Creation Lighting Design  
Our Frankfurt Light + Building 2016 Experience!

Everybody in the lighting industry knows that the Frankfurt Light + Building fair (weblink) is a must if you are serious about lighting, therefore we booked our tickets, hotel and headed to Frankfurt Light + Building 2016 fair to see what was in store.

As a lighting designer working in the lighting industry for 16 years and with 5 Frankfurt fairs visits, I realised that visiting this event is key for gaining trend awareness on the various areas of lighting; mainly in its aesthetical and its technology development.

To make the most out of the event Creation Lighting Design and some colleagues joined forces in this crusade of all things lighting, adding tons of walking and some fun to round off each day.

The Tour
It's always quite daunting to go to the Light + Building fair as it is massive and there is so much to see. It is imperative to know how to plan your journey inside the fair, but after a few visits to the Frankfurt fair a slight pattern starts to emerge. I arrived at the conclusion that is best to be there for 3 days, as anything longer may be too hard on your feet, your stomach (too much unhealthy food and lovely German beer) and brain overload.
The best day to start is the fair’s first day which is usually a Sunday. Everybody was fresh and happy, the place was virtually empty so moving around was a lot quicker and we got more attention from each company we visited. We started with the luminaire big boys at the Grimshaw's designed halls 3.0 & 3.1. These halls took the whole day as it's the place where all the reps took us for that essential mini tour of their latest offer. Catering here was quite impressive and we didn’t need to leave the hall at all as lunch, teas and coffees were usually offered in most of the stands.
On the second day we headed for halls 4.0, 4.1 & 4.2. These halls have a wide mix of lighting subjects, from light fitting & lamps to lighting components. The challenge here was to pick and choose wisely through the stands of interest. On the third day we explored hall 2.0. This is where the big lamp manufacturers were located. We then followed through to halls 1.1 & 1.2 which showcased decorative luminaires. At this point in the tour we were really tired, so it was good to be able to feast your eyes with beautiful decorative luminaires which are always are full of curiosities.

The Parties
One thing that was surprising in such an event, and is seldom mentioned, was the after show parties. This is lighting after all! And what a better way to show your products but to have a party in your own stand! After the Fair closed the place lit up with a wide range of parties and events dotted around the place. Amazing food, drinks and music (even live bands) were found in most of the stands. Some of the parties you just showed up, others were more exclusive and asked for a pre-registration where they gave us a card or a bracelet that entitled you to their special catering. In both cases we had a great time by having non-stop drinks and food up until we couldn’t feel our feet.

The parties we went this year were really well organised affairs. On Sunday Brumberg (website) topped the food and drink list with breakfast, lunch and dinner menu options. Erco (website) converted their stand into a club and had a DJ, where we danced and had a magnificent caramel brownie. On Monday parties were serious affaires with the iGuzzini (website) party offering delicious Italian catering, the XAL (website) party with their magnificent club like stand and the more personal Lucent Lighting drinks and dinner combo. Thanks to Lucent (website) for a lovely party and dinner. On Tuesday the place to be was the acdc (website) and Zumtobel’s (website) party. Live music, non-stop food and beer made the night disappear. I heard that Philips (website) had a really good party in the stand next door, but we were in love with the band's main singer husky voice so we decided to stay where we were.

The Trends
The Light + Building fair is the place where the latest in lighting equipment is exhibited and where most of the new technology is launched. Most companies make a great effort to show off their new products and they did this in very creative ways. The stands are grand spaces, some of them even designed by famous architects, special product commissions and collaborations are launched, new technology is tested out and a wide range of innovative products are exhibited all around the place. It’s wonderful to see what is in store at the Light + Building fair year after year, as this is key to understanding the trends that will rule and shape the world of lighting in the next 2 years and beyond.

The first trends to review are the tools for the artist, which is the world of lamps and light sources as they usually shape the things to come and provide endless raw material for the creative mind...

Retrofit lamp LED conversion
We saw a big movement within the lamp industry to now successfully convert some of the more complicated traditional lamps into LED versions. The original lamp design was kept intact but the light source within the lamp is now made in its entirety in LEDs. The benefit of the LED conversion is the obvious reduction in energy consumption in comparison to the original lamp. It was interesting to see that even the Osram linestra (weblink), which was inherently an incandescent tubular lamp looks good made of LEDs!

Golden Light
There was a big effort this year from the big lamp companies in the retro-fit market trying to emulate the warmth of the dimming curve of the tungsten lamp with LED’s. I’ve seen this done effectively with light engines and with the Philips DimTone retrofit lamp (weblink) but now the offer is more widespread within the retro-fit market. In past fairs most retro-fit lamps mostly dimmed only in intensity, fortunately that is about to change as a number of LED retro-fit lamps are offered with the ability to become warmer as dimmed. Their colour temperature ranged from as warm as 2500K to as cool as 6500K. We were told by Philips the good news that they will be market ready from September 2016!

