Charles Cameron teaches courses in lighting in the MPS in Interior Lighting Design and BFA programs. He’s the principal of Studio C Squared, a lighting design firm he founded after more than a decade of working with two internationally renowned architectural lighting design firms. His work has been exhibited at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum. Widely regarded as an expert in energy-efficient lighting, he is the president of the New York City chapter of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America and a director of the Green Light NY Lighting Resource Center.
In the most basic sense, how does lighting affect human emotion and behavior?
We all have a visceral understanding of the fact that light affects mood. There’s a growing body of research on light’s effect on productivity. The data is becoming more nuanced as it explores circadian rhythms, our bodies’ natural cycles of wakefulness. The last 100 years of electrical light all day has disrupted the body’s rhythms. We are beginning to build lighting systems that are more responsive. It can be as simple as dimming in the evening. As lighting designers, we need to think not just about the concept of the space but also the impact that lighting will have on the people who spend time in that space.
Can you describe the students in the MPS in Interior Lighting Design program?
The students are people who have studied interior design, architecture, or engineering. They are generally design professionals who have developed a fascination with lighting. I like to say, “We turn designers into lighting designers.”
What doors does a specialization in lighting design open for these professionals?
Some of these folks go on to work at lighting design firms as consultants to architects and interior designers. Some go back to interior design firms and become the most knowledgable person in their office about lighting. Some of our students go into product design and become inventors of new or custom lighting fixtures. This program creates unique career opportunities. Recently a guest lecturer hired my student Farnaz Hamedanchian to work at T. Kondos Associates.
What are the latest trends in lighting design and how does your curriculum reflect those trends?
Sustainable lighting design is the future of this profession, as it should be. The trend towards energy efficiency dovetails nicely with the trend towards responsive lighting. For example, if we are entering a building at night and our eyes are adjusting from darkness, we don’t need the same level of brightness that we would need if we were stepping in from daylight. We can use less energy, create a healthier experience, and better aesthetic experience.
Control and flexibility are another trend. Lighting designers must make a space do a lot of different things. For example, a designer lighting a restaurant must create a system that evokes different moods for lunch and dinner.
The rapid evolution of LED lighting is a major focus in our program. We help students evaluate which of these new products are ready for use in which places. We sift through all of the new products that are out there to find what’s useful.
Exactly what do students do in lighting design studio courses?
We evaluate the needs of the people who will use the space we are lighting. We experiment with different textures of light and directions of light. We observe how the light works on different materials. Then we develop sketches and diagrams that help us communicate with the client.
What student project has made you the most proud?
I gave the first class of MPS lighting students an assignment to light a retail space. One student did an incredible job inventing a family of decorative fixtures throughout the store. Another came up with a concept about the overall effect of lighting on the retail space, especially the lighting of mannequins. I suppose I feel the most proud when I get wildly different designs for the same project. Then, I know I’m stimulating creativity.