lighting design

The Everyday Subject & Its Coat Of Many Colours

The topic of light and colour presents many hurdles. Lets share our perspective on the role colour plays within a chosen space.

Every object has colour.

Here at Michael Grubb Studio we consider colour in two ways, colour in everyday objects (where natural light presents what we see) and also colour in light (when we use LEDs or filters where a source affects what we see).

They are two separate things, but they have to be considered on their own merits.

This article focuses on colour more than light. If you want to have a read about the role of natural and artificial light, click here.

When we talk about colour, natural light will always provide us with the benchmark. As lighting designers it is the change that we instil to it.

Natural light hits areas in different ways to present different colours. A sunset in East London is very different to the sunset in the New Forest. The light is a rich yellow in London, whereas the New Forest has a somewhat branded red tone. There are a host of factors that come in to this, flora and fauna, building types and colours of bricks for example. Soon you notice that every area has a slightly different light that is very subtle.


The Apple Perspective

The Apple Spring launch includes a new display feature called True Tone. This whole issue of light and colour is taken very seriously by one of the biggest brands on the planet.

As an aside, have a look at F.lux, it is a download that enables your screen colour to look like the room you are in, all of the time. Why be blinded when looking at a screen very early in the morning?

In a nutshell display contrast decreases as the light around you becomes brighter. White looks different under a host of light sources. The whole aim is for Apple to render white correctly under any light source. So, when you’re reading an ebook on the beach, the page looks paper white.


So, Why Does Colour Look Different From One Place To Another?

Most peoples understanding of light is not extensive, but that is fine.

Most of us do not pay close attention to detail in the subtle variations of colour in our lives, whereas someone such as the artist Concetta Antico, has an astonishingly sensitive perception of colour. Have a read of this article from the BBC.

The ability to shift light within different scenarios is prevalent.

Take for instance, the whole process everyone is familiar with when looking at paint from a colour swatch and then applying to a room. One of the main reasons why people are disappointed with the final result on a wall is the poor quality white light from where you originally made the decision to buy.

When it comes to paint, venturing outside a store to look at a swatch sample in natural light is not an experience people want. This is the consequence of lighting not being good enough from the original source. Lets look at it this way, if you went to see the Mona Lisa, you would want to see the lighting in its purest sense.

We have just been appointed to work with the Fitzwilliam Museum on their up and coming Colour exhibition. This looks at the art and science of illuminated manuscripts. For a museum environment, the lighting has to be pinpoint.


How Do You Get Colour Right

To an organisation, museum, council, or individual is lighting the top of someone else’s hierarchy? For instance, within a museum it is imperative to present the highest quality of colour rendering. On the opposite end of the scale strip lighting in a department store is usually high up in the ceiling.

From a Michael Grubb Studio perspective, colour works best when colour is needed. Take for instance our work on Guinness Storehouse, in Dublin. This was intended to celebrate darkness and then add splashes of colour.

Lets make it clear, when you use more colour to a space, the more you dilute what you are trying to focus on.

It is the same with anything in life; the more clutter you add, the more confusing an environment looks.


What Are We Doing About It?

Rosco Light+Build 3

We are exploring colour slightly differently here at Michael Grubb Studio. We receive a number of requests looking at the subtlety of lighting, which is on a different scale of the electric vibrancy from too much light. We embrace coloured light and after a few years of lighting design living in black and white, we hope to bring a refreshing view.

We have recently been working with theatre gels with the team at Rosco, a manufacturer for the architectural industry, and to highlight their LED products. There is an element of pureness about working with gels and filters. We really do miss this. There is a subtlety with gels and filters that LED technology struggles to achieve.

SteveSteve Ramos, Market Manager for Rosco, explained the subtlety, “Colour filters create coloured light by subtracting certain wavelengths from the beam. A red filter, for example, absorbs all other wavelengths of light, and only allows the red wavelengths to pass. LEDs are prone to big gaps in their spectral output, and those gaps could affect the resulting colour you are trying to create.”

“It is important to reference the spectral output of the source when choosing a colour filter. For instance, Supergel #39, on a cool white LED might not produce the vibrant, reddish magenta you expected because the Cool White LEDs you’re using (a) don’t have very much red and (b) have a sizeable spike in the blue.”

“Working with Michael Grubb Studio on the Rosco stand was a real eye opener, as a creative team they see colour and filter gels in a different way.”

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Lets Round Up

The world of lighting design has moved on from new technology allowing colour to be achieved in a far more cost effective way (where it can become soulless like a Vegas after party), to the emphasis on pure white light.

We have always embraced colour but our journey is to continuously search for the subtlety between white light and colour. The defined answer is neither one nor the other, but the space in between that needs exploring.

Lets accept that challenge and share with you why making a statement doesn’t have to be about filling an entire space with colour. We will always demonstrate the understated.

Coloured light is not just what leaves the light source, it is about material, texture, situation and finally, the lighting approach.

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