LED’s by nature are rich on the blue area of the light spectrum. Therefore even warm environments lit by LED lamps are lacking on natural flavour. To warm up LEDs in a more natural way, this year we discovered a wider offer of amber filters and golden reflectors warming up lamps and luminaires that work well with LED technologies. At the moment environments in the average home have become stark as we favour economy over the comfort of a warm ambience. With these filters we have the choice to warm up our homes whilst keeping our energy usage to a minimum.

The technological advances with the LED dimmable squirrel cage lamp are worth noting as these lamps presented both tendencies detailed above: an original tungsten lamp converted into LED and an effective amber filter. A good example of this was the one from British Electric Lamps (website). The dimming was smooth and the amber filter produced a golden glow of an almost forgotten era. These lamps are a great leap in technology as they try to mimic the tungsten filaments of the original lamp. I feel a lot has been accomplished to develop this much needed lamp in an LED version. Still a little more refinement on the filament thickness could only benefit the final look as they are mainly visible in decorative applications.

Some of the filters worth mentioning were created by one of my favourite brands Soraa (website). They are known for making high quality LED retrofit lamps and their innovation for 2016 was the new lenses in their already fantastic lens snap range. They illustrate the warming trend with their CCT shifter filters which warm up the light beam from a colour temperature of 3000K to a very rare and exciting 2200K (weblink).

Lee filters (weblink) is worth mentioning as it is one of the usual places where to look for filters. Their innovation this year is their new Zircon filter range. This range not only provides us with 4 amber intensities, they also claim that they have 200 times longer life span when used with LEDs than ever before!

Disappearing Act
During the last few years there has been a lot of fanfare about the OLEDs as they were heralded the future of lighting. OLEDs felt like the right progression from the LEDs. LEDs could be seen as simple semiconductors in comparison to OLEDs which are elegant films of organic material that naturally emits light when excited by a current. Both OLEDs and LEDs opened a new dimension for lighting; LEDs helped us with lowering the energy consumption and the ever miniaturization of lighting, OLEDs helped our imagination as they provided thin, curveable and wearable possibilities. Unfortunately they have remained as untapped possibilities as they had been held back by lack of investment due to high manufacturing costs and poor energy efficiency compared to the LEDs.
This withdrawal was felt in the fair as there was not as much promotion of the product, their stands were small, discreet and difficult to find by comparison to the ones seen in the past usually located in prime space with immense stands and installations. The only advancement we saw this year was that the panel offered was a little bit bigger…. It’s a bit of a shame that this is happening as it would be interesting to see where this type of lighting will take us. At this rate we are not even sure if we get to see the OLEDs again in the Light + Building 2018!

With the development of the smart phone, Bluetooth and the internet it was only time when we could communicate with our lighting wirelessly with one touch. This trend saw two types of light connectivity through either connecting with the light source or by controlling the luminaire itself.

In terms of connectivity the most impressive light source so far is their intelligent Xicato Module XIM series (weblink).This is an intelligent LED light engine that is designed to accommodate an integral driver with on-board dimming capability, self-diagnostics, sensors and connectivity. It was inspired by the smart phones API’s power of integration enabling apps and services. It has a micro-controller that integrates to intelligent platforms controlling the engines individually whilst providing feedback information.

In terms of connectivity in a fixture, we were very impressed with the new and revolutionary Flos smart control system (weblink). In simple terms this is a beautifully cleanly designed LED based spotlight within a neat recessed track. Their innovation consists on presenting an adjustable luminaire where it’s positioning, orientation and focus is controlled with one touch, wirelessly via an app. This light fitting is the ultimate in adaptable lighting as it can be moved around to fit any changeable architecture and new space layouts, perfect for retail environments and galleries.

Lighting Manipulation
For a few years there’s been a focus on the light manipulation of the spectrum to support the human circadian rhythm. We’ve been aware for a few years of the benefits of this type of lighting from the biological point of view. The theory works on the idea that when light is rich in the blue area of the spectrum, people’s attention levels are at its highest being more aware therefore more efficient. This process is commonly called melanopic light, which looks at light’s impact on the release of melatonin linked to the amount of blue light in the spectrum. In the past this type of lighting was emulated via fading warm to cool lighting and vice versa with fluorescent lamps of different temperatures and a dimming system. The innovation this year was that it was done with ease with different colour chip LEDs within one light source. It also illustrated the ease of the blue part of the spectrum of the LED source to be controlled with one touch via an app on any device. This trend also fits on our connectivity light trend as described above.

Jewels of light
Lamps are the raw material; the luminaires house the sources, control and sculpt the beams of light. In terms of luminaire aesthetics I noticed a big leap from the seamless luminaires that aimed to disappear within architecture to luminaires that were protagonists and dared to be seen. To play a protagonist role within architecture luminaires have to be beautiful, is that simple. Luminaires this year were designed like pieces of jewellery in lush shiny finishes such as silver, gold and rose gold. I noticed this trend affected not only the stand designs but the architectural and decorative fittings. Flos (website), Deltalight (website) & Weber & Ducre (website) to mention a few, illustrated this trend beautifully in very different ways. Flos illustrated the trend with both their new shiny new downlights designed by Philippe Starck and their new wave of wall mounted garden lights.(none of these products are on their website yet) Deltalight (weblink) inspired their elegant matt black façade with a black and gold weave on this trend and within their products as added luxury. Weber & Ducre used the trend on their decorative fixtures.

