Jun 2, 2022
The architectural lighting designer with Essential Light Design Studio discusses how trusting your gut can strengthen your voice

Why lighting?

Ask an EP: Gabi Korac
Gabi Korac, Essential Light Design Studio

I’ve always been sensitive to light, even at a very young age. Little did I know that it would take me [until] adulthood to understand that lighting plays a pivotal role when experiencing a space. I remember in my childhood room, I would not turn on the overhead light at dusk, because the light felt odd; it was too dim and too amber for my taste and it contrasted too much with the sunset light that was slowly escaping through the windows. I would rather stay in the darkness with only my desk lamp turned on than suffer through that awful general light. Usually, my mom would enter the room turning the light on, and ask me with confusion why I was doing my homework in complete darkness.

When I was studying design in my undergraduate course at Texas Christian University, lighting was offered as a minor to my degree. I was curious to understand the reasons for my preference. As you may have suspected, I learned that the general light in my room was an incandescent lamp while my desk lamp was halogen—two sisters of lighting technologies—however, their placement and their slight color differences affected me over the years. The journey to understand and become skillful in lighting design led me through my two master’s programs in architecture and lighting design at Parsons, and today I continue to be intrigued with the possibilities of light to create space, set the mood and influence one’s behavior. Our sight is, after all, our most dominant sense.

Favorite project?

My first—the Lamplighter School in Dallas, a pre-K school with complex wood ceilings and a brilliant copper façade. I still have a small piece of the façade material I found at the job site that I keep as a reminder.

Best part of your job?

I enjoy the beginning and the very end of a project. At the beginning, there are infinite possibilities and the opportunity to let creative solutions flourish. By contrast, the end renders that one option you worked on for months, sometimes years. Arriving at the project site for the final aim and tune session is the most exciting part. Sure, things might not be perfect and you see where your new grey hairs came from, however, nothing beats experiencing the space in person knowing the whole design journey that had taken place and the people that made it happen.

Biggest obstacle you’ve encountered?

Being young and/or an EP often challenges confidence. It is normal for others to question your expertise, however, when you start to self-doubt, that’s when the voice starts to shake and the biggest obstacles begin to rise. I believed that having a single-digit number of years= in the lighting industry was a problem when stating opinions or sharing advice, however, I’ve quickly learned to trust my gut and my lighting knowledge to form a stronger voice.

Most important thing for the future of the lighting industry?

Adopting TM-30/Annex E as industry standard when specifying white-light luminaires.

Dream collaboration?

I was very fortunate to be accepted into the IES Color Committee and work alongside big names in the lighting industry. I remember my first meeting and feeling slightly star struck. I am excited to work on a project that will allow TM-30 to become widely used among specifiers and lighting design professionals, and contribute in developing a new lighting practice document for its use.