Reading Time: 10 min | Sep 2019

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Design Special

Turn the light on!

We go to work in the dark, we come home in the dark, we look at screens - a huge amount of time - and we are constantly exposed to artificial light.

Many people, especially in urban areas of the world, do not even notice the impact of lighting on their life, their mood and even their well-being. Numerous studies show how the way we choose to light up our lifes, influences our everyday and our inner "body clock".

Designers and manufacturers alike ask themselves today more than ever: what is good lighting, what is good lamp design nowadays? Are LEDs still going strong? Blue light or red light? Visual, decorative lamps for the living room or rather alsmost invisible, indirect lighting? How does hotel lighting differ from home lighting, how bedroom from kitchen lighting? What do people expect from lighting manufacturers and lighting designers - and what is best for them? The list goes on! 

For our 'iF Design Special: Lighting' we talked to experts and designers in the industry about lighting trends. Scroll through the best lighting design of 2019 in our iF DESIGN AWARD winner collection. See for yourself, what the up and coming designers say about their creations and why light has to adapt to the natural human daily routine. 

Get inspired: iF awarded Lighting Designs 2019

From lamps for a cozy evening at home to visual luminous highlights or sculpture-like light installations - this year's awarded designs in the category "Lighting" strike with innovative usability and beautiful design. Scroll through a collection of all awarded designs of 2019 and get inspired - either to bring more (stylish) light in your everyday or to see what it takes to for an award-worthy lighting design!

Who is among the top ten of the best in lighting design?

Whether it is the big global players or rather small European manufacturers that stand for excellent lighting design: There is a great variety among the iF top ten that show how versatile the industry of lighting design is. See below a chart with the top ten lighting design manufacturers from the last five years, including this year's winners like Tobias Grau. The ranking is based on the number of iF awards: 20 points per iF award and 100 points per gold award.

Great lighting design is, of course, important for feeling comfortable at home or at work. However, the arrangement of lighting, the intensity of light can actually have a huge effect on a human's well-being. Biodynamic lighitng and humancentric lighitng are no loan words anymore. Read below what a real sleep expert says about the impact of natural light on your daily energy.

Interview on Biodynamic Lighting with Philips' Sleep Expert Edouard Gebski

In modern times, we simply have to function. At work, on the way to work and even at home. No wonder, people feel more and more exhausted. Little do they know, what a great impact lighting could have on their energy and well-being. Daily exposure to darkness or artifical light cannot be in terms with the natural human body clock. Actually, we even try to manipulate it with artifical lighting. Edouard Gebski is Senior Experience Lead for Sleep & Respiratory Care from Philip’s experience design Pittsburgh Studio and answers why this is not healthy and how people can influence their overall exhaustion or even the so common winter depression with light. This is a topic, very familiar to Philips - their Somneo lamp was honored with an iF DESIGN AWARD in 2018.

Edouard Gebski

Senior Experience Lead for Sleep & Respiratory Care from Philip’s experience design Pittsburgh Studio

iF: Mr. Gebski, how can light help to improve well-being?

E.G.: There are two important aspects when it comes to the relationship between light and well-being: the physiological and the emotional side. The latter is something we all have experienced at some point in our lifes. Everyone has positive memories associated with light; the candles and the warm lighting during Christmas time, sitting next to a fire, or waking up to a bright sunny day on a day off. We all have felt the effect light can have on our emotions and moods; we intrinsically and intuitively have that emotional intelligence in us.

The second aspect is the physiological side. This side, although equally important, is a little harder to grasp and often requires some level of decoding. It is called circadian rhythm - sometimes also refered to as body clock. When it comes to well-being, the sleep-awake-cycle or dark-light cycle plays a crucial role in regulating (disrupting or encouraging) biochemical responses from our body. Light has a huge influence on our inner body clock.

