Illuminate Lighting Design: An Interview With Simon Berry

Illuminate Lighting Design

 enLIGHTenment Magazine sits down with Simon Berry, director of Illuminate Lighting Design, to discuss the company’s philosophy and noteworthy hospitality projects all over the globe.

Singapore Based Illuminate Lighting Design

enLIGHTenment Magazine: Headquartered in Singapore, Illuminate also has offices in Hong Kong, and Melbourne, and has completed noteworthy projects across Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and America. Tell us more about the company.


Simon Berry: We are a lighting design consultancy working with architects, interior designers, landscape architects, and end clients across Asia, Middle East, Europe and America on a wide range of commercial and residential projects. The company started as an internal lighting design team supporting HBA Group Property Consultants [in Singapore] on its worldwide projects. It made sense from a client perspective that all work be effectively handled under one umbrella.


EM: How would you describe Illuminate’s design philosophy?

SB: We think of light as an emotional response to a space: does the lighting require drama, calmness, passion, or warmth? Whatever the case, every project requires us to fully understand the feeling required [overall] before we even think about the lighting.

Lighting is often considered to be this unknown element, where it just glides through the atmosphere only being stopped by the object on which the light falls. To some extent this is true, but for a lighting designer this is what excites us and pushes us ever forward. Just walking outside into a bright sunlit day reveals the world differently than it does during a dull overcast day. You could compare this to the interior scenes we create with artificial light. To us, it’s all one big stage requiring the best lit environment to ultimately enhance the performance.

Illuminate Lighting Design: enlightenmet residential lighting

EM: Part of Illuminate’s philosophy is to create sustainable design and “ecological” lighting schemes. Tell us more about that.
We are always looking for ecological answers. I think it is everyone’s responsibility in every field of work to ensure the actions you take make sense not only for the purpose of the action, but also in terms of the environment. Clearly with lighting we have to balance this with the final lit outcome, ensuring minimal impact. We have been appointed to deliver the best illumination for the space, so this has to be our primary concern.

On the subject of ecology, if you were to ask someone outside of the [overall] design profession, their answer would probably be related to lamp load.  To us, it goes beyond this. We need to ensure that the lamp source makes sense, even when it comes to its disposal.

I remember back when we had the tungsten and CFL comparisons that CFL offered greater energy savings. This is true, but when you take into account the mercury content of a CFL, [we feel] it outweighs the energy efficiency. Now you can get the tungsten halogen main lamps that have a further 15-percent energy reduction and improved lamp life. Lately, of course, we have the LED lamp source. We had one project mock up recently where the client was very keen to use LED in the decorative fixtures. We soon discovered that where the LED decorative (candle) lamp source was exposed in a chandelier the color temperature of each lamp was different – and these lamps were supplied by one of the biggest lamp manufacturers in the world!  LED has become the buzzword, yet the technology is forever changing and improving. Because of this, it always seems to be in its infancy and never seems to be able to mature into a product that gives you confidence. My main concerns are still the same ones I had 10 years ago: consistency in output, temperature, color rendering, and smooth dimming. Ok, this may not be totally an LED issue but more of a controls-related issue and compatibility; however, it still relates to the parent, which is LED.

Simon Berry, director of Illuminate Lighting Design


EM: What do you think sets Illuminate apart from other lighting design firms?
I think diversity in our skill set that allows us to create an imaginative solution to most situations. Since we have locations globally, we are able to reach out to a client and support a project [anywhere]. Another distinguishing factor is the amount of effort we put into the concept from an early stage. We spend a lot of time re-working renders to show the project team our intent and variation of moods. While that is very time-consuming, it is well worth the effort as a communication tool. Seeing the intent layered onto a render is invaluable. Documentation is obviously important, but equally important is the site attendance and final commissioning – that  is where the magic happens.

EM: Tell us a bit more about the design process.
When any new team member joins Illuminate, I always tell them that you have to listen. The client will have their own vision, and the design team members will undoubtedly have theirs. You have to listen to each and try to ensure that you cover the major elements. Being a lighting designer is just as much about problem-solving as it is about design.

Design is an evolution only constrained by the creative flow of the team.  Of course, on every project you face a fresh set of challenges that require you to adapt a design to work with site constraints and the evolving design. This can be from simplifying a detail to changing a fixture.

EM: What are some of the concerns that occur with lighting a restaurant or other hospitality project?  

SB: It’s a matter of lighting fundamentals. Any lighting designer must answer the following questions: Where do I want the light? What quality of light? Where can I mount the light? What is the light fixture I need to achieve all this?

For a restaurant, this usually pertains to the buffet/cooking display and the dining tables. A restaurant is not so much about revealing a space as it is about concentrating on the dining experience. A hotel lobby requires the guest to fully understand the space, creating a wow factor on their arrival, and then drawing the focus to the check-in desks.

EM: What are some of Illuminate’s future projects? 

SB: We have several exciting projects running at the moment. We are in the finishing stages of a luxurious Grand Hyatt in Shenyang, China, plus an evocative Raffles Hotel in Istanbul. We have just started on a new two new casino hotels in Macau and we also have a wonderful resort hotel project in Sri Lanka, plus a large mixed development in Tianjin, China, to name but a few. We are looking forward to a very exciting year ahead.

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