Portable Curiosities
During the whole 3 days of our visit we are always in the search of unique rare little lighting things that provide a wow factor. This time what impressed us the most was the creations related to the unique portable characteristic of the LED chip. Small enough to carry around and to charge with a single small battery, the possibilities of producing interesting portable designs with integral lighting have become endless.

We found a really curious portable light/speaker combo by Danish creative lighting manufacturer, Halo Design (weblink). It was designed with an outdoors theme in mind. Named the Sound Jar, it is basically a light hand held glowing jar where the bottom is an opal glowing component and the top has a lid with an integral speaker including an USB port. In addition to being a beautifully designed object offering finishes in gold and silver, the speaker links with any device wirelessly via Bluetooth and stores enough power within its battery to also become a charger!

Another curiosity that caught our attention were the rings by LightStones (website) exhibited in the Mike Stoane stand (website). Designed by our colleagues Ingo Kalecinsky and Tommaso Gimigliano in response to a competition set by Mike Stoane Lighting in their annual Park event. Together they produced a rare combination of Jewellery and light, where the ring is designed as a brass structure housing the light source and battery. The LED then lights a translucent piece from behind, these pieces are lighting lenses that become gigantic precious stones when lit.
Everybody at the event seemed to have one of these beautiful self- lit rings!

Stand Architecture
Last but not least! A note has to be made on the amazing stands seen at the 2016 edition of Light + Building fair.
The Frankfurt fair has always had the most creative stands. And every year they get more original and impressive and this year they didn’t disappoint. A stand that only shows products on the wall/ceiling doesn't cut it anymore as the stands on the 2016 Light + Building fair competed with each other to catch your eye with a touch of ingenuity and grandeur. Lighting companies spent a lot of time and effort to stand out and they knew that they needed to go the extra mile to get noticed.
It is not anymore only about the product itself, how they present it, but as an expression of who they are and the message they relay to the world.

At this year’s edition of the Light + Building fair the stands that stood the most were the iGuzzini (weblink) and the XAL (weblink) stands. The iGguzzini stand stood out due to its city inspired cultural content. The XAL stand caught our attention with its amazing design, club-like experience and hourly light show.

The iGuzzini stand was inspired by urban architecture, this year they drew inspiration on the cityscape. Their whole philosophy this year was centred on the idea of “re-thinking the city through light as a sign of technological acceleration and social progress”. Their stand seemed like grand scale Italian coffee shop, with small tables dotted around and their trademark trees this time upside-down, evolving from previous stands where a piazza was portrayed. To reinforce their cityscape design they had a backdrop facade that played with the eye like an illusion, inspired on the Stage designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi inside the Olympic Theatre by Andrea Palladio in Vicenza. This backdrop provided the illusion of the appearance of long streets receding to a distant horizon like Scamozzi’s stage.
The XAL stand was inspired on their own words as a “theatre of light”. To me the stand felt more as a club than a theatre. It had a tight small entrance (bouncer alert) leading to a tall grand space and well stocked central bar. Dotted around the space we found these beautifully designed floating private booths that hovered over the floor soothing our sore feet. In addition to their massive party on Monday 14th March, they had an hourly light show which reinforced their idea of clubbing coolness supporting their modern and young corporate identity. We also had a mini personalised tour by our rep. Wade Haskivich, who showed us all their new stuff. We were particularly impressed by their new nano + focus system where the beam of light can be manually adjusted from 12° to 40°. In addition to their great products we were amazed with the XAL rep. who had a rare gift of making lighting sound super exciting and fun! This is definitely the guy to go out clubbing with!

We cannot deny the fact that LED based lighting products rule our world today. With that in mind, we believe that lamps and luminaires should be more innovative in response to the unique characteristics of the LED light source; instead it seems to be an endless recycling of the same products with new technology.
Yet we still have come so far... We have to only remember that on the last few fairs we didn’t trust LEDs to do the jobs of our usual traditional lamps, and now we are taking them for granted!
It’s an amazing fact that LEDs have become the norm in lighting and whether what is out there is innovative or not it has definitely changed our world. We only have to see that we are using LEDs on a regular basis on our projects; we even use them in our homes!
Granted, there’s still a lot of fine tuning to be done, yet the LEDs present a great challenge by opening the door for endless creative possibilities. We hope someone out there realises this untapped potential sooner rather than later and we get to see some investment on true innovation!
We can only hope to be positively surprised on the Light + Building fair 2018!

We truly enjoyed our experience in the Frankfurt Light Fair this year, starting from the way we organised the tour, the parties we went to, the lighting trends we discovered, the original curiosities found, the grand stands visited, and very importantly the unforgettable people we met.
We got to see what is happening (and isn’t) in the world of lighting, what advances were made so far and most importantly the trends of things to come! All within a 3 day trip!

I hope you enjoyed our Frankfurt Light Fair experience like we did!
This is it for Light + Building fair 2016…
We can’t wait to see what’s in store for the Light + Building fair 2018!