Creative lighting design

An Honest Three Year School Report (2013 to 2016)

Next year, Michael Grubb Studio approaches year four of business – and things are changing.

A good barometer is to have a read of the end of year article in 2014. The focus was on the people who are part of our journey and the sense of a community (have a read here).

Looking back, it was a story of a business that was finding its feet within the lighting design profession.

The difference from the 2014 article is that we are now established, we know who we are, we know what we are good at, we know where we can be better, we know what we stand for and we know how we want to work.

Today we are no longer a new business.



A lesson for us all is that to do good work, we have to evolve through a mix of persistence, perception and growth.

It is easy to create a ‘fake’ identity with a polished logo and a well considered website where there is a heavy focus on the ‘about us’ page. However, if you can’t back this up by highlighting a body of work and a consistent approach that you believe in, it becomes an empty vacuum.

Building something that has longevity is recognising that you are investing in the long term (not just financially). We have introduced a variety of activities over the past three years that tie back to a long-term goal. From SnackTime, to Relit to the summer beach parties. It is all part of a committed journey, making friends in the industry and showing we care.



Probably the biggest transition over three years is from the individual to a team effort.

The more established Michael Grubb Studio becomes, the less people rely on one person ie. Michael Grubb.

When the company started in 2013, my name was the strongest asset, based on my experience within the industry and the 20-year connections that I had nurtured.

Three years later, the reliance on one person has now become the responsibility for a group of talented people. People now bring their own experiences, industry specialism and confidence.

The Michael Grubb Studio team are not carbon copies of what I wanted them to be. You cannot shape them, as it means there is an agenda already in place. Encouraging the team to find themselves means you have to place them in their best light.

The team have now found confidence to express themselves. All I do is conduct the orchestra. The success of our retail work with Lush is down to the lead from Greta and AnnaMatt is working on various high profile projects and Stuart has been recognised by Lighting Magazine (in 2016) as one of the top 40 lighting designers under the age of 40. And what would we do without Karen organising us and Sue making sure our finances are all in place!

From being open about the company business plan, to technology, to industry legislation and how we see the world around us – these are all relevant themes in how we progress. Each person knows they have a role and a responsibility to contribute to the bigger picture.



Success is when a project becomes more than lighting design. It is working with people who are honest, open and accept change.

Every project is completely different. However, some of our biggest successes have come when the brief is fluid. By this I mean a brief is developed with the client wanting to do something unique (and identified the need for support from a lighting consultant). Have a read from a recent article that highlights that the best work is when people have the ability to gain knowledge and be more confident, click here.

Where we were in year one, success was defined by winning work by recommendation. Today success is recognised by a variety of projects within a spectrum of industries and countries. From public realm, to visitor centres, to retail, to exhibitions allows exposure that the business did not have in 2013 and 2014. A mix of portfoliopositive press and picking up awards.



We are not ashamed to say that we take calculated risks. Risk comes from doing something different, not putting yourself into a place you have absolute no experience within.

We have always pushed our own boundaries. From the Spectrum of Light concept work that lay the foundations for future projects, to the Night Of Heritage Lighting at Durdle Door in 2015, we have always chosen extra curricula work that encouraged deeper thinking.

If you continually remain at your desk, the internet will quickly become your prime source of information – this is neither healthy, nor does it inspire, create dialogue or create real experiences.

For instance, during the talks I have participated in, a good sense of learning is to converse with people about their ideas and perspectives. The next generation of lighting designers are interpreting a world that they feel part of and want to participate within.

If you don’t participate, you get left behind. It is as simple as that.

In 1970, Alvin Toffler wrote in Futureshock, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” This is still true, over 40 years later.



It has been an ongoing mantra to treat people the way you want to be treated. This goes for all people in all professions – and we will never deviate from this approach as it creates a positive working environment and delivers stronger outcomes.

Michael Grubb Studio will also never fall into a factory line of prescribed or rushed work. We work as a team and a collective group (as highlighted in our 2014 article).

Whilst it is easy to say that technology becomes a focus, the real change will be the people that implement and understand the technology.

The next generation of lighting designers need to be nurtured and we have a responsibility to work towards industry programmes for young lighting designers. On an internal level, the team at Michael Grubb Studio are now becoming industry voices that share their own experiences at events and conferences. It’s no longer about Michael Grubb.



According to Statistic Brain, 44% of businesses will fail by year three and 50% will fail by year four. We look to the future with optimism, not just the business, but the lighting industry as a whole.

Rather than looking back too much, we celebrate what passed and now look to become a more established company.

As we come to the end of our third year as a lighting design consultancy, there are three words that sum up where we are today, ‘it goes on.’