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Tapping Into Lighting To Improve People’s Mood [Future of Light]

Designers are experimenting with how color and intensity of light can be deployed to reduce stress foster mental well-being.

PSFK Labs
PSFK Labs on October 6, 2013. @psfk

When placed in unfamiliar and potentially stressful situations it can be difficult to maintain a positive outlook. This is further complicated in times of physical distress. Directing our attention outward can alleviate much of the the mental and emotional distress, and advances in lighting technology may help do just that. Hospitals in particular are leveraging the effects of improved lighting to aid their patients in recovery that benefits not just the body, but the mind as well.

Ed Crawford, CEO of Philips Lighting, says “Up until now, light has been something we need to see. And now light becomes something to make me feel a certain way.” In a trend we are calling Mood Lighting, PSFK Labs examines new products and environmental designs are using the calming properties of light to instill feelings of peace and tranquility. These innovations can be intentionally deployed to help improve health and well-being.

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One example of this trend is The Nature Trail, an illuminated wall designed to soothe and engage kids on their way to the operating room. Created by Jason Bruges Studio, the Nature Trail covers a 50-meter stretch of corridor leading to the anesthesia room of London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital. Comprising a mix of LED panels and custom graphic integrated wallpaper, the interactive design is comprised of 72,000 lights that are embedded into the wall’s surface at various heights in order to be accessible to the eye levels of patients aged up to 16. Across those digital surfaces, animated patterns of light reveal the presence of animals that come to ‘life’ when sensors in the ceiling detect movement below, causing them to engage and interact playfully with passersby. The installation is designed to create a calming yet engaging route to surgery.

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On the other side of the pond, a similar manifestation – also geared toward children – is being used to aid patient recovery. An expansion to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Arizona uses LED lighting fixtures to create an immersive escape for patients and families as a distraction from the medical ailments surrounding them. Designed by Scott Oldner, the lighting scheme greets patients upon entering the building where they find themselves in a cheerful, colorful lobby uplit with rows of concealed, color-changing fixtures. In addition, Oldner simulated  a ‘water wall’ using light by lining the wall from floor to ceiling with textured, wave-patterned acrylic fixtures to uplight each section of the wall with varying shades of blue and aqua. To add more life to the water wall, Oldner used theatrical gobos in various shapes to project colored patterns on the walls. All interior and exterior LED lighting fixtures are controlled by a single Light System Manager from Philips Color Kinetics.

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The Nature Trail and the Phoenix Children’s Hospital show how designers are thinking about light as an integral aspect of improving mood and well-being. We may see more examples like these focused in high stress areas like doctors’ offices and hospitals to offer calming lighting schemes, which can positively affect the health and well being of patients and staff.

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 by promoting well-being and creating more opportunities for economies and activities to take place at all hours of the day.

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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