Think about it as the metronome that gives the pace to a musician. Light is a cue that induces series of physiological responses. The consequences of a lack of light have been thoroughly proven and documented. For example, some studies show that altering daily light-dark cycles affects fertility in female mice and that when left in darkness for extended period of time a women’s menstrual cycle would simply stop. Others shows clear signs of depression and mental wellness. So, in short, light is absolutely critical to our well-being. It helps regulate almost everything in our body and has a huge impact on our emotions. It is unfortunate that in urban areas we seem to have lost our natural connectedness to light.

iF: The Somneo lamp was honored with an iF DESIGN AWARD in 2018. Would you place the lamp in the category of biodynamic lighting or human-centric lighting - why?

E.G.: In nature, daily life is initiated by the sunrise and comes to rest after sunset. However, modern society calls for different schedules, so we often need to get up before sunrise, and continue activities long after sunset. The Somneo lamp mimics a gradual sunrise and offers a wake-up experience similar to a natural wake up when outside. It provides the initial cue that kicks off your day on a good note. A good morning experience is so important to feeling rested and ready for the day to come. In that sense, Somneo sleep and wake up light plays an important role in biodynamic lightning right from the start. Waking up every morning with a buzzing alarm clock is unnatural and often results in waking on up at the wrong sleep phase, when using the Somneo sleep and wake up light, 92% of users say it is easier to get out of bed.

"Research and empathy building is an integral and critical part of the Philips experience design process. Designers know that in order to create impactful and meaningful solutions, they must deeply understand the customers needs."

iF: Who is the actual target group of such dynamic lighting for Philips?

E.G.: In a broad sense and from a clinical perspective everyone can benefit from the Somneo sleep and wake up light proposition because everyone sleeps. That said, we have identified that the population that expressed the most interest in the benefits offered by the lamp is the one that needs to reach a workplace in time day after day. This “performer” population primarily lives in urban areas and is focused on work performance and cognitive abilities. They desire to feel 100% operational the moment they walk into their workplace and want to maintain a high energy level throughout the day.

Shift in seasons can be challenging for that population. Focus and energy temps to be lowest during the winter months due to lack of light, even if one is getting adequate amounts of sleep. By September, the effects of getting insufficient sleep and light is experienced in more dramatic ways than during other times of the year. In extreme cases, this change is called SAD (short for seasonal affective disorder – Sometimes called winter blues). Therefore, we see an influx of buyers toward the end of the year since lighting design and mimicing daylight helps to reduce the effect of the slowing down of serotonin (happiness hormone) levels and can suppress some of the feeling of grogginess and depression.

iF: How well do designers have to know their inner ‘body clock’ themselves?

E.G.: This is a really interesting question. As designers, or creatives in general, we are trained to show empathy and to be completely focused on our end users/viewers - so much that sometimes we ignore the fact that we are, ourselves, potential targets to the problems which we are trying to address. Unfortunately, many creatives (along with a vast amount of other occupations) have a difficult time respecting their body clocks. Be the long working nights or the big deadline coming up, many of us have at some point worked with random day/night schedules in their studio or home and slept when time allowed. Most believe the creative process demands this freedom to be creative whenever possible and without breaking the creative flow. Everybody has his/her own life/work balance recipe. So most designers are experiencing the issues and symptoms associated with unbalanced schedules. As master problem-solvers, they are therefore in the best position to imagine and implement solutions that improve people’s lives, even in the challenging contexts and constrains of modern society.

"As designers, or creatives in general, we are trained to show empathy and to be completely focused on our end users/viewers - so much that sometimes we ignore the fact that we are, ourselves, potential targets to the problems which we are trying to address."

iF: So, how strong do the designers at Philips then work with studies and demographics when developing a product like Somneo?

E.G.: Research and empathy building is an integral and critical part of the Philips experience design process. Designers know that in order to create impactful and meaningful solutions, they must deeply understand the customers needs. The best way to gain that deep understanding, is to look at the problem through multiple lenses. Collaboration, co-creation, focused listening, tinkering, prototyping and iterative approach was therefore critical to success throughout the development of the Somneo Wake up light. A combination of soft and hard data was continuously used to guide the team throughout the development process.

iF: What about customer testing in the design process?

