Wendy Cruz-Gonzalez received her associate’s in interior design from a college in New Jersey. She worked at the architecture firm GRAD Associates for nearly a decade but found that the associate’s degree was not enough to satisfy her career ambitions. In 2003, she enrolled in the BFA program at NYSID while still pursuing her career full-time and successfully completing the NCIDQ professional examination. She then decided to continue in the MPS in Interior Lighting Design program, which she completed in 2013. She is currently a designer at Illumination Arts, an architectural lighting design firm based in New Jersey.
Why are you interested in lighting design?
Lighting was always a resounding theme throughout my work in the BFA program. Behavior and effects of light are so transforming. The boundaries and qualities of light are much different than those of building materials. Lighting really brings everything together—it has the ability to sustain, empower, and transform a room in a way that materials simply can’t. Lighting affects mood and how a person feels about their security. It can even impact one’s health. Whether in an interior or an exterior space, lighting is the first visual storyteller.
What was your experience like in the MPS Lighting program? Did it prepare you for a career in lighting design?
Absolutely. The instructors assigned us real-life projects with real spatial and technological restrictions. Their goal was to prepare us to start working after graduation. They taught us to make valuable design decisions, to evaluate and improve our methods, to deliver quality presentations with solid documentation, and to be a true collaborative professionalism. When I first started the MPS program, it was difficult for me to let go of the non-lighting aspects of a space. I had to discover my value within a collaborative design team.
My years at NYSID were amongst my most fulfilling; I really value the quality of the education I received and I know it was one of the best decisions of my life. NYSID has truly transformed my views and feelings about design. It has spurred a need to learn more, experience more, and be more.
How is sustainability integrated into the program?
Sustainability is a big part of the program. There is a course that is dedicated to sustainable lighting—Green Lighting, Energy and Controls—but it really runs all throughout the curriculum. When people think of green lighting they often think of replacing incandescent lighting with compact fluorescent bulbs, but it’s not that simple. It’s about a total design that considers everything: daylight’s contribution, artificial lighting, evaluation of lighting technology and an understanding of all the requirements in order to design a long-term sustainable and aesthetically pleasing solution.
What kind of projects are you working on at Illumination Arts?
Illumination Arts works on interior and exterior lighting projects for corporate, governmental, institutional, and academic buildings; even signature bridges. One of the projects I’m excited to be working on is the lighting design for a new local school. I’ve been waiting for a long time to work on a project that affects my local community. I'm very happy to be part of the Illumination Arts team. The work is in-depth and rewarding and the projects take on a new life as you learn about the client, their goals, and their community.