The relationship between retail store design and lighting is a close bond forged over many years. Long gone are the days when layout and lights were considered separate entities; one needs to take into account the other in order to achieve the best effect. IAN DRINKWATER, managing director of Applelec, discusses how recent technological innovations are opening up new possibilities for designers and specifiers alike.
Light years ahead
On today’s fiercely competitive high street, designers vie to deliver the most talked-about scheme with the most memorable ‘wow’ factor in order to make an outlet stand out from its peers.
Lighting is one weapon in the designer’s armour that can command stunning effects, particularly in the wake of recent developments in technology.
While it is well documented that lighting can have a profound effect on mood – unsurprising when you consider 80% of sensory information to the brain comes from a visual source – it can now also be used for wayfaring, to accentuate certain products and even to speed up the purchasing process.
Lighting up your mood
A retail store’s lighting scheme will largely depend on the desired atmosphere. Typically, bright lighting is associated with positivity and increases engagement. A discount clothes store, for instance, may wish to illuminate most of the store brightly to encourage customers to make quick decisions and put more into their basket.
By contrast, subtle illumination instils a sense of calm and relaxation, slowing down the rate at which we shop. Accent lighting can then be used to great effect to highlight certain products or areas. Louis Vuitton’s flagship store in London, for instance, employs warm, soft lighting to make customers relax while shelves and alcoves are brightly lit with spotlights in order to draw attention to the products, putting them ‘centre stage’.
A new era of possibilities
While none of this is likely to be news to interior designers and specifiers, technologies do exist to extend the ways in which lighting can be used, and to intensify the desired effect, be that subtle or striking.
In the past, options for lighting design were limited. Modules could be on the ceiling, freestanding or attached to a wall. Lighting within individual units was rarely found and inevitable required compromises.
The advent of technologies such as LED enables lighting to be completely incorporated into any interior design, opening the door to a myriad of opportunities. While these may not be without their challenges, a perfectly integrated lighting scheme can achieve stunning effects.
Colour rendering is one such example. Traditional fluorescent lights may not always give a true impression of colour; consumers may buy an item only to find when they get it home or into natural daylight it looks quite different.
LED luminaires enjoy superior colour rendering properties; however, it is also possible to create lighting that is extremely similar to natural daylight. OLED – organic light emitting diode – modules transmit light which is glare-free and without shadow; a comfortable, human-centric light that produces no UV and has low blue light levels.
Ideal for areas where natural light is at a premium, OLED, with its excellent colour rendering properties (it has a CRI of 90), is perfect for settings where gaining a true perception of colour is vital, such as cosmetic counters.
Incredibly slim with an impressive bending radius, flexible OLED panels can be manipulated into curves or waves. With a profile of just 0.41mm, the panels add virtually no depth to a design and integrate seamlessly into cabinets, furniture or textiles.
Sleek, contemporary rigid panels are also available to recreate traditional pendants that provide all the energy-efficient benefits of LED light without any uncomfortable glare or heat.
In addition, the company has invested significantly in R&D, enabling it to offer a bespoke design service where solutions are manufactured at the UK base in Bradford.
Innovative techniques such as 3D printing can be incorporated with OLED panels, as illustrated by The Ribbon, a stunning architectural centrepiece originally created for the 2016 London Design Festival by lighting artist Min Sang Cho.
The shape emulates a flowing ribbon, celebrating the flexibility and fluidity of OLED. Each section was manipulated by hand then covered in 24-carat gold leaf to heighten the light reflection.
Following the festival, The Ribbon was installed at its permanent home, the VIP room of the Genting Highland Casino in Malaysia.