Reading Time: 4 min | Mar 2024

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Breaking into design: Starting your career as a lighting designer

The 2024 edition and jury of the iF Design Student Award is currently in full swing: time to talk to an expert about how young creatives at the start of their careers can get a leg up. We asked Anuj Gala, lighting designer with experience in Europe, the US and India, about "getting started".

For Anuj, the best part about lighting design is starting with a black canvas and adding color as you add sources of light: subtly and artfully, creating a beautiful space just using light. "Lighting designers truly create wonders," he says.

Anuj Gala

Anuj Gala is a lighting designer and business development manager. He studied electronics engineering in Mumbai, India and architectural lighting design in Wismar, Germany and has worked in New York, Helsinki, London,Brussels,Berlin and Goa.

Go with your gut

Trust your instincts and follow your passion. For me, this is key. It might be something of a cliché, but it's true: you do your best work when you do what you love.

Don't follow the money

Everyone needs money, but by this I mean trying to find the area or the job where you'll earn the most. I think a lot of young designers fall into this trap. You spend a third of your life at work, and it's very important you have fun and love what you do. The money will come.

Learn the local approach

In many cases - particularly in Europe - lighting design is about complementing the architecture, so it's important not to overlight. IDA-approved luminaires can help, and it's a good idea to understand the cultural ideosyncracies. In Finland for example, the Percent for Art initiative requires planners to factor in art in all public buildings. For lighting design, this is incredible opportunity to think of light as art for a small part of the project.

Fortum Headquarters Interactive Lighting Installation (left) and Interactive Light Art Installation, by Anuj Gala

Be open to meeting new people

University is a platform for so many things, so make the most of it. Go to events, go to exhibitions, visit manufacturers and studios whenever you have the chance. Learn all you can from your teachers and fellow students.

Go to as many lighting workshops as possible

When I was studying in Germany, I was able to take part in a lot of workshops with well-known design studios like ART+COM in Berlin. They really helped expose me to the way creative people work, what it's like on the inside. There are so many out there: in Sweden, in Greece, in New York and London, to name just a few. In one week you go from concept to execution and get hands-on experience in design processes.

[Editor's note: One upcoming workshop in Germany that is open for registration is Kronach leuchtet 2024 from 21 to 24 April 2024. The Vitra Design Museum also regularly offers open lighting design workshops, as do manufacturers like ERCO.]

Projects by Anuj Gala: Helsinki Outlet Center

Think sustainable

One final point concerns how you approach lighting projects with sustainability in mind. There are a lot of documents and approaches for how to design architectural lighting, in the UK it's the new technical memorandum TM 66 - Creating a circular economy in lighting (link)

Check out Light + Building

Finally, if you live close enough and are able, go out to Frankfurt for the Light + Building show. It's the largest and quite frankly best trade fair for lighting design in the world, and it's happening right now.

Light + Building in Frankfurt - more.