Latest lighting trends and what it means for engineering

Sara Schonour, LC, Assoc. IALD, discusses her career and the latest trends involving lighting in engineering.

By CannonDesign April 1, 2020

Sara Schonour, LC, Assoc. IALD, began her career as an intern at CannonDesign and now leads an award-winning specialty lighting design studio with an ever-growing team of designers, innovators and engineers.

Question: How many team members do you have and in how many offices?

Answer: We have a mixture of full-time and part-time lighting specialists totaling 11 members across three of our offices (seven in Boston, two in Chicago, two in Denver), and we often have summer interns contributing as part of our team as well.

Q: What are you working on right now?

A: So many things! We are actively working in every one of our markets and with just about every office. We have over 130 projects in varying stages of design and construction.

Q: What is your favorite thing about your role?

A: I’m never bored! Lighting is both left- and right-brained so on the design side, I’m constantly stimulated. And as a leader of the Lighting Studio, there is so much going on in the lighting industry and so much going on in the firm, there’s a lot of opportunities. It’s truly is an exciting time to be a lighting designer.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

A: Follow your bliss.

Q: What is a major challenge you are seeing with your clients and how is your team working to solve it?

A: Adapting to new technology. As we all know, change can be hard, and many clients have trouble making shifts – be it to LED technology, digital or wireless controls, or new approaches that disrupt “the way things have always been done.” We try to be trusted advisors to our clients and guide them to the solutions we believe in through education, demonstration, and of course, communication.

Q: What has gotten you really excited to see recently?

A: We’re starting to get tapped to help design more immersive environments – which are really fun to work on. We designed lighting for an alien-themed Jellyfish exhibit last year for the Niagara Falls Aquarium, collaborated on a projection scheme for the new entrance envisioned for the St. Louis Science Center, and we’re just about to open our first E-Sports gaming clubhouse where the lighting is the star of the competitive video-gaming competition space. I’m excited for more projects where we can tie lighting together with technology to make the spaces we design even more effective, engaging, and fun!

Q: What is your favorite hobby?

A: I have a lot… traveling, hiking, cooking, puzzles, reading, and trying on new hats at the community theater are the ones I’m currently focused on!

Q: As we head into 2020, how do you see your service evolving in the next decade?

A: Everything lighting is going digital, wireless, integrated, and smart. LED lighting basically introduces a tiny computer ubiquitously throughout the spaces we design, and we’re starting to see the possibilities of integrating the lighting systems with other building systems to enhance energy savings, security, the ability to collect more data points with more accuracy… so I see us working more closely with other technology systems to capitalize on those opportunities.

We are also learning loads about the relationship between light and health, and I see the emerging research shaping the way we approach lighting design from a well-being standpoint. And of course, it’s impossible to ignore how integrated products are taking hold in our sphere – acoustically treated lighting fixtures, fixtures embedded in ceiling and wall elements, the possibilities of where we’re headed with Modular Design+… lots of areas that will affect – and be affected by – lighting.

This article originally appeared on CannonDesign’s website. CannonDesign is a CFE Media content partner.