gb&d: What drew you to lighting?
Jesse Blonstein: I have a behind-the-scenes appreciation of things, so the technical side of design has always interested me. Getting into engineering school and discovering illumination engineering—lighting is a great blend of the technical and the artistic.
gb&d: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Blonstein: Just seeing how other designers play with space, light, and darkness. Human experience is largely visual, and the ways we interact with light and continue to develop our interaction with light is fascinating to me. I’m also a film fan. I’ve certainly been inspired by the look and feel of film scenes.
gb&d: How did you come to join Lightbrigade?
Blonstein: I started here in 2007 after meeting Rhomney Forbes-Gray, the principal, through the Toronto lighting community. Lightbrigade is a very design-centric environment that has given me the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects and expand my repertoire.
gb&d: What aspect of lighting excites you?
Blonstein: Its constant change—not just in lighting but in design as a whole—and learning about new lighting technology advancements since they now reach the consumer very quickly.
gb&d: On the flip side, what are the industry’s biggest challenges?
Blonstein: Again, constant change. There is a lot of information to keep up with. For example, with energy efficiency, codes are changing and getting more restrictive. At the same time, having those challenges pushes us to be more creative when solving design problems.
gb&d: How do you stay current?
Blonstein: We have lighting manufacturers and agents that bring us new products on an almost daily basis, and, of course, through industry conferences, newsletters, publications, and Internet media.
gb&d: You’ve spoken at IIDEX and written for publications such as Architectural Lighting. Is communicating what your industry is capable of important to you?
Blonstein: It’s important to me and to our industry to educate about lighting. You walk into a Home Depot, and the shelves are filled with LED bulbs. I know what I’m looking for when I go to buy light bulbs, but I sympathize with consumers that don’t know how to sort through all the information. For example, now that lumens are a unit of measurement that are printed on the side of a box of lamps, it’s important to educate so that everyone can make informed purchasing decisions.
By participating in conferences and by teaching at a local college, my firm tries to show the importance of lighting. We’re not trying to give everyone an advanced lighting background, but we want to at least introduce important vocabulary to design students.
gb&d: You and your firm have won plenty of awards—do any of them stand out?
Blonstein: My first award, before joining Lightbrigade, is special to me. It was an Award of Merit for the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. It’s great to get the recognition, but just working on that project was amazing. I designed some custom fixtures and worked with a great team, and overall, it was a monumental project.
gb&d: Are there any new ideas you’re looking forward to trying in the near future?
Blonstein: It’s hard to say… I probably haven’t thought of it yet! (laughs). Seeing LEDs transform from a novelty to color mixing and now to general illumination, I’m looking forward to seeing how that develops. LEDs, as a less traditional way of producing light and one that can be integrated into materials in new ways, open up new design possibilities. It’s an exciting time to be in lighting.
gb&d: What lasting effect do you want your work to have?
Blonstein: To have the lighting be as useful to the occupants as possible. Sometimes we get caught up in the photos of our projects that have no people in them. It’s great to make the space look great, but the importance is in making sure that the people occupying that space are the true focus of the design.