Our latest Success Story is Sabi Kiesel, a lighting designer who founded Urban Spectrum Design, a business that specialises in architectural lighting design. Sabi seeks to balance business success with an enriching lifestyle. She was back at PBC to attend our Brexit workshop, so we sat down with her to hear all about Urban Spectrum Design…
What does Architectural Lighting Design do?
‘I do different things as a freelancer, but my main thing is Architectural Lighting Design.
The company is aware of humans as the beneficiaries of architecture. We look at atmosphere; what function the room has; we try to make the light a key part of architecture. We mainly work with architects but also with other designers.
Our lighting designs can be for an exhibition, an office space, hospitality, an exterior space around a building complex, retail or residential. I like the mix of it.
A huge project can take two or three years. A small retail project will take four to five months.
Stage one is analysis: We look at access, general infrastructure and movement in the building.
Stage two is the concept and design: sketching ideas; communicating with the client, giving an idea of the mood and function of the lighting. We then follow up with a visual presentation of the light, like renderings with a 3D perspective, on Photoshop or a similar programme and demonstrate sample luminaires to the client.
Stage three, once the client agrees to the creative design, we proceed with schematic design which includes technical drawings showing the layers of light. There are three key points in a lighting design: focused lighting, ambient light and more playful elements, such as decorative lighting or a pattern of smaller lights to make the space more cosy or domestic, for example.
Preparing everything for tender including detailed drawings are stage four, showing how the different luminaires (the complete electric light units) are integrated in detail into the design and the architecture.
And stage five is happening on site, where we check the light installation inclusive lighting control and adjust the lights if necessary’.
How and Why did you start?
‘I like different things. Next to architectural lighting design, I like film editing, I want to develop that, photography too…I like developing myself, doing drumming, sports.
Going freelance gives me the flexibility I need, a better work-life balance. I can work at the times I am more productive.
Nine to five was just not suiting me. I did it for four and a half years, and combined it being active in my free time and attending courses, but they normally run in the afternoons.
I am aware of the risks (of leaving the nine to five routine) – my lifestyle is a different one. You need to be able to adapt and go through lower times as well.
During my time working full-time in lighting design offices, I learned how they managed and structured things. I was learning a lot from them, but I wanted to do it my own way. This gave me the push to want to try it and go for it.
Getting clients is tricky, it requires a bit of networking. I’m a lecturer at a lighting academy in Germany, making them aware of how important light is. I’m very passionate about it. Think out of the darkness, you need light to be able to see and to realise your surroundings…
The best light source is daylight as it is natural, it has all the true colours in it, it’s healthy, provides us with vitamin D and offers us a natural healthy change of light intensity and colour but sometimes daylight is limited within a room due to the architectural design and the openings planned. It does change people’s moods.
In Scandinavia they have light therapy treatments to get vitamin D. But it’s better to keep it more natural with warm light in the morning and late. Instead, people fall asleep in front of the TV, but the blue light stops the release of melatonin, which we need for sleep’.
What drives you?
‘I’m passionate about lighting and I like self-development. It’s also a nice feeling when I hear I’m inspiring people.
Also, to change and enhance a space. You have this architectural space, and with certain lights you can change the mood in the space; you can guide people, comfort them, confuse them, all with light.
We look to the brightest point, that’s how they lead us to certain goods in a shop, so light can be used for many things.
“Setting it in the right light” is a saying in Germany.’
This is a Success Story – how do you define success?
‘For me, it is taking the challenge. You need to fail to grow. The drive for personal and professional development, not giving up, this is success.
Having the right balance too; working and balancing it with other things.
And of people are inspired by what we do and want to learn more about it, that is success.
Sure, I would like to earn more money, but as long as I feel this balance where I can do different things, that’s fine as well.
To achieve a goal could mean that suddenly there’s nothing to go for, so it’s important to enjoy the steps in between.
I still have to learn a lot, but I can see myself having an office and becoming a limited company or a partner within another company’.
How did PBC help you?
‘PBC were really helpful. I was lost at the beginning with so many questions. I did the three-day business course, it told me what I need to prepare and helped me to define what I want to offer.
I had one-to-one sessions with Maria, it really helped going step-by-step on things like tax.
I lived in the area at the time and it was free. It can be quite scary and overwhelming, but with PBC it felt like being in a community, with other businesses, learning together’.
Interview conducted and written by Tom Charles @tomhcharles