Optimizing Our Everyday Experiences With Light [Future of Light]

A look at some of the ways light is being used to elevate people’s mood.

The human mind has an incredible capacity to transcend its surroundings in situations of difficulty or hardship. In certain settings, however, this capacity is finite, and we must change the mood of a place in order to ensure peace of mind. Innovative lighting solutions mean that more people can have control over their physical environments, changing intensity and hue to contribute to overall happiness and mental well-being.

In a trend we are calling Mood Lighting, PSFK Labs examines how new products and environmental designs are using the calming properties of light  to instill people with feelings of peace and tranquility. “There is a shift from ‘quantitative’ functional lighting towards ‘qualitative’ intelligent and emotive lighting that transforms environments,” observes Harry Verhaar, Head of Global Public & Government Affairs at Philips Lighting.

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Swedish energy company Umeå Energi has installed special lights in 30 different bus stops in Umeå, a small town just north of Stockholm, in an effort to help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder. The disorder is caused by lack of sunlight, causing people to feel tired and depressed from overproduction of the hormone melatonin. Developed as part of an advertising campaign, the concept is designed to provide light therapy for commuters during winter months when there are periods of continuous darkness. Commuters are encouraged to stand in front of the panels with their eyes open for a full 30 minutes to receive the maximum effect of the treatment. The intentional choice of a public setting for the marketing push transforms normal city infrastructure into community ‘healing centers’ that encourage people to linger as they soak in the beneficial properties of the light.

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Philips has recently partnered with Disney to develop a digital platform that appeals to younger users. Their immersive lighting experience synchronizes colored light with classic Disney stories read through an interactive e-book on an iPad. Users with the Philips Hue bulb, an LED light bulb that can be controlled through a companion app using a smartphone or tablet to create up to 16 million different color combinations, already set up in their home begin by downloading the Disney Storytime app for the iPad. As parents read with their child, colors light up to help bring the story to life, with the ability to program multiple lights throughout a room to work in concert. The lighting concept allows children and parents to connect e-books with their lighting to create an experience that helps families become more fully immersed in their chosen story.

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Umeå’s bus stop lights and Disney Storytime’s partnership with Philips show how designers are thinking about light as an integral aspect of improving mood and well-being in a variety of settings. We may see more examples like these offered as home lighting solutions that come preprogrammed with a number of settings to promote specific moods such as focus for work and study, relaxation at the end of the day and festiveness during social gatherings. It would also be possible to target geographically sun-deprived regions and playfully integrate light therapy into public settings to help boost the mood of residents while possibly promoting education around its effects.

These examples also fall under a larger trend we are calling Light for Life, which explores the transformative power of light and its ability to positively impact the lives of individuals and communities.

The Future of Light series explores light’s potential to improve lives, build communities, and connect people in new and meaningful ways. Brought to you in partnership with Philips Lighting, a full report is available as an iOS and Android app or as a downloadable PDF.

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