Q&A with Chuck Cameron

Chuck Cameron is head of the MPS in Interior Lighting Design program at NYSID. He is also Principal of Studio C Squared, a firm that specializes in creating beautiful and inventive environments with light for a variety of commercial and residential spaces.

The MPS in Interior Lighting Design program has been around for almost 1 year now. What's been the most rewarding aspect of leading the department? And what's been the most surprising?

Fundamentally, coordinating the program is like designing. I collaborated with others on an idea and then did my part to turn it into a reality.  It’s amazing to see students doing such great work. They are really able to connect the dots and synthesize the lessons of their various classes with their personal thought and experiences into effective lighting choices.  That’s very rewarding.

It’s also rewarding to see how effective the lighting design courses have been to those pursuing their BFA or MFA in Interior Design. I had a pleasant surprise recently when a fellow faculty member mentioned to me that a project from an advanced studio class had very fully thought out and specified lighting fixtures. It’s so important to integrate lighting into the overall design. I am always looking for new ways to ensure that the lessons learned in lighting class are applied in the core studio courses.  

What's the background of the current lighting students?

All of our students have previously studied interior design, and one of our students also has an architecture degree. And almost everyone has been practicing in the interior design profession for a while, so we are really dealing with professionals who are looking to expand their knowledge base and hone their expertise. It’s a great and diverse group; they all came with a little bit knowledge and a lot of curiosity!

As the Principal of Studio C Squared, you do lighting for a variety of spaces, including restaurants, museums and residences. Is it very different lighting for contract and residential spaces?

The fundamental goal of lighting design remains the same for all spaces.  The goal is to create a beautiful, functional and durable space as efficiently as possible.  Each individual project has it's own set of concerns and priorities that affect how we achieve those goals.  So the real difference is in the process.  In a residential project you are working with someone to create their home so it is very personal while commercial projects have to enhance a company's brand and operation while making sense to their bottom line.

Sustainable lighting is a big part of the program. Can you explain what this is exactly?

Sustainable practices are baked into all of NYSID’s lighting education because it must be integral to how we design.  It can't be specialized "Green Design" that is only pulled out for selected projects.  We teach students how to incorporate energy efficiency in high quality lighting design.  In Lighting I & II courses for the Interior Design programs , for instance, we explore the fundamentals of making high-quality lighting choices.  

In the MPS in Interior Lighting Design curriculum we go a bit further, providing students with in-depth tools to analyze all available lighting options and then present the energy, human and economic impacts for every design. For professionals, our continuing education seminars include discussion of energy efficiency in the context of specific topics within lighting design.  In the end, a design is not truly beautiful if it’s not sustainable, and not sustainable if it’s not beautiful!

Phyllis Greer