Ask an EP: Shelby Klooster

Shelby Klooster

The designer for Des Moines-based RDG Planning & Design welcomes the daily challenge of marrying creativity with evolving technology

Shelby Klooster
Shelby Klooster, RDG Planning & Design

Why lighting?
I love the effect lighting can have on a space. Today, with the development of technology and scientific application studies, we are more aware of the effects an environment, and specifically good lighting design, can have on well-being.

Beyond that, I need opportunities to learn and develop to feel valued and stimulated in my career. The constant development of the lighting industry pushes me to continuously learn new methods of application and discover new solutions to design challenges.

Lighting design offers me the challenge of marrying a beautifully designed space with technology and ingenuity to create something truly memorable. Good lighting enhances a space’s architectural character and allows the viewer to have a three-dimensional experience.

It’s this type of influence on the built environment that initially drew me to a career in lighting; the challenge and constant development is what keeps me interested.

Favorite project?
Ones where I get to work closely with the owner on a custom feature. These projects push me to be creative and find new solutions to things I may not have considered before. I love how a creative idea can become an opportunity for ingenuity, resulting in a design feature that transforms a space.

Best part of your job?
Education. Every day I learn more about lighting. LEDs have drastically changed the way we think about light and as we delve deeper into holistic design, we are challenged to find more human-centric solutions to common design problems. I also love sharing my knowledge with others. A masterpiece is made by many, and I enjoy the creativity that can stem from informed group thinking.

Biggest obstacle you’ve encountered?
Definitely “years of experience.” It’s always difficult to come into a new industry or one in which you’ve had little prior experience, and feel you have any authority or autonomy to exercise your ideas. I have found, though, that my greatest challenge is getting out of my own way to allow my ideas and decisions to stand on their own. As I develop in my career, I look to mentors to help me hone my communication skills and have learned to support my design decisions with logic and reason. It can be difficult to feel your designs have merit when you are sitting in a room with someone who has been practicing professionally a lot longer than you. The thing to remember is that you’ve made it to the table, and you are there for a reason; have a little faith in your own abilities. It’s a daily battle, but one I gladly take in stride.

Most important thing for the future of the lighting industry?
Holistic design. As we become more focused on our impact on the environment and each other, designers will be pushing to understand how to make creative and informed spaces. Integrated lighting and control solutions with regard to occupant comfort and autonomy in combination with developing LED technology will help reinvent the way we experience spaces and design lighting.

Dream job?
At the risk of sounding cheesy, I have already found it. My goals include building more awareness for lighting design and making sure we continue to educate and expand with technology. I endeavor to continue to grow professionally and become a mentor to new emerging professionals. I’d also love to see more open discussions with lighting professionals to help inform the future of lighting for well-being. The future of creative, holistic design really depends on our collective growth as an industry.