E.G.: It goes without saying, listening to and observing our customers is always our first step. It always starts with the understanding of the human condition. Developing products and solutions is at the crossroad of knowledge and experience. Somneo product design for example took years of research to perfect. We knew that the product’s form was critical in order for the user to experience the full benefit of the light. Light is only as good as the surface it refects onto after all. Throughout the years, and while designing previous wake up light generations, we discovered that a circular shape was preferred by our users because it reminded them of the sun and felt like a natural fit to their environment. The biggest and most fascinating innovation brought by the new Somneo model is the introduction of depth and dimension to the object.

All of our previous wake up light generations were essentially flat panels that felt too much like TVs or computer screens. Through relentless testing we discovered that adding the central “funnel” and opening through the lamp was not only breaking the perception of flatness but was also greatly contributing to the gradual build up of the light. Our users indicated that they felt they could almost touch the light and it wasn’t uncommon to see users caressing the soft, curved surfaces of the lamp. At Philips, we have the tradition to always work and integrate real life experiences in the product design and we feel that the Somneo design is adding an important experiencial element to light design. We wanted to achieve a light you could see, touch, and feel and the feedback we are getting from our users have been overwhelmingly positive.


Salt & Pepper Lamp designed by Tobias Grau

As a fully portable lamp, the SALT & PEPPER emits light, comfort, and kinship wherever it is placed. The light combines its archetypal conical form with advanced cableless design, providing 450 Lumen and 10–100 hours of battery life. The lamp’s head is touch-sensitive, allowing for effortless dimming adjustment. The integrated warmDIM technology automatically adjusts colour temperature according to brightness. Dim up, and SALT & PEPPER provides a crisper, brighter light.

CL-N810 by Sony, designed by Sony Corporation Creative Center Tokyo, Japan (Takahiro Tsuge)

This handheld lantern doubles as a portable smartphone charger. It combines a high-capacity battery and a bright lantern that shines at more than 800 lumens. Its simple yet durable structure has a flat front surface and a round single-form waterproof case. Aluminum parts on its reverse side offer multiple functions including a hook for hanging and a stand to prop it up.

Mito Largo Lamp by Occhio, designed by Axel Meise for Occhio Munich

Appearing almost weightless, the Mito ring is suspended from a cut carbon rod and thus 'floats' above other furniture. Velvety matt surfaces communicate a warm atmosphere and set emotional accents in interior decoration. Mito largo can be switched on the luminaire head via 'touchless control', dimmed or calibrated via the 'fading' function as an uplight or downlight. In addition to touchless control, Occhio Air wireless control is also integrated as standard, allowing convenient control via smartphone or tablet.
Tobias Grau
"The ongoing development of lighting technology - today, of course, LED technology - requires new design solutions."
Interview with
Tobias Grau

Read the interview by courtesy of "Package & Design" magazine


With his first cable-free lamp "Salt & Pepper" Tobias Grau was honored by iF with the gold award this year. Over the years, his company has won over 80 major design awards, among them 15 iF awards. In the interview he talks about his work and his ideas of modern lighting design.

(Photo: Tobias and Franziska Grau)

Czech Glass Tradition from Brokis and Lucie Koldova to Lasvit

Tobias Grau's designs are popular for their clean and modern look. Yet, they have an ironic twist and playful interpretation of traditional lighting design patterns. The same is true for up and coming designers who rediscovered traditional craftmanship in their designs. Just as Bohemian glass manufacturing has a great reputation all around the world, it is not truly manifested on the barometers for lighting design trends. Companies like LASVIT and Brokis want to revive the young spirit of this rather forgotten craftmanship. Read below how!

Natural light in the living space is not just a question of the amount of red and blue light, of the right light bulbs or indirect lighting. The lamp housing design plays a crucial role, too, if you want to bring in a much more natural ambience in your living space.


Nature and its life-giving beauty and strength serve as the model for a new and unique lighting concept called IVY, designed by Lucie Koldova for Czech lamp design studio Brokis.

