Lighting designers everywhere would certainly agree with the late comedian’s assessment on the necessity of good lighting, which goes far beyond merely illuminating a room. “Lighting carries a strong and immediate presence—defining personality, style, vibe, time, season, theme, emotion and energy from the moment guests enter a space, immediately informing guests of the event’s environment and story,” says Jon Retsky, co-owner and lead designer at San Francisco-based Got Light.

Raymond Thompson, owner of Los Angeles-based Images by Lighting, agrees: “Lighting is the great illusion-maker," he says. "It can create perspective, focus and even make things disappear.”

A TRICK OF THE LIGHT Indeed, making things "disappear," is, ironically, one of the most desired effects achieved by lighting. “Proper lighting can also darken a space—hide the unattractive features of a venue, while highlighting the core elements of an event,” says Retsky, who uses lighting to camouflage everything from ugly carpet to cavernous ceilings. “Obviously, lighting alone cannot make everything disappear, but the proper highlights on the important aspects of an event can greatly help define the boundaries and parameters of the space,” he says

Pat Semeraro, managing partner at Orlando, Fla.-based PTE Productions, breaks lighting design into three categories: functional (walkways, entries, buffets), atmospheric (color, accent, shadows, highlights) and dynamic (kinetic, beams, deep color saturation, video). All three are essential to event design, with the first critical to event safety. However, even safety-related lighting, can be achieved with an artistic hand. “It doesn’t have to look like the house lights are on,” Semeraro says. “Choosing the right amount of brightness and, if possible, matching the color temperature to the environment can produce a pleasant look that doesn’t detract from the overall appearance of the space.” 

The full story appears in the November-December issue of Special Events, avaiable exclusively to subscribers.