Home > Business, Creative, Technology > What do you mean Lighting affects Design?

What do you mean Lighting affects Design?

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The light that your designs are viewed by will directly affect the color that the audience perceives, thereby affecting the design itself. There now, that was easy.

Wait…you want more?  You can’t just take my word for it?  Alright, let’s dive into this.

How lighting affects a printed graphic is one of the most frustrating issues that Exhibit Graphic Designers can run into.  How many times have we talked to a customer who is unhappy with a color match, and yet when we look at the same color match, it looks just fine to us?

Even more telling would be when someone holds a backlit graphic up to the window in their office and is unhappy with the color!  I’m unashamed to say that the last time that happened to me, I professionally and politely asked my client if it was sunny or overcast that day.  The details of the conversation that followed aren’t all that interesting, but the results made for a much happier client when they looked at the graphic properly.

Do me a favor.  Take a piece of white paper outside and look at it.  Looks white, doesn’t it?  Now take that same piece of paper into your office.  What color is it now?  The bulbs that are installed into the majority of all office buildings, as well as sold for general use, have a very strong, warm cast to them.  This warm cast to the light will, in turn, change the perceived color of anything you look at.  Including turning that pretty, white piece of paper a bit yellow.  Take a look below at a series of three light bulbs, all casting their light on a white ceiling.

Now if two of those bulbs can turn a white ceiling orange and yellow, what are they doing to the printed pieces we are designing?  Well, see the third bulb?  The one marked 5500 K?  That is very, very close to the proper lighting to look at color and graphics by.  In fact, look at the bulb specifications that PANTONE recommends and uses:

Source: D50 Simulation
Color Temperature: 5000K
Color Rendering Index: 98
Wattage: 2 x 18
Lamp type: Fluorescent JUST Color Control Daylight 5000
Uses: Daylight for color matching in the graphic arts industry. For reproductions and color proofs. (CIE D50, ANSI PH 2.30, ISO 3664)

“But Tim, not everyone is going to have the perfect lighting for viewing color by in their office, much less in an exhibit hall!” No, unfortunately not.  So what’s the solution?

Good customer service and knowledge.  Knowledge on how to properly judge color and proof your designs.  Knowledge of how lighting affects the colors in your design, and bringing that knowledge to your client so that they can in turn, properly illuminate their exhibit space.  Good customer service to patiently explain to a client who may not understand will result in a client who is much happier with their graphics that you created for them, and with you in turn.

Tim Toolen
Graphic Designer
Optima Graphics

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