Just as the plant grows and climbs up the walls of a house, creating multiple images, IVY offers a special system of modular components, thanks to which it can be used to achieve a highly innovative take on decorative lighting in both vertical and horizontal compositions. The collection features three sizes in opal or smoke glass.

Variable, elegant, and precise in workmanship all the way down to the smallest detail, IVY is a high-tech lighting concept well suited to both commercial and residential applications. In intimate home settings, for example, a single elegant branch can be used, or multiple branches can be joined together to create a curtain of light. IVY has many forms and justly takes its place among artistic, so-called bespoke, lighting installations.

Lucie Koldova

Lucie Koldova is an acclaimed Czech product and furniture designer and art director at Brokis. 

Lucy Koldovas collaboration with the brand began in 2010 with the timeless MUFFINS and BALLOONS lighting collections, which she designed while living and working in Paris. The voluminous glass lights embody her charismatic, elegant style and quickly established Brokis as an innovative producer of handblown glass lighting. She is the creative force behind the brand and is instrumental in shaping its product portfolio and image.

Her creations, objects of desire, include glass sculptures, glass lighting, poetic gallery pieces, and limited-series works. Breathtaking colours, unusual proportions, and vibrant formal contrasts seemingly move her work beyond the realm of the possible, a trademark at once apparent in lighting collections such as Balloons, Capsula, Whistle, and Mona. In addition to developing ever-more novel and exciting motifs, Lucie Koldova has introduced important technological and formal solutions that have enabled Brokis to push the limits of handblown glass production.

For Brokis, Lucie designed MUFFINS (with Dan Yeffet), BALLOONS (with Dan Yeffet), SHADOWS (with Dan Yeffet), MONA, WHISTLE, FLUTES, LIGHTLINE, PURO and MACARON collection.

Copyright: Brokis

Traditional bohemian glass manufacturing is known for its great quality all around the world and is at home in five czech towns, from Jablonec to Novy Bor - headquarter of LASVIT. The brand LASVIT, founded in 2007 by Leon Jakimič, shows Bohemian glass in a new light and takes the art into the next millennium, combining the traditional authenticity of glass with creative craftsmanship and innovative ideas. In a few short years, LASVIT have established themselves as experts in delivering custom-made lighting sculptures and art installations made from various types of glass.

Collaborations with renowned designers and artists have created numerous unique glass collections – Nendo, Campana Brothers, Ross Lovegrove, Daniel Libeskind, Maarten Baas, or Czech legends Rene Roubíček and Bořek Šípek are among those who choose Lasvit to embody their vision. Even Lucie Kaldova once started her career at LASVIT.

Japanese Design Star
Hokuto Ando

Hokuto Ando tells his principles of good lighting design

Hokuto Ando

Hokuto Ando is iF Juror as well as designer and co-founder of we+, a contemporary design studio based in Tokyo. He develops his experimental approach to products, installations and graphics by combining unusual materials with technologies to shift perspectives. This is also part of his principles when asked about good lighting design. His studio realized many spectacular light installations, for example for showrooms of such brands as fashion designer Issey Myake. Listen and see what else Hokuto has to say in our iF Podcast, recorded at the iF Jury Session for the iF DESIGN AWARD 2019.

Interview with Ulrike Brandi

What makes good lighting

iF: You are a lighting specialist. What does that mean?

U.B.: I am a lighting designer with a focus on artificial lighting design in buildings and outdoors in urban spaces. I also develop master plans, such as for the city of Rotterdam or the HafenCity here in Hamburg. Another focus of my work is natural daylight, which is particularly close to my heart because it is our natural and most beautiful light source.

Ulrike Brandi

Ulrike Brandi is an internationally acclaimed lighting designer, author and educator. Among her works include lighting for the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Mercedes Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Airport Pudong in Shanghai, Museum Inam in Japan, Royal Academy of Music in London, Masterplan Light for the City of Rotterdam and the Rotterdam Central Station. In our interview she talks about good lighting design.

iF: What can light do (and what can't it do)?

