure, optimization, and performance are of critical importance.
Achieving the LBC-Compliant Declare Label isn’t easy. In fact, the strict qualifications can often pose greater challenges to creating the end product.
“The biggest challenge was on the supplier side, asking our vendors to get specific materials they may not have used previously to make our fixtures compliant,” Smith reveals. “For example, the company supplying a lot of our finishes needed to change that finish in order for our fixtures to be compliant. We had to ask for that change within their supply to take place.”
While the work has been exhilarating, there have been challenges. “The most demanding part of these projects has been when someone asks for something outside of the standard Connected system, and we have to make custom parts,” Smith notes. “For the most part, we’ve been able to fine-tune the Connected system to provide designers with a line of lighting that looks custom, but is also easy to order and easy to install.”
In terms of creative inspiration, there are some lighting styles from the past that have sparked a design aesthetic and have acted as cultural touch points that influence LightArt’s products. “A lot of the lighting from the 1950s inspired us,” Smith says. “It was always about simplicity. When some of the ornamentation went away, you started to see beautiful fixtures like Noguchi or Nelson — those really timeless pieces.”
In terms of present-day trends that LightArt sees from their client base, a desire for continued innovation that’s eye catching remains foremost top of mind. “We are seeing a move from functional lighting to people wanting something with more design, as well as more material and/or color interest, and because of that, we are receiving a lot of good responses from the wayfinding solutions that Connected provides,” adds Smith. “We are seeing a lot of interest in using lighting to express custom branding and design, plus a need for fixtures or finishes that serve more than one function in a space. For instance, lighting that serves as a both a wayfinding element and a source of light.”
As for the future, there are plenty of aspects of the lighting industry that will continue to motivate the LightArt team. For Smith, it includes LEDs that will change throughout the day based on exterior influences or personal preferences. “Technology in lighting is continuing to evolve in extremely dynamic ways,” concludes Smith, “and the ability to play with lighting is exciting.”