Lighting designer Mihaly Bartha on the almost symbiotic relationship between lighting and retail design

By Mihaly Bartha, head of lighting at gpstudio

The time when interior design and lighting were handled separately is long gone. Competition is getting stronger, with brands competing for customers on every level, from basic branding elements such as graphic and interior design through to online presence, lighting and audio visual elements.

Brands are now targeting all the senses of the consumer, and they forget any one of these at their peril.

Lighting has a direct influence on our mood, with 80 per cent of the sensory information the brain receives coming from our eyes. Lighting highlights architectural elements, product qualities and creates virtual spaces - impacting how we feel, what we think of a product, and ultimately the choice of whether to purchase or not.

This has become increasingly true with the evolution in lighting design in recent years. In the past there were very few options with lighting being either on the ceiling, wall or, occasionally, freestanding. Lighting within units was very rare and resulted in constant compromises, with the size and quality of the technology available constraining the options available.

New technologies such as LEDs now allow lighting to be fully incorporated into any interior or architectural elements. This opens up the opportunities exponentially but also creates new challenges as it means that closer cooperation is needed to ensure that the correct lighting is perfectly integrated into these elements.

This is one reason why we have combined Office of Light in to gpstudio, as it provides a seamless design strategy which can provide a truly integrated, and modern, design solution.

These modern lighting options can help amplify a brand strategy, providing an additional communication medium, which maintains a consistent image. Two brands that use lighting in a particularly consistent way are Apple and Louis Vuitton, two quite different companies that approach lighting in vastly different ways.


The Louis Vuitton flagship store in London's Bond Street, designed by Peter Marino

Apple plays on its high-tech, state of the art identity through large back illuminated surfaces with cold colours providing a highly uniformed diffused light which produces clean lines and a modern, up-to-the-minute environment.

Louis Vuitton, on the other hand, uses atmospheric warm-toned lighting and halo-lit shelf systems to create an exclusive atmosphere that leaves customers feeling secure and pampered.


The Whisky Shop in London, designed by gpstudio

Lighting can also be used to tell a story, which can be seen from our work with The Whisky Shop where close cooperation between interior and lighting design has resulted in a perfect harmony of products and branding, creating a design which emphasises the feel of the whisky and highlights some of the fables behind whisky production. Angels are said to take a share of all whiskies during the maturation process, with two per cent of volume being lost with each year, so we played on this with the newly refurbished stores featuring illuminated angel wings to engage customers in the story behind the spirit.


The Whisky Shop in London, designed by gpstudio

Lighting impacts on every aspect of the retail experience, from brand and product perception to consumer engagement and mood. This means that we need to consider lighting at every stage in the process, and understand the impact lighting can have on overall design plans.

gpstudio is a strategic and integrated design consultancy, based in London and works with brands globally to create the most captivating environments, brand identities and digital communications, all underpinned by strategy and technical expertise.