U.B.: Light can do almost anything. Lighting plays a major role in architecture because without light we have no perception of spaces. For me, light is a design element, one that especially touches the emotions: it can emphasize beautiful things, while also hiding things that are less attractive.

iF: From a planning perspective: when should you start thinking about lighting design when constructing a new building?

U.B.: The sooner the better! It is best to incorporate lighting designers from the start. In this way, matters of daylight can be considered from the outset. However, the reality is often different: in many cases the architect's design is already present and the specialist expertise of the lighting designer is only brought in later. If there is still some openness at this stage, we can use the architect's design to say whether and how the light will behave and how it can become part of the overall design.

Read the full interview

The right lighting is especially crucial when it comes to offices: It can improve the well-being of the employees and increase better teamwork and creativity. Read below, how German company Luctra interprets this approach.

Luctra Lighting: Focus on Health and Individuality in the Workplace

Ergonomic and individual workplace design has long been recognized as a key advantage in the competition for maximum employee motivation and dedication, no matter whether the workplace is a flexible desk in an open-plan office, in a comfortable two-desk office or a modern open space. No wonder that light is a key factor in self-evaluation of a working environment.

A simple way to achieve this is by creating pleasant, healthy and standard-compliant lighting, made easy thanks to the state-of-the-art LED technology. As an added benefit, modern light solutions can also take the individual needs of each user into consideration.

The lamp range of the German company LUCTRA®  () offers a wide variety of options to fulfill lighting needs for individual rooms. The TABLE and TABLE PRO table lamps can simulate the natural course of daylight if needed. The installed LEDs provide different colours of light and can support the user’s different work phases in this way. They can also be dimmed. For flexible office designs and agile teams, the app-based control saves individual light settings so that they can be re-applied at any other workplace that has LUCTRA®.

Besides the table lamps, LUCTRA® offers VITAWORK, a floor lamp that is suitable for distributing light evenly to entire offices thanks to the combination of direct and indirect lighting. The LEDs built into the lamp head provide energy-efficient illumination via a light panel with either symmetrical or asymmetrical light distribution. VITAWORK® is available with three different light flux intensities, depending on the size of the room, for optimal adjustment to the room size.

Lighting Design in the 21st Century

The upheaval triggered by the switch from incandescent to solid state sources (LEDs) and the increased sophistication of electronics are probably the most tangible catalysts for the continuing shift in the way we light our buildings and environment.

These technological developments have taken place against the background of a rising awareness of the importance of lighting itself – witness the extraordinary evolution of the independent lighting design profession in Europe, especially since the 1980s. That awareness has encompassed a range of issues.

Art and Light: iF awarded Designs by Sculptor and Artist E.R. Nele

Sculptor, graphic designer, goldsmith and artist E.R. (*1932) is famous for her giant public sculptures such as Die Rampe and has a strong connection to iF: Her father was Arnold Bode, the founder of the documenta exhibition in Kassel, and the designer the iF logo in 1962. In the 1960s and 1970s, E.R. Nele designed a number of award-winning lamps and lights for diverse German manufacturers. Click through the small selection of her works.

From an awarded Lamp to their own Design Studio:

A Talent Success Story with Aust & Amelung

For iF, promoting visionary concepts created by upcoming designers is a matter of heart. Every year, we honor outstanding designs created by students from all over the world with the iF DESIGN TALENT AWARD. We strongly believe in the potential of young designers to change and innovate. We want to find out: What became of our young talents?

Aust & Amelung

Miriam Aust and Sebastian Amelung received their iF awards for their final project in 2014, a floor lamp, and are busy as furniture, interior and exhibition designers for various companies and projects from their headquarter in Kassel, Germany. We asked them what motivated them back then, what happened since then and, of course: What became of their awarded lamp design?



Interview with German Lighting Designer Tobias Grau: Form loves Function

Interview with Ulrike Brandi

These four design trends must be understood in 2021